(applied behavior analysis)

ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is a scientific way of looking at the behavior of all living beings (men included.) It tries to understand, explain, describe, and predict behavior in people and all creatures.

This approach focuses on what people do (behavior), instead of other concerns like, “mind”, “personality”, “drives”, etc. According to ABA, the environment provides consequences (positive, neutral or negative) for the behavior, and this determines if the behavior will be repeated in the future or not.

Accordingly, we have two kinds of behaviors: operant and reflexes. Operant are those voluntary eye-day behaviors that we perform. All those events that follow operands (consequences) will determine if they will be repeated in the future. Reflexes are automatic responses (heart rate, startling to loud noise, etc) over which we usually have very little control.

The distinguishing feature of ABA is the discrete trial approach. This is basically a teaching method, and it affects attention, motivation, stimulus control, generalization, perspective taking, cause and effect, learning and communication.


A discrete trial is a rather cycle, and it has usually five parts to it:

Sd: or discriminate stimulus (or what the student is supposed to do)

Sp: or prompting stimulus (could be optional)

R: or response (or the new skill.)

Sr: or reinforcing stimulus (candy, or social approval, hug, etc)

Iti: or inter trial interval (lapse between trials.)


The diagram goes like this: Sd—(Sp)---R---SR---ITI



Luis is learning to distinguish colors. He is to, independently, select the right colored cube from a three-colored cubes displayed on the table. His teacher determined that Luis couldn’t identify the white color when asked (initial assessment), so the teacher knows right away that Luis will need much help in doing this. Consequently the teacher will be using prompts, clear language, and focused attention. The teacher also observed that Luis likes hugs and apples, which will be used.


As reinforcers.

Teacher: Luis, show me blue.”

The teacher takes Luis’ hand, shapes it into a “pointing hand”, and points it to the white cube.

Teacher: “Yes! That’s the white cube. Nice Job.” Then the teachers marks the data sheet

To indicate that Luis was unable to do the job independently.

(End of the first trial)


Teacher: “Luis, show me white.” Luis does not respond. After a few seconds, the teacher places his hand on Luis’ who extends the finger himself, and the teacher directs it towards the white cube.

Teacher: “Yes. That’s the white cube.” Again the teacher marks on his data sheet that Luis was unable to perform the job independently on this trial.

(End of second trial)

Teacher: Luis, show me white.” Luis does not respond. After a few seconds, the teacher moves to take his hand to Luis’ hands, but then Luis points to the white cube.

Teacher: “Good job! That’s the blue cube.” Luis still needs a little prompt (the teacher moving his hand toward Luis’.) The teacher marks down that Luis still needs help performing the job independently.

(End of third trial)

Teacher: “Luis, show me white.” Luis points to the white cube.

Teacher: “ Yes! Great job! That’s the white cube. The teacher gives Luis a high five and a slice of apple, and then he marks on the date sheet that Luis completed the task independently.

(End of fourth trial)

The first three trial have all parts of a discrete trial: discriminative stimulus, (“show me blue”), a prompting stimulus (grabbing Luis’ hands), a response (selection of the white cube, even though in a progressive manner), the reinforcing stimulus (verbal praise), and the inter trial interval (when the teacher writes down on the data sheet). The fourth trial did not have a prompting stimulus (which is desirable). Because of the consequences associated with the outcome in the final trial (apple and hugs), Luis is more likely to repeat this behavior in the future.


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Asesoramiento y diagnostico en niños y adolescentes con énfasis en las diferentes modalidades de autismo y sus condiciones de desarrollo.

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