Applied Behavior Analysis

Today, there are a wide variety of treatments, therapies, and techniques that claim to help or even recover children with autism, and new ones are invented every year.  Unfortunately, the majority of these approaches lack empirical evidence to support their claims of success and usually die out within a short period of time.

ABA is different from these approaches.  ABA has been an established treatment for decades and there is abundant research documenting improvements.  With this method a wide range of skills, regardless of an individual’s age, have improved.  The gains are comprehensive and long lasting across all areas of development.  ABA is the first, and currently the only methodology to scientifically document its overall effectiveness with long-term outcome data (see Supporting Research).  No other approach offers comparable evidence regarding the effectiveness of the treatment.


What is ABA? The term ABA is used interchangeably with “behavioral intervention”, “discrete trial teaching”, and the “Lovaas method” after the pioneering researcher O. Ivar Lovaas, Ph.D.  

ABA is based on over 50 years of scientific research, employs methods that are based on scientific principles of behavior, and continues to evolve as new discoveries are documented.

How is ABA Implemented? Typically children learn throughout their waking hours, mostly by incidental exposure in various environments.  Overall, children with autism are unsuccessful at learning in this manner.  To learn appropriate behaviors and skills, they require a modified instructional setting.


The ABA approach provides such a setting.

The ABA program contains 3 main ingredients:

1.    Early Intervention

2.    Parent Involvement

3.    High Intensity


Early Intervention

Intervention should begin as early as possible.  Optimally, a child should start an ABA program at 2 to 3 years of age.  This is important for several reasons:

1.    At this age, a child is closer developmentally to their same-aged peers as compared with a child several years older (5 to 7 years old).

2.    A child this young has a shorter reinforcement history engaging in inappropriate self-stimulatory behavior and the use of negative behavior as a means to communicate and control their environment.

3.    Plasticity of the Brain - at a young age the brain is extremely malleable and may be able to “re-wire” itself in conjunction with appropriate intense instruction.

Parent Involvement Parents are an integral part of an ABA instructional team.  Initially, we recommend that parents provide 2 to 5 hours of one-to-one instruction each week.  These hours help parents to maintain a consistent approach across their child’s non-instructional hours, facilitate generalization of mastered skills to many different environments, and stay consistent with instructors when responding to inappropriate and/or negative behaviors.  Parents attend all staff meetings, participate in selecting new goals, offer observations, help evaluate staff, and approve all procedures implemented.


High Intensity In order for a child to have a chance to integrate successfully with same-aged typical peers, they must learn faster than their peers (especially in the early stages of the program).  It is important to structure as much of a child’s day as possible.  We recommend a child receive approximately 35 to 40 hours per week of instruction, year-around, for approximately 2 to 5 years.  This will help promote positive behaviors and minimize inappropriate and negative behaviors.