The History of Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is the most common and most recommended treatment method for children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Designed to allow children to achieve their maximum potential by teaching them critical thinking and learning skills as well as social skills, ABA is a well researched and refined method of treatment that has garnered the recommendation of many of the worldís most renowned autism researchers. Something few people are aware of, however, is the rich history of ABA and how much research has been put into the therapy in the last fifty years.

Applied Behavior Analysis therapy was first developed by a psychologist name Ivar Lovaas at the University of California Los Angeles, or UCLA, in the 1960ís. Lovaas held a theory that if children with autism are rewarded for a particular behavior then they will be likely to repeat the behavior. ABA is designed to revolve around the idea of asking the child a question or giving a command and giving the correct response. If the command is followed or the response repeated, a reward is given while all other responses are ignored. Responses to each question or command are documented and progress is tracked closely.

Over the next many years, a number of therapists worked using Dr. Lovaasí therapy, with varied degrees of success. Suspecting that success was at least in part related to the amount of time spend practicing ABA, Lovaas initiated a study that involved using intensive ABA therapy for a set number of hours weekly among children. The study provided a surprising answer that is to this day one of the key points of the therapy. Children who received at least forty hours a week of intensive ABA therapy were able to complete their first grade classes and function normally on an intellectual level while none of the students who only received ten hours of training weekly were able to do so. This revolutionized the practice of ABA therapy and led to a significant increase in successful treatment cases.

These days, ABA treatment remains much the same, as it is still the standard that children should receive 40 hours of intensive applied behavioral analysis per week from a therapist, caregiver, or parent. ABA may not be a cure for autism disorders, but it offers a great deal of hope. ABA offers children a chance to live up to their full potential and allows many a chance to function fully in society without others having a clue that they have an ASD.