The mysterious term “ABA” stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. While that doesn’t seem to bring us any closer to what ABA truly is, our principles are in the name. Applied refers to the issues that occur in our everyday life, also known as “socially significant”. For example, ABA is more concerned with an individual being able to manage a checking account than the principles of calculus. There is an emphasis placed on teaching skills that will be used in a daily fashion and decreasing barriers to daily functioning.
The connotation of behavior often leads many individuals to think of problem behaviors, such as physical aggression, tantruming, or eloping. Behavior actually refers to any “activity of living organisms.” This encompasses a large variety of activities from dialing a telephone, completing a homework assignment, or even taking a shower. While the term “behavior” does encompass many activities, it does not necessarily apply to mental processes or emotions. Thinking “what a beautiful day” is not a behavior, but saying to your friend “It’s a beautiful day” is a behavior. Being “sad” is not a behavior, but crying is a behavior. A good rule of thumb is if it can be observed by another person, then it’s a behavior.
Analysis refers to the process in which we systematically study the occurrences surrounding the behavior. The goal is deciding which of these variables affect the behavior and whether or not we can demonstrate this relationship, also known as “functional relation”. For example, a teacher in a school thinks that the student isn’t performing well at school because they are “defiant” and “willful.” After studying the student’s behavior through data collection, it turns out that the days that the student receives the most failing grades are the days that his family can’t afford to give him breakfast. After collecting some more data, the BCBA is confident that the student’s behavior is being controlled by hunger.
All together this means that as a profession, ABA is concerned about changing (increasing or decreasing) socially significant behaviors through a process of careful study and adapting the occurrences that surround the behavior to make the individual more successful.