What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a well-developed, research-based, scientific discipline among the helping professions that focuses on the analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation of social and other environmental modifications to produce meaningful changes in human behavior. ABA includes the use of direct observation, measurement, and functional analysis of the relations between environment and behavior.  The practice of ABA is rooted in data, which serves as a fidelity check for the effectiveness of recommended strategies and procedures.  This ensures that the client’s ABA program is dynamic, never-stagnant, objective and, most importantly, effective.  It utilizes changes in environmental events, including antecedent stimuli (what happens before a behavior) and consequences (what happens after a behavior); to create programming that produces practical and significant changes in behavior. These relevant environmental events are usually identified through a variety of specialized assessment methods.  

ABA is based on the fact that a client’s behavior is determined by past and current environmental events, or contingencies, in conjunction with other genetic and/or environmental variables.  ABA focuses on treating the problems of the disorder by determining functions and maintaining variables in order to support the learning or appropriate and functional behaviors instead of maladaptive, or inappropriate,, ones.  ABA is not only an evidence-based practice for people diagnosed with Autism, it is also proven to be effective for other diagnoses such as ADHD and Depression.  It may surprise you to know that ABA may also be beneficial for neuro-typical, or “typically-developing”, individuals as well.  Behavior is all around us—which means ABA can be applied to almost anything or anyone who demonstrates observable and measurable behavior. 

ABA can be provided in various forms: Direct, or “1-on-1” therapy sessions is when where a client receives services from a R/BT.   Group therapy sessions (e.g. social skills) where a client receives services in a group with services provided by an R/BT or BCBA/BcaBA.  Caregiver Training is provided to caregivers only, without the client present, with services provided by a BCBA/BcaBA.  These sessions are perfect to review the client’s progress, discuss concerns and learn how to implement strategies and procedures at home.  ABA is an appropriate approach for children with ASD and children with other developmental disabilities. ABA programs may include targets to address concerns such as:  

  • Maladaptive Behavior
  • Conversation and pre-conversational skills
  • Adaptive, daily living skills
  • Attending skills
  • Fine & gross motor skills
  • Play skills
  • Social skills
  • Communication skills
  • Imitative skills
  • Functional Academic skills

Team Members 

ABA should be a team approach. This team includes the child, caregivers, program manager, and behavior technician(s).  It may also involve other stakeholders, or individuals who may support or benefit from the client’s progress.  Examples of stakeholders are: client’s siblings, teachers, aides, etc.  Below are commonly used terms to define roles within the client’s ABA team:

Behavior Technician (BT): BTs are dedicated to providing one-on-one services to clients receiving ABA treatment. Behavior Technicians are responsible for implementing the treatment plans and protocols developed by Program Managers. Depending on a client’s level of needs and frequency of services, your family may have more than one BT assigned to your case.  A BT is a paraprofessional who practices under the close, ongoing supervision of a program manager. The BT is primarily responsible for the direct implementation of behavior analytic services.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT): RBTs receive a internationally-recognized credential through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).  In order to apply for the credential, the applicant must: complete a 40-hour, intensive training on ABA; pass a competency assessment administered by a BCBA/BcaBA, and pass a certification exam.  Once the credential is earned, the BT practices under the close, ongoing supervision of a program manager. The BT is primarily responsible for the direct implementation of behavior analytic services. Further information regarding certifications can be found at https://bacb.com.  

Program Manager/ Board Certified Behavior Analyst or Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCBA/BCaBA): The program manager is responsible for coordinating services, conducting assessments, treatment plan development, and supervising Behavior Technicians (BT). A program manager may also conduct one-on-one sessions. Your program manager will be the main contact person throughout the client’s therapy.  The BCBA/BCaBA certifications are delivered through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). A BCBA is a therapist with an expertise in the field of behavior analysis. All BCBAs are required to possess a Master’s Degree in ABA or another closely related field while BCaBA’s are required to possess at least a Bachelor’s Degree. A BCBA/BCaBA receives specialized training, including coursework and practical experience, in behavior analysis.  The program manager works closely with the family, administers assessments, develops intervention plans, and supervises the behavior technician. 


In some cases, ABA is covered by insurance.  It is always important to be aware of your insurance coverage including deductibles and copayments.  Typically, an ASD diagnosis is required in order for private insurances to provide an authorization to cover the costs of ABA therapy.  To be eligible, diagnostic testing must be completed by a physician such as a developmental pediatrician or psychologist.  However, as mentioned above, ABA is proven to be effective for those diagnosed with other conditions.  In these cases, ABA costs may be funded by private pay and/or scholarships/additional funding. 

If you’d like to learn more about receiving ABA at The Aurora Behavior Clinic at The Arc of Loudoun please contact us directly by submitting an inquiry form.