The Importance of ABA in Schools

Applied Behavioural Analysis. ABA.  It’s a sticky word. What is it really? It falls under the field of Psychology and under the science of behaviour.  A therapy…yes. Strategies? That as well. Teaching? You know it.
It can be a foreign term- and even when you hear it, you may still be a tad confused.
ABA is the principles of behaviour to improve socially significant behaviour and skills so they become meaningful. 
We use these strategies to help encourage changed behaviour to create more social and functional behaviour. 
We ALL exhibit behaviour. Talking, not talking, tears, flushed cheeks, giggling, raised chest, tapping toes, the list continues. Anything observable is a behaviour.
When we see behaviour that is amazing and wonderful we want to help INCREASE this!! Let make sure we all know when we do a great job! Alternatively, when behaviour interferes with learning, interacting and engaging in life, we work collectively to help change this as well. 
The first word in itself, “Applied” implies this is something ACTIVE. It is based upon engagement, work, practice, repetition and maintenance. It is work and it is awesome.
The word work can sound intimidating. Perhaps because we associate it with our 9-5s, the grind, the hard stuff we do… I challenge us (and myself) to associate it with OUTCOME, PROGRESS and GROWTH. We all do, but in the midst of the hard stuff we can forget the amazing stuff on the other side that awaits us! (and make sure to take that time you need to reboot yourself- you deserve it!)
ABA focuses on changing socially significant behaviour and skill building into a MEANINGFUL way. 
We want to keep that class clown, the joker, the artistry, the simplicity or complexity of each person. We LOVE that person and we celebrate them!
We want to help SHAPE this person using a variety of different strategies that ABA complements.
These happen both in the classroom and in everyday life. We may practice:
  • Shaping
  • Modelling
  • The use of prompts (visual/verbal/physical guidance)
  • Generalization (teaching in multiple environments with different instructors)
  • Motivation
  • Reinforcement
These are different strategies we intersperse in our learning on a daily basis that it just becomes a NATURAL way of teaching!
The ABC Model is a great breakdown and beginning to ABA. When we consider behaviour we need to consider the WHY far before the behaviour itself.
A= Antecedent  (what happened prior to the behaviour)
B= Behaviour  (what did you see? Tears, giggling, toe tapping, running?)
C= Consequence (What happened afterwards? Did a teacher talk to them about it? Was it ignored? Was attention given from their peers?)
This is SO important! If we don’t understand WHY (function) we will never be successful in helping to shape the WHAT. (Behaviour) Behaviour represents a story to be told. Let’s figure it out, shape it and teach!
Typically developing kids learn language, social skills and classroom readiness from a lot of observing and interacting in the world. Kids who have a diagnosis of ASD also learn SO very much from the world around them and their environment to,o but they also benefit from more direct teaching and practice with these topics in order for them to fully understand them.
We TEACH social skills, we TEACH language, we TEACH behaviour that is socially appropriate. We teach by shaping behaviours over time, using preferred reinforcers to motivate our students, we provide prompting… and more importantly we fade our prompting (physical guidance, verbal or visual prompts) They want independence. We want independence!
So, WHY is this so important to use in ALL school settings? There are no other options. We must. We have to.. how can we not teach the way a student learns? And it is work.. and you can’t do it for the first 3 months and then call it a day. It’s continuous and it is worth it. It’s why we have implemented ABA therapy into our school program.
Let’s never stop teaching the way a student learns! Let’s celebrate our students….let’s eat cake together. 🙂

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