Expository Essay on ABA for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders

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567 words
University of Richmond
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Boutot and Humes’s article provides an overview of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). They make use of Baer, Wolf, and Risleys 1968 definition of ABA as the process of sometimes applying tentative principles of behavior to the improvement of specific behaviors and simultaneously evaluating whether any changes noted are indeed attributed to the process of application. While the use of principles of behavior to shape, modify, or change behavior has had a long history in the field of special education, behavior modification alone does not qualify as ABA. According to Alberto and Troutman (2009), ABA entails analyzing whether or not the behavior changes are caused by modification techniques applied, whether there were other variables present, or it was pure coincidence leading to the changes. Establishing a functional relationship between behavior and the intervention is key in achieving the clarity being sought. This annotated bibliography will discuss the place of ABA for students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

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The use of ABA for students with ASD attempts to teach new skills and decrease challenging behaviors. ABA principles are mostly applied in schools. Research studies conducted on the effectiveness of ABA on students with autism have shown that children who received high-intensity ABA had greater gains compared to those who received lower input. The first study conducted by Lovaas showed that these children were even included in the general education classrooms. This finding has been upheld by subsequent studies. The use of ABA for students with autism is not only effective but also an evidence-based strategy that is recommended for use.

There exists an unclear cut on the ABA techniques that are empirically-based for children with autism. As such, there is a suggested criterion used to determine whether or not interventions fall under ABA. The six criteria are:

  1. Is the intervention applied?

The intervention is supposed to address behaviors that are socially significant for the person with ASD as well as those around him or her. These behaviors should be aimed at improving the daily life experience of the person and the caregivers. For example, social skills, communication, or academics.

  1. Is the intervention behavioral?

The behavior being addressed must be one that is observable and measurable either through direct assessment or observation.

  1. Is the intervention analytic and conceptual?

There should exist a functional relationship between the intervention and the change in targeted behavior.

  1. Is the intervention technological?

The intervention should include procedures that are precise having enough detail and clarity that can be replicated with minimal training.

  1. Is the intervention effective?

The effectiveness of the intervention is the most important feature in the ABA approach. The effectiveness of the intervention is determined through the measure of the problem behavior, the replacement behavior, a measure of social validity which addresses consumer satisfaction of the goals of the intervention, procedures, and outcomes.

  1. Does the intervention have generality?

For generality to be achieved, the behavior change should last overtime after the intervention has been withdrawn. Additionally, behaviors that were not targeted should also change.


If these criteria are met, it can be concluded that the interventions fall under the ABA practices but if one of the criteria fails, the intervention is disputed.


Boutot, E. A., & Hume, K. (2012). Beyond time out and table time: Today's applied behavior analysis for students with autism. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 23-38.

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