Behaviour analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. Rather than focusing on what a behaviour looks like, behaviour analysis focuses on why it is happening. This gives a greater insight into the behaviour, its purpose and how to change it.
Positive reinforcement is one such principle; when behaviour is followed by some sort of reward, the behaviour is more likely to be repeated. Through decades of research, the field of behaviour analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviours and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning.
Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) is the use of these techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change in behaviour.
These techniques can be used in structured situations such as a classroom lesson, as well as in “everyday” situations such as family dinnertime or the neighbourhood playground.
Some ABA therapy sessions involve one-on-one interaction between the behaviour analyst and the student, while others will include group interactions between multiple students and teachers.
Today, ABA is widely recognised as an effective treatment for autism. It has been endorsed by a number of international agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General and the New York State Department of Health.
Over the last decade, we have seen a particularly dramatic increase worldwide in the use of ABA to help persons with autism live happy and productive lives. In particular, ABA principles and techniques can foster:
- basic skills – looking, listening and imitating
- complex skills – reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective.
A high-quality ABA program provides intervention utilising a variety of behaviour principles. Typical early intervention ABA programs focus on the use of standardised discrete trial teaching methods which provide the student with the opportunity to repeatedly practise specific skills, broken down into their individual components.
This is an important and valuable teaching method for early learners, however does not lend itself well to the generalisation of the skill to everyday learning and living. For example, being able to identify the colour red when practised 10 times in a row, using the same set of simple stimuli, is a key step in the learning of colour concepts. However to truly know, understand and most importantly use this skill, the child needs to be generalise this skill to other environments and maintain it without repetitive practise. The child needs to able to:
- label the colour
- identify it within their environment
- use it within a specific request or statement
- answer the question “what colour?”
- use it in a multiword phrase or statement and
- discriminate it from other colours and adjectives.
To achieve all of these skills, it is important that teaching occurs fluidly across a variety of situations, context and scenarios.
Woodbury places a large emphasis on the generalisation and maintenance of skills by incorporating these concepts within our everyday instruction. To provide a functional learning environment, individualised instruction is presented across one-to-one and group settings utilising principles of naturalistic environment teaching and discrete trial training.
More information about behaviour analysis and ABA is available at the websites of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts, the Association for Behavior Analysis International and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.