Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the scientific approach for discovering environmental variables that reliably influence socially significant behavior and for developing a technology of behavior change that is practical and applicable. Nevertheless, all ABA programs share similar components: discrete trial teaching, programming for generalization to the natural environment, reinforcement, prompting and fading strategies, and outcome-based decision-making.
The Report of the MADSEC Autism Task Force (2000) provides a succinct description, put together by an independent body of experts:
Over the past 40 years, several thousand published research studies have documented the effectiveness of ABA across a wide range of:
Populations (children and adults with mental illness, developmental disabilities and learning disorders)
Interventionists (parents, teachers and staff)
Settings (schools, homes, institutions, group homes, hospitals and business offices), and
Behaviors (language; social, academic, leisure and functional life skills; aggression, self-injury, oppositional and stereotyped behaviors)
"Socially significant behaviors" include reading, academics, social skills, communication, and adaptive living skills. Adaptive living skills include gross and fine motor skills, eating and food preparation, toileting, dressing, personal self-care, domestic skills, time and punctuality, money and value, home and community orientation, and work skills.
Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities (MADSEC) (2000). Report of the MADSEC Autism Task Force.
Myers, S. M., & Plauché Johnson, C. (2007). Management of children with autism spectrum disorders.Pediatrics, 120, 1162-1182.
National Research Council (2001), Educating Children with Autism. Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Austism. Catherine Lord and James P. McGee, eds. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, D.C. National Academy Press