Applied Behavior Analysis

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and what are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA)?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968).       

Applied Behavior Analysis is, "both an applied science that develops methods of changing behavior and a profession that provides services to meet diverse behavioral needs. Briefly, professionals in applied behavior analysis engage in the specific and comprehensive use of principles of learning, including operant and respondent conditioning, in order to address behavioral needs of widely varying individuals in diverse settings." (Behavior Analysis Certification Board)

OK......those are the proper definitions of ABA. However,

ABA is simply the application of behavioral principles to everyday situations and locations such as in classroom settings, community settings, or home settings. ABA can be used to teach academic skills, communication skills, play skills, social skills, and adaptive life skills. Behavioral principles are utilized to ensure that these skills will, over time, increase!

ABA is probably best known for interventions that decrease targeted maladaptive behaviors such as aggressive behavior, self-stimulatory behaviors, and self-injurious behaviors. Behavioral principles are utilized to ensure that targeted behaviors will, over time, decrease, these behaviors.

There are 7 dimensions of ABA, and in order for ABA to be effective each dimension is necessary:

1. Applied: Applied interventions deal with problems of demonstrated social importance.

2. Behavioral: Applied interventions with measurable behavior.

3. Analytic: Applied interventions require an objective demonstration that the procedures caused the effect.

4. Technological: Applied interventions are described well enough so that they can be implemented by anyone with training and necessary resources/materials.

5. Conceptual Systems: Applied interventions arise from a specific and identifiable theoretical based, rather than from random "tricks" or a packaged intervention system.

6. Effective: Applied interventions produce strong, socially important effects.

7. Generality: Applied interventions are designed from the outset to operate in new environments and continue after the formal treatment has ended.

             Board Certified Behavior Analysts? (BCBA)

                                    What we do.

A BCBA is an individual who possesses significant education in Applied Behavior Analysis, has been certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, and who continues to educate himself on best practice within the field of ABA. A BCBA uses only research based interventions that have been proven, through scientific experimentation, to work!!

Within the Torrington Public School District, our District BCBA’s work very closely with our district behavioral programs (VOICES, REACH, and RISE programs). The BCBA’s are also available, through a consultation request, to provide services such as conducting FBA’s and developing Behavior Intervention Plans(BIP) to special education students who are in general education classroom. The BCBA can also provide the classroom teacher with classroom management techniques and strategies to address challenging behaviors that may be reduced by simple environmental changes.

The BCBA conducts descriptive and systematic Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA), including functional analyses, and provides behavior analytic interpretations of the results. The BCBA designs and supervises behavior analytic interventions. The BCBA teaches others to carry out ethical and effective behavior analytic interventions based on published research and designs and delivers instruction in behavior analysis. BCBAs supervise the work of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and others who implement behavior analytic interventions.

When conducting an FBA, the BCBA will utilize several data collection methods including student observation, consultation with teachers, teacher interviews, family interviews, and a variety of other data that is being collected. The data is then analyzed to determine the function of the challenging maladaptive behavior. 

When BCBA’s talk about the function of a challenging behavior, we are talking about the reinforcement that has been maintaining a challenging behavior (or causing it to increase). (2001, Behavior Analyst, Inc.)

Typically, a behavior is being reinforced by one of two things:

Either the person is getting what he or she wants when she displays the behavior, OR, the person is escaping or avoiding something that he or she does not want.

Let’s look a bit more closely at challenging behaviors being maintained by “getting what you want.” Getting what you want may be in the form of:

  • Access to Attention (praise, other social attention OR a reaction!)
  • Access to a tangible item (a fun game, toy, activity or food)
  • Access to sensory stimulation

If we look a bit more closely at challenging behavior maintained by “escaping or avoiding a situation”   Escaping or avoiding a situation may be in the form of:

  • Avoiding attention
  • Escaping a non-preferred task or activity
  • Escaping an academic activity
  • Escape from sensory stimulation such as pain.

BCBA’s utilize reinforcement of appropriate behaviors to increase the likelihood that the appropriate behaviors will increase while challenging behaviors decrease or stop all together. We also teach appropriate replacement behaviors that replace the challenging behavior with a more socially appropriate behavior that gets the same result as the challenging behavior.

The behavior analyst always recommends reinforcement rather than punishment whenever possible. If punishment procedures are necessary, the behavior analyst always includes reinforcement procedures for alternative behavior in the program. (

Torrington Public School District Board Certified Behavior Analysts:

Rachel D'Amora  

Ellen Karl

Vina McDermott

Links for further information on Applied Behavior Analysis: (Behavior Analyst Certification Board website) A fun and informative website developed by a BCBA. An informative website on ABA

Great article on classroom management

Flipping the Equation on Challenging Behavior