Aba therapy goals and objectives

What Skills Can ABA Therapy Teach Your Child? — Lumiere Children's Therapy

The goals, methods, and skills taught in ABA Therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Key takeaways of ABA Therapy:

  • Analyzes how & why behaviors are learned

  • Uses positive reinforcement to promote appropriate behaviors

  • Helps children build communicative, play, visual, self-help, and social skills

  • Helps reduce inappropriate behaviors

  • Applicable to each child’s unique needs & challenges

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 54 children in the U.S. are identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These children face many challenges, particularly when it comes to communication, social skills, and rigid or repetitive behavior. However, there is an effective method that can help children on the autism spectrum gain the skills they need to thrive in school and social situations.

It’s called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy, and it is something you should consider if your child has been recently diagnosed. 

To help you decide if ABA is right for you and your child, we’ll discuss the foundation of ABA Therapy, the therapy goals, and the types of skills your child can learn from the experts at Lumiere Children’s Therapy in Chicago. 

ABA Therapy explained

According to Autism Speaks, “ABA Therapy is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior.” 

It “analyzes” how behaviors are learned, what factors affect behavior (such as the environment), and how learning happens. Trained Behavior Analysts apply this knowledge to real-world situations to promote carryover skills and behaviors from the therapeutic setting to other environments.

Goals of ABA Therapy

There are several primary goals of ABA Therapy for children on the autism spectrum. They include: 

  1. Enhance communication and language skills

  2. Improve age-appropriate and social skills

  3. Improve various skills needed for success in school

  4. Decrease incidents of inappropriate behaviors

Meeting goals

Some children on the autism spectrum struggle with following instructions and handling tasks that require multiple steps. Others may act out around other kids, which can make social situations challenging. Some children become aggressive or upset when faced with unfamiliar situations, places, or routines. 

The best characteristic of ABA Therapy is that it can be applied and adapted according to the unique needs and goals of each child. ABA is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but one that is designed to help with your child’s specific deficits. 

How therapy works

ABA Therapy works through a process of positive reinforcement, which rewards behaviors you want your child to learn so he/she can grow and meet his/her full potential. Positive reinforcement means something of value is given after completing a task or demonstrating a skill. Over time, this reward is faded out so that the child learns to continue the new skill even without receiving the reward.

How to achieve goals with positive reinforcement:

  1. Identify the behavior or skill you want your child to learn

  2. Give a reward each time the behavior/skill is demonstrated

This process is repeated until the behavior/skill is completed successfully every time. The reward should be something that motivates your child, whether it’s simple praise, a beloved toy, a favorite snack, or watching a video. 

The ABC’s of behavior

Positive reinforcement is the essential part of teaching new behaviors or skills. Another element of ABA Therapy, which addresses reduction of challenging behavior, is called the ABC’s of behavior. 

A = Antecedent (what happens before the behavior)

B = Behavior (the behavior itself)

C = Consequences (what happens after the behavior)

If you ask your child to pick up his toys, for example, and he yells “no”, you might help him clean up the toys. You probably wouldn’t let him continue playing because this teaches that shouting is an acceptable form of avoiding instructions. 

The ABC’s of behavior are beneficial because it helps the therapist (and you) understand why your child behaves a certain way. It also helps you understand how different consequences or positive reinforcement can lead to better outcomes.  

Examples of skills your child can learn

We talked about applying ABA to real-world situations so let’s talk about some of the real-world skills your child can learn during therapy: 

  • Communication skills

  • Social skills

  • Self-help skills (activities of daily living like dressing, bathing, feeding, basic hygiene)

  • Play & leisure skills

  • Visual skills (activities like matching, sorting, patterns)

Each desired skill is learned by breaking activities up into small, concrete steps. Each step is taught one by one until each is mastered. The skill might be as simple as imitating sounds or as complex as carrying on a conversation. 

Progress is measured over time by collecting data during each therapy session. This data tells the Behavior Analyst where your child needs extra help or how well he/she is mastering a skill. 

ABA Therapy at Lumiere Children’s Therapy

ABA Therapy is designed to help your child learn appropriate behavior that will replace challenging behavior. It also teaches you how to reinforce those lessons at home. Our highly skilled therapists use safe, effective, and multifaceted approaches to teach a multitude of skills that make positive and meaningful behavior change possible. 

Aside from ABA Therapy, Lumiere Children’s Therapy provides other comprehensive services so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.

Our services include:

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

Examples of Goals to Address in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)

Examples of Goals to Address in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)
  • Conditions
    • Featured
      • Addictions
      • Anxiety Disorder
      • ADHD
      • Bipolar Disorder
      • Depression
      • PTSD
      • Schizophrenia
    • Articles
      • Adjustment Disorder
      • Agoraphobia
      • Borderline Personality Disorder
      • Childhood ADHD
      • Dissociative Identity Disorder
      • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
      • Narcolepsy
      • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
      • Panic Attack
      • Postpartum Depression
      • Schizoaffective Disorder
      • Seasonal Affective Disorder
      • Sex Addiction
      • Specific Phobias
      • Teenage Depression
      • Trauma
  • Discover
    • Wellness Topics
      • Black Mental Health
      • Grief
      • Emotional Health
      • Sex & Relationships
      • Trauma
      • Understanding Therapy
      • Workplace Mental Health
    • Original Series
      • My Life with OCD
      • Caregivers Chronicles
      • Empathy at Work
      • Sex, Love & All of the Above
      • Parent Central
      • Mindful Moment
    • News & Events
      • Mental Health News
      • COVID-19
      • Live Town Hall: Mental Health in Focus
    • Podcasts
      • Inside Mental Health
      • Inside Schizophrenia
      • Inside Bipolar
  • Quizzes
    • Conditions
      • ADHD Symptoms Quiz
      • Anxiety Symptoms Quiz
      • Autism Quiz: Family & Friends
      • Autism Symptoms Quiz
      • Bipolar Disorder Quiz
      • Borderline Personality Test
      • Childhood ADHD Quiz
      • Depression Symptoms Quiz
      • Eating Disorder Quiz
      • Narcissim Symptoms Test
      • OCD Symptoms Quiz
      • Psychopathy Test
      • PTSD Symptoms Quiz
      • Schizophrenia Quiz
    • Lifestyle
      • Attachment Style Quiz
      • Career Test
      • Do I Need Therapy Quiz?
      • Domestic Violence Screening Quiz
      • Emotional Type Quiz
      • Loneliness Quiz
      • Parenting Style Quiz
      • Personality Test
      • Relationship Quiz
      • Stress Test
      • What's Your Sleep Like?
  • Resources
    • Treatment & Support
      • Find Support
      • Suicide Prevention
      • Drugs & Medications
      • Find a Therapist

Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board — By Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA on October 6, 2019

Applied behavior analysis as an intervention can address countless topics. Examples of the various areas that ABA services may assist with include things like:

  • daily living skills which include:
    • daily routines
    • organization
    • time management
    • feeding and mealtime related skills
    • toileting
    • hygiene skills
  • expressive communication skills which include:
    • learning to vocally speak with words
    • expanding vocal language to using more complex language
    • improving conversational skills
    • greeting others and responding to greetings
    • asking for help
    • requesting items
  • receptive language skills which include:
    • following directions
    • identifying stimuli upon request
  • social skills which include things like:
    • taking turns in play interactions
    • sharing
    • displaying assertive behavior (as opposed to passive or aggressive behavior)
    • engaging in activities with peers
    • responding appropriately to new people
  • community skills which include things like:
    • responding to a cashier at a store
    • purchasing items
    • managing money
    • grocery shopping
    • placing one’s own order at a restaurant
    • speaking to a police officer
    • walking safely on a sidewalk
    • playing at a park while displaying safe behaviors
    • safety skills regarding strangers

These are just a few examples of what kinds of things ABA services can address.

In applied behavior analysis, these areas would be more clearly defined and treatment planning would be designed with detailed and comprehensive methods but overall, ABA services are designed to improve the quality of life of the people receiving the intervention.

Last medically reviewed on October 6, 2019


Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board — By Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA on October 6, 2019

Read this next

  • Top 25 Psychiatric Medications for 2020

    Medically reviewed by Alexandra Perez, PharmD, MBA, BCGP

    Psychiatric medications are a crucial part of the treatment plan for mental health conditions. It's usually combined with psychotherapy and self-care…


  • The 9 Best Affordable Online Therapy and Mental Health Support Options for 2022

    Medically reviewed by Danielle Wade, LCSW

    Online therapy often costs less than in-person services. Here are the 9 best affordable online therapy options for 2022.


  • What to Do When You're Upset with Your Therapist

    Ever felt hurt by your therapist? In many cases, talking it through in therapy helps — but it's also important to know when it's time to switch…


  • The 8 Best Online Psychiatry Services for 2022

    Considering online psychiatry? Our picks for the best online psychiatry services can make your search easier.


  • 11 Best Online Therapy Services of 2022

    Online therapy offers a safe, secure way to interact with licensed therapists.


  • Can Hypnotherapy Help with Trauma?

    Hypnotherapy puts your mind in an altered state, which may help you explore past trauma more effectively.


  • Psychoeducation and Trauma: How It Helps

    Trauma therapy may include psychoeducation, which is a technique that involves teaching you more about what trauma is and how it affects the body…


  • Online Counseling and Teletherapy: Benefits, Challenges, and Uses

    These are the uses, benefits, and possible disadvantages of teletherapy and what you can expect from online counseling.


  • Do Therapists Get Frustrated With Their Clients?

    Generally, a therapist and client can get past a little frustration. But sometimes, it's just not a good match.


  • 6 Key Questions to Ask When Choosing a Therapist

    Medically reviewed by N. Simay Gökbayrak, PhD

    When finding a therapist there are key factors to consider, such as therapy approach and telehealth option.


ABA Therapy - IPAP

ABA Therapy is an applied branch of behavioral science. Currently, this is one of the most effective methods of correcting the behavior of children with autism and other developmental features. In this approach, the intervention is based on the analysis of environmental factors that influence human behavior. We will talk about the features, tasks, possibilities and effectiveness of this technique in this article.

ABA therapy: the essence of the technique

Specialists study the patterns of behavior of all living organisms. Knowing the laws of behavior allows them to build an effective intervention based on the data received. Research in this area made it possible to create a direction called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) , which translates as Applied Behavior Analysis. The main tenet of ABA therapy is that what happens immediately after a behavior affects whether that behavior will increase or decrease. The behavioral approach is applied to socially significant behavior, that is, one that significantly affects the quality of life of the child and his family.

1968 is considered to be the year of birth of ABA therapy as an independent scientific discipline. At this time, the first issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis was published. I. Lovaas studied the effectiveness of ABA therapy in children with autism and proved that with intensive training, 40% of children overcome developmental delays and by school age master various skills, including social ones, on an equal basis with their peers.

ABA Therapy techniques are currently used in individual and group work with children with autism and other disorders to reduce unwanted behavior and teach new skills. In Russia, this approach is not as well known as in the West. This is due to prejudices, such as training, which is fundamentally wrong. People almost constantly use rewards or punishments to regulate the behavior of others. Specialists who study child behavior apply a scientific approach to solve these problems, change the environment in order to change behavior. But applied behavior analysis studies behavior and deals with behavior that is important to society. Working with behavior is always based on the knowledge of its principles and laws, and they are the same for everyone! Specialists only change the environment in order to change behavior. In this sense, ABA can be called the science of "common sense".

Who is ABA therapy effective for ?

The method has been found to be very effective for working with children with special needs. At the heart of ABA therapy is the technique of reinforcing/reinforcing the desired behavior. The child is given a prize, a motivational item: a toy, candy, praise, active games, etc. Thus, specialists reinforce (reinforce) the desired behavior by teaching the child.

ABA includes both a system of hints and teaching methods, manipulations not only of consequences, but also of previous factors, stimuli in the environment, and reward modes. All this is united by scientific validity and real practical application.

How does aba therapy start when working with autists ?

First, parents consult, receive information from specialists, provide information about the child, talk about future work, clarify goals, decide whether this method is suitable for the child. Next comes testing - a mandatory process preceding therapy. During testing, the current level of the child's communicative, academic, adaptive, social skills, barriers associated with undesirable behavior, and a motivational profile are established. Next, the aba experts write the goals. Each goal is a work on a specific skill.

For example, if a test reveals that a child cannot wait to be given a motivational item, begins to exhibit undesirable behavior every time parents ask him to wait a little, the specialist sets the goal: “Will calmly wait for a motivational item or activity for a minute or wait your turn. " Methods and protocol are prescribed, according to which parents or therapists (aba instructors) will work. Each protocol specifies methods and procedures, a detailed plan, and a description of how the skill will be worked on. There are several such goals. When setting goals and testing, behavioral specialists rely not only on their work experience and their competence, but primarily on diagnostic tools.

Emphasis is placed on key skills that the child needs in the first place and will allow him to continue to develop at a normal level. It is important for parents and professionals to know what a child with autism can and cannot do. This knowledge makes it possible to determine which skills need to be developed right now, which task is currently the most important. Learning a few basic skills can help you quickly achieve meaningful results in different areas of development without the use of complex teaching methods and the creation of special conditions. Working on them later will help a child with autism learn in a natural environment, gaining new experience every day.

Another feature of behavioral therapy is the collection of data. Constant recording and monitoring of results allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention, change the correction plan, protocol in time, update the training program, if the skill has been achieved, set the next goal to achieve even better results

What tasks can be solved using this technique?

Using this approach, you can solve the following problems:

  • Development of skills that can replace unwanted behaviors. For example, the purpose of the work may be to teach the child to ask for the desired object in a form accessible to him, and then he can stop screaming to get what he wants;
  • Formation of social and communication skills, such as, for example, maintaining eye contact, understanding the facial expressions of the interlocutor, the ability to ask for help from a specialist, teacher and parents, ask questions, play with others;
  • Formation of academic skills (reading, counting, writing) at a level accessible to the child;
  • Formation of everyday skills and self-care skills: independent use of the toilet, cooking and eating, distinguishing between one's own and other people's dishes, taking a shower, making one's bed, maintaining a neat appearance;
  • Generalization of skills, increasing the ability of a child with autism to demonstrate target behaviors not only in this context, but also in various other situations.

How can specialists determine the goals of the work ahead?

To determine what exactly is worth teaching a child at the moment, it is necessary to conduct a skills assessment. To do this, specialists in the applied analysis of the behavior of children with autism use various methods.

The main and most common of them:

  • ABLLS-R - a methodology for assessing basic speech and learning skills in 25 different areas of development. They can be roughly divided into basic learning skills, academic skills, self-help skills, and motor skills. ABLLS-R testing also allows you to prioritize learning objectives. The author of the technique is James Partington;
  • VB-MAPP - a methodology for assessing the skills of speech and social interaction. Based on the results of VB-MAPP testing, it is possible to determine which skills should be taught to the child in the first place, at what level of complexity it is worth starting training, what factors complicate the learning process, what form of education suits the child at the moment. The author of the methodology is Mark Sandberg;
  • PEAK is a methodology for assessing complex skills. Consists of 4 modules, each of which assesses the degree of development of 184 skills: direct learning module, generalization module, equivalence module, transformation module. The methodology allows for the assessment of skills beyond the basic level. It is effective for diagnosing both children and adolescents and adults with autism. Written by Mark R. Dixon;
  • AFLS - a method for assessing the development of functional life skills: basic, everyday, social behavior skills. Written by James Partington and Michael Muller;
  • Essential for Living Life Skills Assessment. Suitable for children and adults with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Authors: Patrick McGreevy, Troy Fry & Coleen Cornwall.

How do you work with children?

Learning new skills can take many forms e:

  • Block learning is Aba's most popular method. A behavioral skill is broken down into individual steps that are practiced with a large number of repetitions. Each block consists of providing a stimulus, prompting, if necessary, a child's response, rewarding a correct response, or a procedure for correcting an error in case of an incorrect response. The session takes place at a table or on the floor. The specialist gives instructions, if necessary, provides hints (this is a separate art), encourages the right reaction. For example, he puts it in front of the child, asks him to show the ball, helps physically. To do this, he puts his hand on top of the child’s hand and pulls his hand towards the ball, helping to form a pointing gesture. Then the child is rewarded for the correct reaction with a hint. The hint is then removed or lowered.
  • Also popular in ABA therapy is the Chaining training technique. This technique is used for complex tasks consisting of a long sequence of actions. To do this, you need to divide a complex task into simpler ones, and then write down all the steps in a checklist. For example, for the “wash your hands” chain, the links might be: turn on the faucet, roll up your sleeves, wet your hands, take soap, lather your hands, rinse the soap, turn off the faucet, use a towel. After compiling a checklist with prescribed steps, the hint is systematically reduced at each link in the chain. You can lower the prompt from the end or at the beginning, or depending on the presence of independent reactions, each step has its own hierarchy of pre-thought out prompts. The hint level is fixed in the checklist.
  • Learning in the natural environment is a form of learning in which skills are practiced in class in the environment in which the child lives. These can be the skills of requesting motivational stimuli using the functions and characteristics of an object, prepositions for indicating the location of an object, and other skills. The task of the teacher in applying this procedure is to notice or provoke the initiative of the child and use it for learning. This method is ideal for teaching communication, asking, taking initiative. To do this, the adult adjusts to the actual needs of the child, provides hints when the child has taken the initiative to do something. For example, if a child loves apples, you can put this fruit on the table so that the child cannot take it himself, but sees it. Further, when he wants to take it, you need to give a full verbal prompt “apple”, provide the child with what he wants. Hints in the methodology must be systematically and consistently removed.

In general, the prompting system can be described as a separate tool in aba therapy. They must be given with the expectation that they can be removed without hindrance

in the future, without spoiling the existing skill. Tips should be controlling, sufficient for the child to give the desired reaction after them. But at the same time, it is necessary to ensure that there is no dependence on prompts.

  • Mixed blocks - a format in which teaching new skills alternates with the repetition of already learned material. For the convenience of a specialist, each instruction is written on a card of a certain color, each area has its own color. The specialist forms a deck of cards with tasks that the child is already completing and adds several cards with target tasks. Training most often takes place in the process of studying at the table, at a fast pace;
  • Obstacle course - an adult or a child, with the help of a specialist, builds an obstacle course from mats, paths, stairs, etc. At the end of each obstacle, a task awaits the child, for example, naming cards, reading, puzzles, and so on;
  • Game - an adult with a child in the lesson play a certain plot familiar to the child. In this format, you can master and update skills such as echo imitation, requests, motor imitation, and others.

There are many more methods of working with skills and behavior, trainings, hint systems. For a complete immersion in the subject, we recommend contacting a specialist and referring to the literature, for example, the well-known book in their circles by Cooper, John O. “Applied Behavior Analysis”.

Function-Based Behavior Correction

In addition to teaching children new skills, ABA therapy deals with the correction of unwanted behavior based on four functions. The function of behavior is what the child wants to get by behaving in a certain way. She points to the source of his reinforcements.

The following behavioral functions are distinguished:

  • Attracting attention . The behavior of the child, the purpose of which is social attention, is aimed at causing some kind of reaction in the adult, not necessarily positive. For example, a child can drag a cat by the tail and rejoice when parents swear, or shout loudly in class and watch the reaction of others.
  • Access to desired . This behavior is aimed at obtaining the desired item or activity. For example, every time a child screams loudly, parents give him candy. To get the same result next time, the child will scream again.
  • Avoidance. The purpose of this behavior is to avoid performing a task or other unpleasant activity. For example, when a demand is made, the child does not work, but beats himself, and, accordingly, the start of the task is delayed.
  • Sensory stimulation. This behavior is aimed at obtaining pleasant sensory experiences. For example, the child sways on the bed or hangs upside down.

The definition of a behavior function consists of several steps:

  1. At the initial stage of ABA , specialists collect already known information about the child's behavior. There is a conversation with parents, questionnaires, the use of rating scales, a survey and reports of teachers who work with the child. It is important to know when the behavior occurs, how long it lasts, what it looks like, whether there has been a recent deterioration, what usually triggers it, and how parents react to the problem behavior in the child, what the child gets by behaving in one way or another.
  2. The second task of the specialist is direct observation of behavior. At this stage, additional, more objective data are being collected

ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)

Today, one of the most effective methods of correcting autism is behavioral therapy or ABA (Applied behavior analysis).

ABA Therapy is an intensive training program based on behavioral technologies and teaching methods. ABA as a scientific discipline studies the influence of factors in the environment on behavior and manipulates these factors in order to change human behavior.

The ABA method for working with children with autism was first used by Dr. Ivar Lovaas and colleagues at UCLA in 1963. The idea was taken as a basis that any behavior entails some consequences, and if the child likes the consequences, he will repeat this behavior, and if he does not like it, he will not.

With this approach, all complex skills, including speech, creative play, the ability to look into the eyes and others, are divided into small blocks - actions. Each action is learned with the child separately, then the actions are connected in a chain, forming a complex action. The adult does not try to give the initiative to the child, but quite rigidly manages his activities. Correct actions are fixed to automatism, wrong ones are strictly suppressed. To achieve the desired behavior, cues and incentives, both positive and negative, are used. A skill is considered fixed only when the child can perform this action without errors in 80 percent of situations, regardless of the atmosphere in which and by whom the task was given.

Within the framework of the ABA training program, the child is always led, his freedom and initiative are limited by the choice of the teaching adult. An individual development plan is drawn up for each child. A child can master two or three unrelated skills at the same time, the teacher builds a clear system of complication and gradual mastering of more and more new skills.

The ultimate goal of ABA is to give the child the means to explore the world around them on their own.

ABA has several hundred programs in its arsenal, including non-verbal and verbal imitation, general and fine motor skills, language understanding, naming objects, naming actions, classifying objects, "show how you are ...", pronouns, answers to questions "What? ", "Who?", "Where?", "When?", "How?", the use of "yes" and "no", and others. Among the higher-level programs are "Tell me what will happen if ..." (anticipates the outcome of the action), "Tell a story", "Do like (peer name)", "Call (peer name) to play."

There are several therapeutic models in ABA therapy, designed for early childhood (from 1.5-3.5 years), preschool and school age, adolescents and adults.

At an early age, the correction of undesirable behavior is most effective, since such behavior has not yet had time to consolidate, and it is easier for an adult to cope with a child in case of directed aggression or self-aggression of a child with autism.

The early intervention program should be intensive, 30 to 40 hours a week, so that the child can learn the necessary behavioral skills and overcome the developmental delay.

The ABA specialist first identifies the child's behavioral problem, then "measures" (studies and observes the behavior), which results in an assessment and development of a learning strategy ("intervention").

During the ABA training, several specialists of various specializations work with the child every day (a defectologist in behavioral skills, a music therapist, an art therapist), and the supervision is carried out by a supervisor - a specialist in the methodology. Specialists consistently work with the child for two to three hours (doing five to six programs during this time), two or three specialists can consistently work with the child during one day, and the child receives five to six hours a day. All actions on the programs are recorded in the general journal of work with the child, coordinating the actions of specialists.

ABA can be done at home, in an educational institution, in a children's club. Classes can be individual and group - in small groups (two or three people) and large (five to ten people).

The number of hours in the study program may vary depending on the needs and possibilities. The average number of hours in the ABA program is 20 hours per week. The minimum number of hours in an ABA program is six hours per week, the maximum is 40.

It is important that the child's parents be an integral part of the child's team, educate the child on the basis of behavioral learning principles and help him generalize all the skills he has learned in program.

For children of preschool age, regardless of the level of development of skills, training in the system of special education is recommended. Homeschooling can be a limited environment in which a child cannot learn important skills such as being in a peer group, learning in a group, interacting with different people.

Learn more