Autism & Applied Behavior Analysis: Making Connections

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


Welcome to the fourth and final unit of this course. This unit consists of 2 lessons.

The first lesson is The Success of Applied Behavior Analysis for Individuals with ASD.

The second lesson is Wrap Up.

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

Objective: Self-reflect by applying what has been learned about applied behavior analysis to a personal experience working with an individual who has special needs.

Unit Readings

Lesson #1 Readings:

Lesson #2 Readings

  • N/A

Lesson #1: The Success of Applied Behavior Analysis for Individuals with ASD

"Currently, no treatment has been shown to cure ASD, but several interventions have been developed and studied for use with young children. These interventions may reduce symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily living skills, and maximize the ability of the child to function and participate in the community." [1]

Applied behavior analysis "has become widely accepted among healthcare professionals and used in many schools and treatment clinics. ABA encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors to improve a variety of skills. The child’s progress is tracked and measured." [1]

"Since ABA is almost always implemented one on one, you can almost always gear the lessons to the children you are working with in many unique ways. Since all children learn in different ways you can teach different skills different ways such as imitation, receptive language, expressive language, conversation, and grammar."[2]

Success Stories

1.) "There are many other case studies that show that starting intervention at a younger age will help the recovery rate of children with autism. There was a case study completed with a boy who was 28 months and at a high risk of having autism. The child started ABA therapy for two hours a week and then transitioned into four hours a week (Aslan 2011). After therapy was conducted it showed that the child showed improvement in targeted skills he needed more help with. He showed improvement in non verbal expression skills. When the child continued with the therapy his IEP showed that he was showing positive amounts of improvement (Aslan 2011). By the end of the year of his therapy his scores in matching, imitation, receptive language, and expressive language went up tremendously. The child was scoring a 100 percent in all areas by the end (Aslan 2011)." [2]

2.) "Another study that shows that ABA is effective at a young age is a study that was conducted by children around the age of 4 and then once the study was finished the children were around the age of 7. The study was conducted over 3 years to make sure that the results were accurate and consistent. The study took place in public elementary schools for typically developing children (Eikeseth et el 2014). Each child that was participating in this study received a minimum of two therapists. During the time of the treatments, the child worked alone with the therapist in a private room. Once the first year was up the therapists were asked to report the number of hours a week that the child was receiving ABA therapy and also had to report the treatment goals they had for each child (Eikeseth et el, 2014). Results showed that after getting ABA treatments social behaviors and aggressive behaviors decreased. It also showed that the children’s IQ score went up 34 points. Since these children started at a younger age and were able to continue with extensive ABA therapy, it allowed them to improve on all skills, including adaptive, social, maladaptive, and behavioral skills. The study also shows that children who range from 4- 7 and have autism may benefit considerably from intensive ABA therapy (Eikeseth et al 2014)." [2]

3.) "Once intervention had started all of the parents stated that ABA interventions had a positive impact on their child. They all emphasized that it reduced frustration and problem behaviors due to improved communication between the parents and the child (Mcphilemy, 2013). For example, one parent stated that since starting ABA services their son has improved eye contact and is now able to communicate through picture exchange communication systems. Another parent stated that their son could now ask questions where before they started intervention he was non-verbal (Mcphilemy et el 2014)." [2]

Now You Try: Assess Yourself

Review and Draft

Please take this time to review previous components of the course. This is to prepare for your final paper. You may take this time to come up with a draft of your paper (see the Now You Try section in lesson #2).

Lesson #2: Wrap Up

You have reached the final lesson of this course. Throughout this course you have explored the concept of applied behavior analysis and its uses in and out of the classroom pertaining to individuals on the autism spectrum, identifed specific behaviors pertaining to the four functions of behaviors to assist in bettering an individual with special needs, and analyzed the benefits of positive and negative reinforcement and when to use each when working with an individual with special needs.

You have learned about ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and what it is, and now know the importance of applied behavior analysis and its benefits to individuals both in and outside of the classroom.

A registered behavior technician working with a student.

If you are a:

  • Parent or a family member of a child with special needs
  • Babysitter or nanny
  • General education classroom teacher
  • Special education classroom teacher looking to expand on your knowledge
  • Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT)
  • Social Worker
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Speech Therapist
  • Educational program director

You can now use your newfound knowledge of applied behavior analysis to help better an individual's life with special needs like autism.

You now:

  • Know the signs and symptoms of autism.
  • Can identify functions of behaviors. We know that every behavior occurs for a reason and that they can be categorized into four functions. These four functions are escape, attention, access to tangibles, and sensory. By identifying and understanding behavior in an individual, you can better understand the individual's needs and when and how to cater to the individual.
  • Can create and analyze an ABC contingency chart. By viewing behavior in this frame, we can start to discover the patterns that play a role in forming or maintaining a behavior over time. We can identify an individual's trigger's, patterns of behaviors, and pinpoint how the behavior can be changed or modified.
  • Can incorporate reinforcers into your work with the individual with special needs. There are five categories of reinforcers to choose from that will help motivate the individual. These are social reinforcer, classroom based reinforcers, activity reinforcers, material reinforcers and edible reinforcers.
  • Can implement positive and negative reinforcement to maintain positive behaviors.

The new skills and information you have learned in this course is just a small sample of how you can incorporate applied behavior analysis to your teachings with individuals with special needs / on the autism spectrum.

If you are truly interested in working with individuals with special needs and would like to learn more practices and make a difference, consider applying for a position as a registered behavior technician. Individuals in this profession work with special needs individuals to help better their lives.

"A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) works in clinical settings under the supervision of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) to provide treatment plans for patients like autistic children. As a behavior technician, you'll work under a BCBA to create the most impactful changes for an individual patient. On a daily basis, registered behavior technician jobs consist of assisting with the treatment of patients who have various behavior problems. As a whole, the field is focused on science and human behavior and how to alleviate problematic behaviors in individuals. If you have a love of psychology and behavior analysis, a behavior technician role provides a good balance of both." [1]

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!


Write an essay addressing the following:

Select a case of behavior you have dealt with in your own experience with a special needs individual. This could be with a student, a family member, a friend's sibling, etc. Connect this experience of behavior with what you would do regarding your newfound knowledge of applied behavior analysis. Please use 2-3 other resources to back up your decisions.

Think about: What are the individual's behaviors? How would you find the individual's triggers? What triggers the individual? Why are they acting they way they are? What kind of reinforcement would you implement? What are the child's reinforcers? What are your next steps going forward to alter the behavior?

Submit your final essay to


[1] Dalphonse, Amelia. “Use Positive and Negative Reinforcement Instead of Punishment.” Accessible ABA, 24 Aug. 2020,

[2] Kehoe, Megan, "The Effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis" (2015). Education Masters. Paper 307.