Frequently Asked Questions

What is ABA?

Bullet  ““Applied Behavior Analysis is the science in which procedures derived from the principles of behavior are systematically applied to improve socially significant behavior.”  (Cooper, Heron, and Heward).

Most frequently when people say, “ABA” they are referring to some version of an intensive behavioral language intervention that was first shown to be effective by Dr. Ivar Lovaas & UCLA beginning in the 70’s and continuing into a published study in 1987.

This seminal study showed that of 19 children ages 2 ½ – 3 years of age who received 40 hours per week of intensive behavior intervention (based on principles derived from experimental analysis of behavior and respondent &operant conditioning), 47% were indistinguishable from their peers by first grade – and later research yielded that those children had retained their skills and continued to progress into their teens.  Lovaas’s research has since been replicated by the Wisconsin Early Autism Project, demonstrating the generality and efficacy of the results.   See IntensiveTreatment_Sallows-Graupner2005.pdf.

ABA, however, is not just a 40-hour per week program. Like other professional disciplines, ABA has special interest areas, autism being just one of them.  Applied Behavior Analysis can be used for other purposes including teaching organizations to run more efficiently, reducing a fear of flying, training animals, determining the function of aberrant behavior and appropriate treatment.

If you have been told by your physician or some other person that you “need to get ABA” and are not sure what that means, start by reading the following texts:

• The Verbal Behavior Approach, by Mary Barbera, BCBA, RN
• Let Me Hear Your Voice, by Catherine Maurice.
• Teaching Language to Children with Autism & Other Developmental Disabilities, James Partington, Ph.D.,BCBA & Mark Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA

What is Verbal Behavior?

1  behavior that is mediated by another person.  Talking, pointing, signing, handing or pointing to a picture which results in a response to that behavior from another person is considered verbal behavior.

2 a book written by B.F. Skinner in 1957 which analyzes language functionally based on the conditions under a word is spoken and the consequences which maintain the speakers behavior.

3  a set of literature related to effective teaching procedures for language skills based on Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior.

4  a non-specific, commonly referred to group of teaching procedures drawn from applied behavior analysis and teaching language skills to individuals with language deficits based on Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior and the recent advances in effective teaching made salient by Drs. Jack Michael, Mark Sundberg, James Partington, Vincent Carbone, & Patrick McGreevy and others.

Is Verbal Behavior still ABA?

Yes.  Practitioners who effectively incorporate Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior and subscribe to those additional lines of research regarding effective teaching procedures can be said to be using Verbal Behavior or  “VB” methodologies.  All of our practices are part of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Is Verbal Behavior just for children who “can talk?”

No.  Verbal Behavior methodology applies to individuals who use signs, pictures, and gestures to communicate as well as vocal speech.

Where can I find ABA therapists?

Practitioners of applied behavior analysis are called Behavior Analysts, and there is a governing board for those individuals – The Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB).   The Association for Applied Behavior Analysis International and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board are working to create greater awareness for parents and consumers about the minimum levels of training and certification deemed appropriate for practitioners.   For more information regarding certification go towww.bacb.com.

In January of 2011, Kentucky passed Insurance Reform Legislation that also regulates the title and practice of Applied Behavior Analysis.  Behavior Analysts must now also be licensed to practice or be supervised by a Licensed professional.    You can find more about licensure at the Kentucky Applied Behavior Analyst Licensure Board.

The dedicated individuals who work one-on-one with children in many of these programs may be called “therapists,” “interventionists,” “instructors,” “paraprofessionals,” or “technicians.”  They are covered under HB159 as “supervisees” when practicing under a Licensed BCBA or BCaBA.