About Autism & Applied Behavior Analysis

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?:

To understand applied behavior analysis or ABA, we must first understand behavior analysis. Behavior analysis or the science of behavior is the study of principles of learning and behavior. Behavior analysis is built on the philosophy that the environment influences behavior; meaning the environment, or what’s happening around us, directly impacts what we do.

Behavior analysis is often divided into two primary areas, the experimental analysis of behavior and applied behavior analysis. The experimental analysis of behavior focuses on studying and evaluating the fundamental and basic principles of behavior. Basically, they study what changes behavior and how different things influence behavior. What we learn in this area of the science is then used to guide behavioral change procedures in the real world in applied behavior analysis.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) uses the principles from the science of behavior to systematically change behaviors that are meaningful to those in the individual’s life. The goal of ABA is to improve the quality of life for our clients and those around them. ABA targets behavior in real-world settings such as in the home, school, clinics, industry, and community and often targets socially important behaviors such as problematic behaviors and learning.

At Arise Autism Center, we provide services that are in line with the dimensions of ABA by using systematic observation, data collection. We conduct thorough behavioral assessments, analyze daily data to allow for continuous revisions of the treatment plan, and conduct ongoing caregiver and staff training to ensure our services generalize to all areas of the individual’s life.

Although ABA is one of the most common treatments for autism, it should be noted that ABA is more than a treatment for autism. ABA has been shown to be effective in a variety of settings targeting a large range of behaviors. Behavior analysts are qualified to work in areas such as improving organizational behavior and functioning, increasing workplace safety, improving athletic performance and addressing developmental and skill deficits, education, and behavior problems.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that are characterized by significant deficits in the areas of social interaction, communication, and/or behavior challenges. A diagnosis of ASD includes those with conditions that used to be diagnosed separately such as: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger’s syndrome.

Autism Facts:

      • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1 in 68 children has been identified with ASD (CDC, 2016)
      • This is a drastic increase since 2007 when it was estimated that 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with autism.
      • ASD is 4.5 times more likely to be identified in boys than girls
      • ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups

Although there is nothing about how people with autism look that sets them apart from their peers, individuals with autism often behave and learn in very different ways than those without ASD. Further, each individual with ASD is unique in his or her abilities and challenges. Thus, one “cookie cutter” type intervention is likely to be unsuccessful. Treatment must be individualized and tailored to fit each individual’s needs.

Currently there is no cure for ASD, and unfortunately, there isn’t a “quick fix” either. One cannot take a medication or cure to treat the disorder. However, research does show that early intensive behavioral intervention (birth to 3 years old) and treatment services can improve a child’s development. Incorporating ABA into early intervention services has been demonstrated to be extremely effective for decades. Perhaps one of the most well known studies that demonstrated the effectiveness for ABA was published by Lovaas and colleagues in 1987. This study showed that approximately 47% of the children diagnosed with autism that received approximately 40 hours per week of intensive ABA services for 2-3 years successfully transitioned into a typical school setting. This was contrasted with the 2% of the comparison group who achieved the same outcomes. Several studies since have demonstrated similar, but less dramatic outcomes.

As stated previously, ABA and ABA therapy for children with autism are based on the principles of the science of behavior. In ABA therapy, we use these principles to make meaning changes in behavior. To do this, behavior analysts create learning situations that allow for multiple opportunities for reinforcement of appropriate and important social and communicative behaviors, while minimizing inappropriate or problematic behaviors.

Additional Resources

For more information on Autism, please visit:
Autism Speaks:
Center for Disease Control:
Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, Florida: