Intro to Autism and ABA

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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a broad spectrum.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism affects roughly 1 in 59 children in the United States.  Typically, Autism is more prevalent in boys than girls.  There are many subtypes of autism, which can be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  Each individual with autism has their own set of strengths and challenges.  Some individuals with Autism require significant support in their day to day activities, whereas others may require less support. 

Signs of Autism typically appear by the age 2 or 3 and can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.  Research has shown that early intervention can lead to positive outcomes for individuals diagnosed with Autism.  The signs of Autism can appear at various times and intensity in individuals.  Not all individuals show all the signs.  Individuals who do not have autism may show a few of the signs.  Having an evaluation by highly trained and qualified staff is crucial. 

Symptoms of Autism: Below are the 2 major signs of autism accompanied by some examples of symptoms.

  • Deficits in social communication or social interaction

    • May loose acquired speech or may not speak

    • Difficulty recognizing emotions and intentions of others or their own emotions

    • May feel overwhelmed in social situations

    • May not show appropriate distance in personal space

  • Lack of facial expressions

  • Lack of eye contact

  • Restricted or repetitive behavior, interests, or activities

    • Repetitive body movements: rocking, flapping hands, spinning, running back and forth

    • Repetitive motions with objects: spinning wheels, flipping levers, shaking sticks

    • Ritualistic behaviors: lining up objects, completing routines in a specific order

    • Need for unvarying routine/resistant to change: same daily schedule, clothes, route to school

There are 3 different levels of Autism:

  • Level 1: Restricted, Repetitive Behaviors “Requiring Support”

  • Level 2: Social Communication “Requiring Substantial Support”

  • Level 3: Severity level “Requiring Very Substantial Support”


For more information, check out Autism Speaks at



Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on the science of learning and behavior.  ABA looks at how behaviors work, how behaviors are affected by the environment, and how learning takes place.  The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.  ABA programs can help increase language and communication skills, improve attention, focus, social skills, memory and academic skills, and decrease problem behaviors. 


ABA involves various techniques for understanding and changing behavior.  ABA can be adapted to meet the needs of the unique individuals and can be provided in different settings: including school, home, and/or community.  ABA teaches skills that are useful in daily living and can involve one-to-one or group teaching. Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies utilized in ABA.  When a behavior is followed by a valued item and social praise, that behavior is likely to be repeated in the future. To determine the function of a behavior (why it is happening), we need to look at the Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence correlation.  Understanding Antecedents (what happens immediately before the behavior) and Consequences (what happens immediately after a behavior) is another major component in ABA. 

What does ABA involve?

Applied Behavior Analysis is not a “one size fits all” program.  Each program is written to meet the needs of each individual.  The overall goal of ABA is assist each individual in becoming independent and successful in short and long term goals.  A qualified and training behavior analyst (BCBA) completes assessments to determine and customize a plan that incorporate the learner’s skills, needs, interests, preferences, and family situations.  Goals are written to include different skill areas and behavior intervention plans are designed to assist in decreasing unwanted behaviors.  Ongoing data collection, graphing and monitoring of behaviors continues throughout services to determine if services are effective or if changes need to be made. For more information about ABA or to find qualified professionals in your area, check out and