Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a systemic application of behavioural principles to address deficits in socially significant behaviour, verbal skills and reasoning skills. The key aspects of ABA include observing the frequency of occurrence of behaviours as well as the antecedents to the behaviours and the consequences that follow the behaviours; breaking down desired skills into steps; teaching the steps through repeated presentation of discrete trials and collecting performance data to evaluate if there should be any changes over time (Prior, 2003).
The following terms and definitions are commonly used in Applied Behaviour Analysis. (Alberto & Troutman, 2003):
Motivating Operations (M.O.) is an important ABA concept that refers to the internal processes or desires of an individual that change or improve the value of a certain stimulus. Children with Autism sometimes need extra motivation to perform tasks or activities that typical children enjoy, or that typical children will perform to please someone else.
Repeated Opportunities for Learning-Teaching new skills with repeated trials so that the new skill becomes ingrained and the child has more opportunities to recognize when the skill is to be used.
Generalizationofskills– initially, therapy is usually conducted in a less chaotic environment, with the idea that having fewer distractions around in the learning environment will assist the child to focus and learn the task at hand. Programming for generalization takes into account the need for behaviours to occur across all environments, independently, and spontaneously. Thus, criteria are set to include various setting and stimuli and a skill is not determined to be mastered unless and until the child demonstrates independent ability to perform the skill across such environments.
For example, if a teacher uses 4 different examples of a dog (i.e., 2 different pictures of real dogs, 1 picture of a cartoon-type dog, and 1 3-D dog figure), that same student would be more likely to correctly respond “dog” when asked “What is this?” in the presence of a picture of a dog from a novel book (a picture the student has never seen before).
Prompting – means inducing the person to perform a desired behaviour by presenting a prompt. A prompt can be defined as a cue or hint meant to induce a person to perform a desired behaviour.
For example : To teach a child to hang up his coat as the student comes indoors, teacher might verbally feed him each step.“Now, Johnny, take one arm out of the sleeve, now the next, go to the hook, hang up your coat!.
Let’s take another example: to teach a student to wash hands, teacher may use physical prompt. First open the tap, rub your hand with soap and then closed the tap.
Fading– The gradual removal of prompts allowing the discriminative stimulus to occasion a response independently.
Using the example “point to block”, you might gently touch the child’s elbow to induce him/her to point to the block, rather than using a full physical prompt.
To fade a verbal prompt, you might say:
1. What is it? : “block”
2. Fade to “What is it? “b…”
3. Prompt will be completely faded when child will be asked what is it and response will be: “block”
Modeling – The demonstration of a desired behaviour in order to get an imitative response.
Shaping – Teaching new behaviours through differential reinforcement of successive approximations to specified target behaviour.
For example: Let’s say a teacher is trying to teach Johnny to speak in front of the whole classroom. Given that Johnny is a shy kid; he wouldn’t be able to give a speech right away. So, instead of promising Johnny some reward for giving a speech, rewards should be given to behaviors that come close. Like, giving him a reward when he stands in front of the class. Next, when he goes in front of the class and say hello. Then, when he can read a passage from a book. And, finally when he can give a speech. Whole point is for rewards to be successive . In this way, shaping of behaviour can be done.
Chaining is a technique used in ABA to teach individuals with developmental disabilities complex tasks by breaking them down into discrete responses or individual behaviours. With a backward chaining procedure, all of the behaviours in a single task are completed by the trainer except the last step. The learner is then prompted to complete the last step in the task. Once the learner has demonstrated independence in completion of the last step, the trainer then completes all steps except the last two, prompting the learner to complete the last two steps independently