What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. Read on to learn more.

Alan Hollander
May 18, 2023

What Is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that has been proven to be effective in treating people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other developmental conditions. In this article, we'll dive into what exactly ABA therapy is, how it works, and the benefits it can provide.

ABA therapy is a comprehensive behavioral intervention that focuses on improving specific behaviors in children and adults with autism. The therapy is based on the principles of behaviorism, which is the idea that behavior is learned through the environment.

The Main Goal

The main goal of ABA therapy is to help people with autism learn new behaviors and skills, and to reduce unwanted or challenging behaviors.

kids with autism sitting in classroom

This is done through a variety of techniques that are tailored to the individual's unique needs and abilities. ABA therapists will work with clients in a one-on-one setting, and will use positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors.

One of the key components of ABA therapy is breaking down complex behaviors into smaller, more manageable steps. This allows individuals with autism to learn new skills more easily, and helps them to build confidence as they progress.

ABA therapists will also use visual aids, such as picture schedules, to help clients understand what is expected of them and to provide structure throughout the therapy sessions.

ABA therapy can be used to address a wide range of behaviors, including communication, social skills, self-care, and academic skills. Some of the techniques used in ABA therapy include discrete trial training (DTT), naturalistic teaching, and task analysis.

DTT involves breaking down a skill into small steps and then systematically teaching each step until the skill is mastered. Naturalistic teaching involves teaching skills within the context of everyday activities, such as during playtime or mealtime. Task analysis involves breaking down complex behaviors into smaller, more manageable steps.

ABA therapy can help people with autism improve their communication skills, social interactions, and academic performance. It can also help to reduce challenging behaviors, such as tantrums or self-injury.

ABA therapy can also be beneficial for parents and caregivers, as it provides them with tools and strategies for supporting their loved one with autism.

How Does ABA Therapy Work?

ABA therapy works by breaking down complex behaviors into smaller, more manageable steps. The therapist will identify the target behavior that needs to be addressed and then develop a plan that includes specific goals and objectives.

The client's progress is then tracked and monitored over time to ensure that they are making progress towards their goals.

The therapy sessions are typically conducted in a one-on-one setting, where the therapist will work closely with the individual with autism to teach them new skills and behaviors. Positive reinforcement is used throughout the therapy sessions to encourage desired behaviors, such as praise or rewards for completing a task.

ABA therapy is based on the principles of behaviorism, which emphasizes the importance of the environment in shaping behavior.

This means that ABA therapists will focus on changing environmental factors to promote positive behavior change. For example, if a child with autism has difficulty sitting still during class, the therapist may modify their environment by providing them with a sensory toy or allowing them to take breaks when needed.

Overall, ABA therapy is a highly individualized approach that is tailored to each person's unique needs and abilities. It can be an effective way to help individuals with autism improve their communication skills, social interactions, and academic performance while reducing challenging behaviors.

Is There Evidence That ABA Works?

There is a growing body of research that supports the effectiveness of ABA therapy in treating autism spectrum disorder. Multiple studies have shown that ABA therapy can lead to significant improvements in communication, social skills, and behavior for individuals with autism.

people with autism

One study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis found that children who received early intensive ABA therapy showed greater improvements in language and cognitive skills compared to children who received other interventions or no treatment at all. Another study published in Pediatrics found that ABA therapy was more effective than other treatments at reducing challenging behaviors.

Not everyone with autism will respond to ABA therapy in the same way, and some may require additional or alternative treatments. However, overall, the evidence suggests that ABA therapy can be a highly effective intervention for many people with autism spectrum disorder.

Is ABA Therapy Covered By Insurance?

ABA therapy is often covered by insurance, although the amount of coverage can vary depending on the individual's policy and location. Some states in the US have laws that require insurance companies to cover ABA therapy for individuals with autism, while others do not.

It's important to check with your insurance provider to see what kind of coverage they offer for ABA therapy. Some policies may have limits on the number of sessions or the types of services that are covered, so it's important to clarify these details before beginning therapy.

If your insurance does not cover ABA therapy or if you have a high deductible, there may be other options available. Some ABA providers offer sliding scale fees based on income, and there may be grants or other financial assistance programs available through local organizations.

Overall, while navigating insurance coverage for ABA therapy can be complex and time-consuming, it's important to explore all available options in order to ensure that individuals with autism receive the care they need.


In conclusion, ABA therapy is a comprehensive behavioral intervention that has been proven to be effective in treating individuals with autism.

The therapy is based on the principles of behaviorism, and focuses on improving specific behaviors through a variety of techniques.

The benefits of ABA therapy are numerous, and it can provide individuals with ASD with the skills and tools they need to improve their daily lives. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ASD, ABA therapy may be a valuable option to consider.

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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