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ABA Techniques

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What is ABA?
Techniques Used
Salary of an BCBA-Certified Therapist

In 2018, the CDC determined that 1 in 59 has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These individuals may need additional help developing coping skills and learning behavior techniques that will help them in life. Applied Behavior Analysis is one of the only evidence-based therapies developed to assist those with an autism spectrum disorder. Using ABA techniques is an opportunity for a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to use their skills and knowledge to help this population.

What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy process that experts use for behavioral principles in daily situations. This scientific approach can help to improve or change certain behaviors. Professionals typically use ABA for children that are on the autism spectrum. Children that have autism can benefit from ABA therapy to help them with communication, academics, social skills, and reading. Other learning skills taught through this therapy are grooming, dexterity, domestic capabilities, hygiene, job capability, and punctuality.

Techniques Used

There are many techniques used in Applied Behavior Analysis, and there are some common teaching procedures that are based on the principles of ABA that are backed by scientific research and studies. In order to make this list, a technique must have at least six well-established case studies evaluated by independent investigators.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies used in ABA. Initially, the therapist identifies a goal behavior. Every time the person uses this behavior in the right way, they achieve some type of reward. This reward is usually something meaningful to the individual and encourage them to keep using the skill, over time leading to a meaningful change in behavior.

Behavior Chaining

Behavior chains are procedures deemed effective for teaching people with autism a variety of multi-step skills such as vocational skills, communication skills or self-help activities. With behavior chaining, the individual is taught that one action leads to another. For example, putting your head in the hole of the shirt is a cue for pulling the hole to your neck, which is then a cue to put each arm through an arm hole, etc. Behavior chains are used to teach daily activities like brushing teeth, as well as to eliminate tantrum behavior by teaching the child to enter through a different hallway and walk a different way if the first way led to a tantrum.

Video Modeling

Video modeling is a technique where a sequence is taped to show good behavior in a given situation. The videos may show things like social play, social scenes, self-help scenes and more. It is a useful intervention for individuals with ASD who exhibit well-developed imitation skills.

Differential Reinforcements

Reinforcements are done differently for each child, depending on their level of behavior. Some reinforcements can trigger the behavior to become worse. In this case, the expert working with the child will try another approach that may be more effective. These reinforcements could be positive or negative. A positive response could be explaining why the behavior is wrong and help them understand a better choice. Whereas, a negative response could be quick and stern like “No.”


Self-management applies behavioral principles to personal behavior. Components include: selecting goals, arranging the environment to make reaching goals more likely, administering reinforcement and monitoring behavior to see if goals are being reached. Self-management has been widely studied and is mainly used to apply to social skills in people with autism. After successful completion of a task over a certain amount of time, like cooking a meal or getting dressed alone for a week, then a reward may be given.


Shaping is used to teach people with autism a variety of skills. An instructor will teach a new behavior by systematically reinforcing the proper use of the behavior while no longer reinforcing old behavior approximations. The point here is to gain progression in the skill. In the case of language, if a child is learning to say, “daddy,” the instructor may initially reinforce the child if they say “ddd.” As the child progresses and starts to say, “da,” the initial “ddd” is no longer reinforced.

Salary of an BCBA-Certified Therapist

Salary can vary depending on your degree and experience. Since there is no unified employment class for therapists who use ABA techniques, and a variety of occupations can use ABA therapies in their roles, you have to look at the data for different jobs to see where the income potential lies. For a Special Education teacher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average is $59,390 for elementary school, $60,250 for middle school and $60,600 for secondary school. A School Psychologist may also be a certified ABA therapist, and their national average salary is $76,990, but requires more education.