Applied behavior analysis training (ABA training for short) refers to a type of education given to family members or therapists for helping children, teenagers, and adults with disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder. ABA is a research based and tested method for enabling those with disabilities to better themselves through either operant or classical conditioning(1). Many of us are probably familiar with the principles behind Pavlov’s dog, where, given the right stimulus, one can produce a desired outcome. Through the use of positive and negative reinforcement, family members and therapists have been able to help disabled children and teenagers develop improved social and behavioral skills which may help prevent them from hurting themselves or others, and make them be able to better interact with other people.
Behavior analysis in practice requires ABA professionals to observe and analyze their clients reactions to certain stimuli, and develop interventions to correct negative reactions. This means that therapists analyze the total skills of a client and design a series of objectives for the client to meet. It can be as simple as teaching the child to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ or as complex as teaching them how to play a game or live independently(2). The objectives are determined by the specific needs of the client, and the specific needs of the client are determined through analysis of their skill set. For the clients, it is a building process. Once one skill is learned another skill may be added to their repertoire.
Probably the most common ABA techniques stem from Dr. Ivar Lovaas, the man considered the grandfather of ABA(3). His methods were proven to be most effective when implemented anywhere from 30 to 40 hours a week, 2 or 3 hours a day. Today, many families who can afford it put their children into ABA programs during the week that base their system off of Lovaas’ research. Still others choose to receive training so they can practice ABA with their child at home. In both cases, Lovaas is the dominant figure.
The cost for ABA therapy training at the graduate level depends on one’s location and the program they enroll in. The best thing to do is check out your local colleges and universities to see whether they offer applied behavior analysis programs. Afterward, determine what their prices are; these prices may match their graduate-level tuition rate. Some students may prefer to pursue their degree in an online program, which might help reduce the cost of earning a degree by eliminating commuting or relocation costs. There are also certificate programs available in class or online. A background in psychology at the undergraduate level is typically useful for students interested in applying to ABA graduate and certificate programs.