Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for Autism

Most Applied Behavior Analysts educate and treat people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Over the past 30 years, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased from 1 per 2500 children to 1 per 68 children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014).

With this increase in ASD to near-epidemic levels, the need for educators and practitioners who are knowledgeable in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and skilled in the provision of behaviorally-oriented procedures has grown exponentially. This demand continues to grow as numerous public and private agencies have endorsed ABA as an important component in the treatment of people with autism.

In 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General stated, "Thirty years of research have demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior."

In 2007, The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that, "The effectiveness of ABA-based intervention in ASDs has been well documented through 5 decades of research using single-subject methodology and in controlled studies of comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention programs in university and community settings."

The American Psychological Association (APA) has reported that behavioral interventions are crucial for children with autism, indicating that "this approach can help improve communication and social interaction and decrease troublesome behaviors like aggression or self-injury."

In 1998, The New York State Department of Health published its report of recommendations for early intervention for children with autism. In their report they concluded, "It is recommended that principles of Applied Behavior Analysis…and behavior intervention strategies be included as important elements in any program for young children with autism."

Because of endorsements like these and many others, Applied Behavior Analysts will find work providing direct intervention, supervising other treatment providers, consulting for individual cases, for families, schools, or school districts, and conducting behavioral assessments and providing treatment recommendations.

As with many therapies, ABA is not without controversy. The Director of the ABA Masters Program at William James College, Dr. Ronald Lee, addresses some of the misconceptions of ABA therapy for autism in an article for Autism Spectrum News.

Dr. Lee Addresses ABA Misconceptions

Kids holding Puzzle pieces with the letters ABA