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ABA / AVB

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA /AVB)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

ABA involves analyzing and modifying human behavior. The term “Behavior Modification” is synonymous with ABA. Analyzing human behavior involves identifying a functional relationship between one’s behavior and the environment in order to understand why someone is behaving in a particular way. Modifying behavior refers to applying a set of behavioral principles and techniques to effectively change another person’s behavior.

Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB)

The subspecialty of ABA implemented at Partners is Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB), which was developed by B.F. Skinner. AVB is a functional behavioral analysis of language rooted in the principles of ABA. The analysis, therefore, is specific to how language develops and the conditions in which certain verbal behaviors occur. Jack Michael, Ph.D. (Western Michigan University), Mark Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA, James Partington, Ph.D., and Vincent Carbone, Ph.D., BCBA are major advocates for the application of AVB to the treatment of Autism.

In 1957, B.F. Skinner published the book Verbal Behavior, based on his belief that all language can be classified and then taught, in a set of functional units. The basic premise behind this approach is that for someone to have functional language, you must teach all of the different forms and meanings of words.

For example, the word “candy” has different functions depending on how it is used. If you see a piece of candy and say “candy” you have labeled (or “tacted”) the object using the word. On the other hand, if you see “Johnny” eating candy and say “I want candy” then you have made a request (or “manded”) using the very same word. If someone says to you, “Which one of these is something you eat”? and you respond by saying, “Candy” you have now identified it by “feature, function or class”. Finally, if you are asked later in the day, “What did Johnny eat?” (when the item is not present) then your response of “candy” would be an “intraverbal” answer.

The goal of ABA/AVB is to increase functional language and appropriate social skills while decreasing stereotyped and problem behaviors. Early intervention is important, but this kind of teaching can also benefit older children. The program methodology, techniques, and curriculum can also be done in school.

ABA instruction is usually one-on-one, and the goal of most programs is to follow a “full-time” agenda of teaching – somewhere between 30-40 hours a week. The program is non-aversive, focusing instead on rewarding desired positive behavior. The actual curriculum followed depends on each particular client, but it generally covers academics, language, social, self-help, motor, and play skills. Strong family involvement in the program is a large contributor to success.

The program is non-aversive, focusing instead on rewarding desired positive behavior. The actual curriculum followed depends on each particular client, but it generally covers language, social, self-help, motor, play skills and school readiness. Strong family involvement in the program is a large contributor to success.

Generalization

The goal of teaching is to generalize the learning achieved in the one-on-one situation to a more natural setting, such as the home, school or small-group learning situations. A good ABA/AVB program focuses on generalized learning. As the client progresses, he or she may become more capable of incidental learning, which simply means learning language, concepts, or skills that are not intensively taught directly in a one-on-one format. At this point, the client may be ready to enter a classroom or play within a group situation where there is contact with other typical kids. A good ABA/AVB curriculum has a balance of activities: Intensive Table Teaching (ITT), Natural Environment Teaching (NET), and Manding (requesting). Instruction should also occur in a variety of locations: therapy room, bathroom, bedroom, car, play area, etc. with a variety of therapists. All of these will help to ensure generalized learning and skill retention.