What is Applied Behavior Analysis? 

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a method of teaching based on the science of learning and behaviour.  It is the scientific study of how learning takes place. 

Behaviour analysis helps us to understand:

  • How behaviour works
  • How behaviour  is affected by the environment
  • How learning takes place


ABA enhances our understanding of how behaviour works to real situations. The goal is to increase behaviours that are helpful and decrease behaviours that are harmful or affect learning. Our ultimate goal is to empower a person so that they have the ability to choose and communicate their preferences, and in doing so we give them the power to use their voices to make the choices that they might not have otherwise been able to communicate themselves.


ABA based programs can help:

  • Increase language and communication skills
  • Improve academic skills 
  • Decrease problem behaviours


The methods of behaviour analysis have been used and studied for decades. They have helped many kinds of learners gain different skills – from healthier lifestyles to learning a new language. Therapists have used ABA to help children with a diagnosis of autism and related developmental disorders since the 1960s.


How does ABA work?

Applied Behaviour Analysis involves many techniques for understanding and changing behaviour. ABA is a flexible approach that can be:  


  • adapted to meet the needs of each unique person
  • provided in many different locations, e.g., at home, school and in the community
  • used to teach skills that are useful in everyday life
  • implemented in one-to-one teaching or group instruction


Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies used in ABA. When a behaviour is followed by something that is valued (a reward), a person is more likely to repeat that behaviour. Over time, this encourages positive behaviour change.


First, we identify a goal behaviour (something as simple as reacting to their name being called or to something more complex such as being able to describe how they feel). Each time the person uses the behaviour or skill successfully, they receive a reward. The reward is meaningful to the individual e.g., praise, a toy or book, watching a video, access to the playground or another location, and more.


Positive reinforcement encourage the person to continue using the new skill learned. Over time this leads to meaningful behaviour change.