Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Course excerpt from Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism

“The National Standards Report may be the most important document that parents and practitioners ever read and the most important weapon in their arsenal to fight autism.” – Marjorie H. Charlop, PhD / Professor of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College / Director, The Claremont Autism Center.

Applied Behavior AnalysisApplied Behavior Analysis-based approaches for educating children have been extensively researched. In the last 30 years, ABA has been acknowledged as one of the best practices for teaching children with autism. As you already know, there are a variety of treatments available for students with autism. Their parents, understandably wanting what is best for their child, are often inundated. When helping them sift through the science versus pseudoscience, you can introduce them to the National Standards Project (NSP) (, which works to answer the very crucial question: “how do we effectively treat individuals with autism spectrum disorder?” The National Standards Report (see Web Resources, in References), issued by the NSP, reviews interventions and identifies those that have been shown to be effective for individuals with ASD. The Report recognizes behavioral-based approaches – including ABA – as an established form of treatment.

The National Standards Project (Phase 2, 2015), a primary initiative of the National Autism Center, addresses the need for evidence-based practice guidelines for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Its primary goal is to provide critical information about which interventions have been shown to be effective for individuals with ASD. The interventions reviewed were given a rating. The possible ratings were “established,” “emerging” or “unestablished.” Behavioral interventions, as we will discuss in this course, were rated as “established.” These behavioral interventions are rooted in the science of applied behavior analysis. Below is a brief introduction to the science of applied behavior analysis and terms associated with the science. These terms will be used throughout the course, so this vocabulary section will set the stage for further application of this science.

As a formal definition of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), we offer simply that it is a science devoted to the understanding and improvement of human behavior (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007). In other words, ABA is the science of studying behavior, and applying data-supported techniques to increase and/or decrease behaviors that are meaningful to the client and the client’s social environment. It is a systematic way to look at human behavior, including verbal behavior.

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Applied Behavior Analysis for AutismApplied Behavior Analysis for Autism is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides evidence-based behavioral interventions for the minimally verbal child with autism. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) currently seems to be holding steady at one in 68 children (or 1.46 percent). The communication challenges of these children are widely known and require specialized early interventions to overcome them. This course presents evidence-based strategies that can enable students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and others who are verbally limited, to become more effective communicators. The focus will be on the minimally verbal child, the child who has a very small repertoire of spoken words or fixed phrases that are used communicatively. Included are: an overview of autism spectrum disorder, an introduction to the science of applied behavior analysis, the use of manding in communication training, techniques for direct instruction programming, and inter-professional collaboration strategies. Major points are illustrated throughout by case studies from actual practice. Course #21-15 | 2017 | 43 pages | 15 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).