Applied Behavior Analysis: Definition & Techniques

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

In this lesson, we will discuss applied behavior analysis, one of the most common and evidence-based methods used to treat Autism. Learn about the techniques that are used and more. Then, test your knowledge.


Tom and Nina have recently adopted a seven-year-old girl named Lisa who has Autism. Tom and Nina found a school they thought would be a great fit for Lisa. They were understandably shocked when they found out Lisa wasn't doing well at her new school. On several occasions, Lisa threw small items when she became angry. If even the slightest changes were made in the class schedule, Lisa became upset. Lisa also had trouble interacting and playing with her classmates, reading social cues, and making friendships with other students. Lisa refuses to remain in her seat for longer than 15 minutes. Lisa's school counselor believes Lisa could benefit from applied behavior analysis.



One of the most common and evidence-based methods used to treat Autism is applied behavior analysis. Applied behavior analysis is a field in which systematic interventions are employed in order to produce positive and meaningful changes in behavior and to provide evidence that the interventions being used are responsible for the behavioral changes. It is important that the interventions used in applied behavior analysis lead to behaviors that are not only meaningful, but also socially significant. This means that the individual that is engaging in the behavior has to gain immediate and long-lasting benefits from participating.

Applied behavior analysis involves using behavioral principles in everyday life situations in order to eventually increase or decrease target behaviors. Like the name suggests, target behavior refers to a behavior that has been selected or ''targeted'' for change. For example, target behaviors for Lisa might include:

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