Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is based on operant conditioning theory. At the most basic level, the behaviour is broken down into three parts:
- A – antecedent (the instruction presented to a child eg. sit down, or clap hands),
- B – the behaviour (response to instruction), and then
- C – a consequence (a reinforcer) based on the child’s response.
Please note here that this program works on positive reinforcement as the reinforcement targets positive behaviours to increase the frequency of their occurrence.
A teaching session involves many trials, with each trial having a distinct beginning and end. Thus, ABA based programs are often referred to as discrete trial teaching. Each skill is broken down into parts and each part of the skill is mastered before more information is presented. In discrete trial teaching, a very small unit of information is presented and the student’s response is immediately sought. Discrete trial teaching ensures that learning is an active process.
While all children learn by breaking skills and information down into smaller parts, children with autism do not typically absorb information simply through passive exposure. As a result their teaching needs to be more structured and explicit.