Summary of Applied Behaviour Analysis

Applied Behavioural Analysis or ABA is defined as the use of knowledge gained within the science of behavior analysis for the improvement of behaviors that are socially important (Baer, Wolf and Risley 1968).

ABA is the understanding of how behaviour is affected by the environment. This is done through the use of behaviour manipulation techniques (e.g. Positive reinforcement/ rewards) which help children with Autism to develop basic skills, such as listening, imitating and complex skills such as reading and conversing. The main aim of ABA is to structure individualized treatment programs in order to bring out the best in the individual with autism. In general, ABA focuses on the improvement of objectively defined and observable behaviors (Hedward and Cooper).

Do you think this treatment would be successful with an autistic child? Why/ why not?

Yes, I think that applied behaviour analysis treatment would be successful with an autistic child, as there is overwhelming evidence that it provides the most effective form of intervention for children with autistic spectrum disorder (Keenan, 2006). ABA has found to be more effective than so-called eclectic approaches. (Howard, Sparkman, Cohen, Green & Stainslaw,  2005). A review of over 500 studies shows that ABA consistently offers positive outcomes in terms of educating children with autism, and enhancing life skills (Matson, Benavidez, Compton, Paclawskyj & Baglio, 1996). It was also found that children were able to live in less restrictive environments than if they had not received behavioural interventions (Bibby, Eikeseth, Martin, Mudford & Reeves, 2002).

Of the other treatments which appeals to you the most and why?

Of the other treatments, Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) appeals to me the most. RDI focus’ on increasing social awareness through the use of ‘dynamic’ intelligence. Only one published article attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of RDI (Gutstein, Burgess, & Montfort, 2007). The purpose of this study was to determine whether children who participated in RDI treatment improved in selected measures related to autism. Sixteen children with various diagnoses of autism were reviewed (ranging between 20-96 months of age).  These children had been receiving treatment based on the RDI model for at least 30 months. Based on the study’s results, it was concluded that RDI was a “promising program for remediating critical experience-sharing difficulties…” of children with autism. It was observed that RDI appeared to be responsible for the positive changes in the children.


Baer, D.M., Wolf, M.M and Risley, T.R.  (1968) ‘Some current dimensions of applied behavior            analysis.’ Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 1, 91-97.

Bibby, P., Eikeseth, S., Martin, N.T., Mudford, O.C. and Reeves, D. (2002) ‘Progress and                        outcomes for children with autism receiving parent-managed intensive interventions.’            Research in Developmental Disabilities 23, 81-104.

Gutstein, S.E., Burgess, A.F., & Montfort, K. (2007). Evaluation of the Relationship Development             Intervention program. Autism, 11(5), 397-411.

Heward, W.L. and Cooper, J.O. (1987) ‘Definition and characteristics of applied behavior                   analysis.’ In J.O. Cooper, T.E. Heron and W.L. Heward (eds) Applied Behavior Analysis. New         York: Macmillan.

Howard, J.S., Sparkman, C.R., Cohen, H.G., Green, G. and Stanislaw, H. (2005) ‘A comparison of         intensive behavior analytic and eclectic treatments for young children with autism.’                 Research in Developmental Disabilities 26, 359-383.

Keenan, M. (2006). Applied behavior analysis and autism: Building a future together. (p. 304).                 London: Jessica Kingsley.

Matson, J.L., Benavidez, D.A., Compton, L.S., Paclawskyj, T. and Baglio, C. (1996) ‘Behavioral               treatment of autistic persons: a review of research from 1980 to the present.’ Research in        Developmental Disabilities 17, 433-465.


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