Seven Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) “ABA” does not mean “clinic”, “in-home”, “intensive therapy”, “DTT”, “NET”,…

March 19, 2024

Seven Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

“ABA” does not mean “clinic”, “in-home”, “intensive therapy”, “DTT”, “NET”, or “Verbal behavior” though these terms have often been associated with ABA. To help behavior analysts understand what “ABA” is at its core, Baer, Wolf, and Risley wrote an article describing the seven dimensions of ABA.

1. Applied. Of course, “applied” should be included in the dimensions of APPLIED behavior analysis. By saying ABA is applied, we focus on improving people’s lives and helping target behaviors they find significant to them. At GBS, when choosing goals for our clients we work with parents and caregivers to determine what skills will be the most functional to learn in their home and community and for the child’s future. We discuss with the caregivers which behaviors need to be reduced to help improve independence, learning, and interaction—everything we do centers around the needs of the child and their family.

2. Behavioral. Did you see this one coming? 😊 Targets and goals must be objective and measurable. Since ABA is rooted in science, we need to be able to measure and collect data on progress, therefore we need to be specific on how we define what we are targeting. When we collect data on measurable targets, we can then determine if the interventions we are using are working to make progress toward the chosen goals.

3. Analytic. Boom, here is the analytic component of “ABA”. Analytic indicates that all we do is based on evidence-based research and objective information. Goals are not selected at random but based on assessments. Progress isn’t guessed, but determined by data. We can make informed decisions as we analyze your child’s programs and graphs because of the data we collect, and the objective definitions we use to describe behaviors.

4. Technological: Procedures and interventions may vary from facility to facility, but they are evidence-based and written down in a way that anyone can follow and understand, similar to a recipe. Anyone, from parents to new therapists to the highest-trained individual should be able to read the treatment plan or intervention and be able to implement the child’s therapy. This allows the child to receive the same intervention regardless of who is providing the therapy. At GBS clear instructions for interventions are vital because we switch therapists often, allowing for generalization of staff and presentation of instructions from the start for each client. Though there will be some variance, the interventions should remain the same if the intervention is written so that everyone can understand and follow. Directions are clear and objective, not subjective. This cuts out any guessing as to how to present targets and collect data.

5. Conceptually Systematic: This dimension means that all practitioners of ABA are implementing research-based techniques when they are working in the field of ABA. They are working from the same “conceptual field”, the science of ABA.

6. Effective: Is functional behavior improving and challenging behavior reducing over time? Then the program is effective for that individual! We show that a program and interventions are working (effective) through data, and if the data indicate the interventions are not working, then we change the interventions and watch the data again for change in the right direction.

7. Generality: The goal of therapy is NOT for the child to perform at a table with one staff member or just a few therapists. The goal is for the child to be able to use the skills learned in a variety of places with a variety of people and to last well beyond the end of therapy. Skills need to generalize beyond the therapy setting.

So if therapy is research-based, works on skills that are socially important to the individual and the family, objectively defines targets, uses data to determine progress, actually results in progress, has very clear instructions on how to implement interventions, and works towards generalization… you have an ABA program.

This is why so many ABA programs look different, but they can all be ABA programs!

GBS happily meets these components as an ABA therapy center.