Applied Behavior Analysis: The Practice

To return back to mini-course: Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism


Welcome to the first unit of this course. This unit consists of 2 lessons.

The first lesson is What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The second lesson is What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Each lesson has it's own specific readings, videos, and assessments for you to complete.

Objective: Explore the concept of applied behavior analysis and its uses in and out of the classroom pertaining to individuals on the autism spectrum.

Unit Readings

Please read and review the following texts:

Lesson #1 Readings:


Lesson #2 Readings:

  • The importance of analysis in applied behavior analysis. Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice Scroll down and read the section titled: The Various Applications of Analysis in Practice. Feel free to read the entire article if you please.

Arr.GIF Lesson #1 What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?



"Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less." [1]

Signs and Symptoms

"Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have issues with social, emotional, and communication skills. Signs can be identified as early as childhood and can last throughout the individual's life." [1]

  • Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • Be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • Not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
  • Repeat actions over and over again
  • Have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • Lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using) [1]


Please watch the following video: Autism Symptoms and Behaviors - Home Video

In this video you will see multiple footage clips of various autistic behaviors throughout a young child's development. In this video clip you will see

  • Unusual Attachment to Objects
  • Repetitive / Stim Behaviors
  • Sensory Processing (hearing sensitivity)
  • Repetitive Play
  • Unusual Interest in Objects
  • Language Delay & Leading
  • Social Skill Difficulty (no eye contact or responses)
  • Repetitive Vocal Stims
  • Difficulty Relating To Others

Keep in mind that autism is a spectrum and that a child can display all, some, or very few of these behaviors.

The individual who created the video also states the other behaviors that were not included in this video:

  • Spinning
  • Observing Rotating Objects / Fixations
  • Echolalia (when a child repeats or imitates what someone else has said)
  • Problems Sleeping

The Spectrum

Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person's symptoms and ability to function. [2]

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Now You Try: Reflect

Now that you have completed the required journal articles, readings, watched selected videos, and have take notes on the lesson material, let's reflect!

1.) Respond to the following prompt: Reflect on your experience working with special needs individuals (more specifically individuals on the autism spectrum). What have you learned from your own personal experiences and from the first lesson of this course?

When you click the link please select file > make a copy and input your responses. Please save your document and submit it to

Arr.GIF Lesson #2 What is Applied Behavior Analysis?


"Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics as well as adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, punctuality, and job competence. ABA is effective for children and adults with psychological disorders in a variety of settings, including schools, workplaces, homes, and clinics. It has also been shown that consistent ABA can significantly improve behaviors and skills and decrease the need for special services." [3]

It is the science of making changes to behaviors that matter. The practice uses principles of learning and motivation that have come from decades of scientific research to solve problems of behavior that matter to our world and society.


"ABA is commonly practiced as a therapeutic intervention for individuals with autism. According to the Center for Autism, ABA helps the autistic client improve social interactions, learn new skills, and maintain positive behaviors. ABA also helps transfer skills and behavior from one situation to another, controlling situations where negative behaviors arise and minimizing negative behaviors. With autism, ABA is most successful when intensely applied for more than 20 hours a week and prior to the age of 4." [3]

Aside from autism (ASD), the practice of applied behavior analysis can be implemented in many other areas. These areas being

  • Substance Abuse
  • Sports
  • Health & Wellness
  • Animal Training
  • Education

Prior to beginning to implement applied behavior analysis and any of the techniques, it is important for the teacher/instructor to establish rapport with the learner/student.

  • By definition, rapport is defined as a close relationship or bond in which the people or groups concerned are “in sync” with each other, understand each other's feelings or ideas, and interact with each other smoothly and efficiently.

The first handful of ABA therapy sessions are all about pairing. Working together to create and establish rapport. The teacher/instructor should start out by first figuring out what the child likes. Get to know their favorite toys, games, snacks and treats. Become familiar with things of their interests like music, dance, cartoons or movies. You are seemingly befriending the child to gain their trust and attention. Once a relationship between the child and teacher/therapist is established, that's when the work can begin.

Getting to know the child's interests also helps you when it comes to reinforcement. By figuring out what motivates the child, you are able to incorporate reinforcers to your practice. [More on this will be discussed when you reach the unit in this course called Reinforcement.]

What to Expect When A Professional Implements the Practice

When working with an ABA therapist, you will:

  1. Determine which behaviors require change
  2. Set goals and expected outcomes
  3. Establish ways to measure changes and improvements
  4. Evaluate where you are now
  5. Learn new skills and/or learn how to avoid negative behaviors
  6. Regularly review your progress
  7. Decide whether or not further behavior modification is necessary
  8. The length of time spent in ABA depends on the severity of the problem and individual rate of improvement. [3]

See it in Action - Videos

Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) - Autism Speaks

[A short video segment introducing the basic concepts behind and application of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for children with autism spectrum and severe learning disorders.]

What is autism and how does ABA therapy work? - Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers

[Hopebridge uses evidence-based therapy that utilizes the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA therapy). From understanding what autism looks like to how to treat it, Hopebridge professionals focus on collaborating with families, physicians, and fellow therapists to deliver on a personalized plan of care.]

Now You Try: Assess Yourself

Now that you have completed the required journal articles, readings, watched selected videos, and have take notes on the lesson material, let's assess!

1.) Take this short quiz: With any questions you get wrong, please go back to the corresponding lesson and review.

2.) Respond to the following prompts.

In your own words, define and describe what applied behavior analysis is. What can be gained out of applied behavior analysis?

How do you think this course will help you?

When you click the link please select file > make a copy and input your responses. Please save your document and submit it to


[1] “What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Mar. 2020,

[2] “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mar. 2018,

[3] “Applied Behavior Analysis.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,