Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a person's communication and social interaction. Individuals with ASD also have restricted and repetitive behavior, interests and activities. These characteristics fall across a "spectrum" ranging from mild to severe. While one person may have symptoms that impair his or her ability to perform daily activities, another may have only mildly noticeable differences and have few, if any, functional impairments.
Typically, children with autism do not learn in the same way as others and do not necessarily learn from observing their peers. They benefit from being taught in systematic way that may include repetition, reinforcement, natural environment training and social skills.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based intervention supported by decades of research demonstrating its effectiveness for learners with and without special needs. ABA is considered the gold standard for working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Hundreds of autism-specific studies have proven the effectiveness of ABA for both teaching skills and reducing challenging behavior. Research also indicates that many learners in ABA programs achieve more progress than those in programs involving several different methods.
The goal of ABA intervention is two-fold: to increase useful and desired behaviors that can improve the individual's quality of life (communication, social, academic, self-help, and leisure skills) and to decrease behaviors that interfere with learning, relationships, or may be harmful.
Each objective or "target behavior" in an ABA program must have meaningful social significance for the person. This means that goals are individualized and prioritized to promote their independence and quality of life.
The credential to look for is Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Obtaining this certification requires graduate coursework, extensive supervised experience, a national exam, and ongoing continuing education. There are various levels of registration/certification from technician to masters and doctoral-level behavior analysts (see www.bacb.com).
Adapted from Buchanan, S.M., & Weiss, M.J. (2006). Applied behavior analysis and autism: An introduction. Ewing, NJ: COSAC.