Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an
intensive one-on-one teaching program first developed by B.F. Skinner in 1938. It
is used to shape everyday behaviors through reinforcement. Using repeated
trials, children are presented with a command such as “Look at me”. When the
child responds correctly, he/she is given positive reinforcement for their
actions, whereas incorrect responses are ignored. At the beginning of the
program, the expectations of what the child responds to are lower. Responses
that are close to the desired response are rewarded, but as time goes on and
the child perfects the desired response, the child is expected to give a
correct response (Kalmeyer, n.d.). ABA involves the ABC’s, which are Antecedent,
Behavior, and Consequence. The antecedent is the initial trigger that leads to
the behavior. The behavior is the observable behavior that occurs in response
to the antecedent. The consequence is the outcome that reinforces the behavior
(“What is Applied?”, n.d.). These three aspects of ABA are closely examined and
studied to plan therapies for various clients.

Usually, an ABA program consists of
40-hour sessions each week of intensive teaching for at least two years, but
the length of the sessions can vary for each child (Kalmeyer, n.d.). Although
there are many programs within ABA, the most common one is Discrete Trial
Training (DTT). With this technique, complex skills are broken down and children
work on them one by one, instead of learning them all at once. Children are
able to develop simple skills this way by working on small tasks individually. Errorless
learning is another technique widely used in ABA programs. Children are not
told “no”, but instead are directed towards the desired response (“What is ABA?”,
n.d.). ABA programs record detailed data to determine the needs of the child as
well as analyzing the progress each session to determine the strengths and
weaknesses of the program and what lessons should be taught next. ABA programs
can begin in the household or in a clinic, with the ultimate goal of generalization
outside of the home or clinic.

The role of the Speech-Language
Pathologist in an ABA program is to select an appropriate ABA program for each
child. Every child will have different needs, and one ABA program that works
for one child may not necessarily work for another. An SLP can help determine an
ABA program that will most benefit the child. Another role of the SLP is to collect
data and analyze it in order to determine what the child needs to work on next.
The SLP also teaches expressive language in ABA therapy through labeling,
requesting, repeating words or phrases, and conversing with the clinician. The
SLP incorporates generalization strategies to make certain that what the child
learned in therapy is carried across various settings and situations. (Esch and
Dyer, n.d.)

In conclusion, ABA aims to help
individuals effectively emit important responses that are used in everyday
life. Accurate measurements and data collection is vital in order to develop
specific ABA therapy plans and to determine what each session should look like
(Cooper, 1982).

 

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