• Slide 1
  • Slide 3
  • Slide 2

Applied Behavior Analysis in the classroom: What to expect and how to get the best results

Curtis J. Harris, M.S., BCBA Advanced Behavioral Consultants, LLC • Christina Bock Giuliano, M.S., BCBA May Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders

What is ABA?

  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a science that uses the principles of behavior in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other related disabilities.
  • ABA is endorsed by the American Pediatric Society and is one of the leading fields in the treatment of Autism.
  • ABA is a systematic approach to treat behavior problems and teach new skills.
  • Applied behavior analysis should be applied, behavioral, analytic, technological, conceptual, effective, and capable of generalized outcomes Baer et al. (1968)

Behavior is communication

  • Important aspect of assessment is to identify the function of the behavior
  • “What is the individual hoping to gain out of this interaction?”
  • “What did the individual gain out of the interaction?”

Behavior Reduction

  • ABA can be used in a variety of ways.
  • Behavior reduction means focusing on decreasing or eliminating problem behaviors.
  • Problem behaviors include potentially harmful behaviors: those that could cause harm to the child, others, or property. They can also include behaviors that are disruptive to the child's environment or future goals.
  • Goal in behavior reduction is to address the at-risk behaviors first – improving quality of life of the child and of the family are the focus

Our ABC’s

  • To begin to understand the basics of ABA, you must understand our ABC’s
    • A = Antecedent – what is it that happens right before the target behavior occurs?
    • B = Behavior – what is the behavior that you are focusing on?
    • C = Consequence – what did the child get from that behavior?
  • By looking at these basics, we can figure out what is causing/maintaining the behavior and what we can do about it.

Function of the behavior

  • Why did the child exhibit this behavior?
  • What is it they were trying to get out of it? FUNCTIONS:
    • Access to tangibles – access to items they want to have
    • Escape – to get away from a task that they were told to complete
    • Attention – in order to get your attention
    • Automatic – sensory – they like how it feels or sounds


  • When teaching a child with special needs new skills, it is important to remember what motivates them!
  • In other words, what is the payoff for that child to behave and do well in school or follow the rules at home?


  • Children with special needs need motivation, just as any other child.
    • However, they are not as likely to understand that you are supposed to behave because it’s the right thing to do. That is a complex SOCIAL SKILL that can means nothing to a child diagnosed with special needs.
  • Children are looking at the immediate reinforcer. Yes, if you do well in school you will grow up and go to college and so on, but what does that mean to a child?
    • A reinforcer is NOT a bribe - It is a paycheck for a child’s appropriate behavior.
  • Reinforcer Pairing and Fading
    • Gradually replacing the child’s favorite reinforcers, like candy, with more natural reinforcers, like praise.
      • The goal is to always FADE tangible reinforcers when possible to social reinforcers
      • A reinforcer is the “payoff” a child gets from the behavior they exhibited that causes them to want to do that behavior more often.
      • A reinforcer can be anything the child likes!
        • Example: A toy, a food item, attention (good or bad!), getting to participate in an activity, or getting out of doing something they don’t like to do. Example: A toy, a food item, attention (good or bad!), getting to participate in an activity, or getting out of doing something they don’t like to do.
      • Good and bad behavior all have reinforcers!

    Now What?

    • Replacement Behavior
      • What type of behavior could the child use that would be in the same “response class”?
      • This allows the child to still be able to gain access to something they wanted in a socially acceptable way
      • Communication is often the key


    • Direct Observation
      • Allows us to see what assessments will be required Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) Data Narrative Notes
    • Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)
      • Used by many professionals in the field to evaluate behavior
    • Parent/Teacher Questionnaires and rating scales
    • Functional Assessment
      • Contrived settings to test all major types of reinforcement Attention, escape, automatic and access
    • ABLLS-R, VBMAPP – Skill Assessments Collaboration among professionals

    Skills can be taught in all settings!

    • We’ve found a possible reinforcer, now we can potentially use the reinforcer to increase appropriate behaviors or teach new skills.
    Write Skill Acquisition Programs
  • Discrete Trial Teaching
  • Incidental teaching
  • Natural Environment
  • Social Skills
  • Groups
  • Play

    Now what?

    We’ve identified the function of the behavior. Now, we can use this information to collaborate with the treatment team to help aid in behavior intervention that will decrease the inappropriate behavior.
  • Can help identify IEP Goals
  • Can help with Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
  • Develop treatment plans
    • Specific acquisition goals
      • Be sure to include all of the identified replacement behaviors

    How to Get the Best Results

      • Contributors
        • Montgomery County Administrators:
        • Cara Alexander - Director of Exceptional Children Services
        • Robin Fairclough - Coordinator of Exceptional Children, Preschool and Elementary School
        • Souette Quinn - Coordinator of Exceptional Children, High school
        • Katrina Wallus - Coordinator of Exceptional Children, Middle School
      • Department of Defense Education Activity
        • Karen Dyar, SpEd Instructional System’s Specialist
        • Linda Brake, SpEd Instructional System’s Specialist


        • Purpose: Explain how professionals at school, your child’s behavior analyst and you can collaborate together to maximize your child’s progress at school.
        • Overview:
          1. Current policy
          2. context for policy
          3. collaborative strategy.

    Administrative Policy

      • Montgomery County
        • The observation/services must be educationally based or medically necessary.
        • Confidentiality of all students must be maintained.
        • There can be no disruption to the educational process.
        • Written parental requests must be on file in the school specifying the services, reason and time.
        • Outside service providers must provide, in writing, details of the services provided and exact times provided.
        • Any provider requesting a ‘one time’ observation must make the request at least five (5) days prior to the planned observation and follow the above requirement.
      • Fort Campbell Schools
        • Determined by each school principal.
        • Currently no 1:1.
    • Context for Policy Changes

      • Poor communication about scheduling.
      • Failure to collaborate with the treatment team.
      • Not adapting recommendations/requests to fit with the classroom environment.
      • Restraint in school.
      • Cannot discriminate against the “bad apples”.

      Collaborative Strategy

      • Respect!
        • Respect rules
        • Utilize and recognize what the school has to offer.
      • Same team.
        • Every professional at the table is there for the same reason.
      • Collaborate with the treatment team.
        • Meet with all of the service providers.
        • Goals should be important to the service providers (e.g. educational or addressing problems that the teacher wants help with).
        • Take into consideration practical constraints of classroom.

      Collaboration Plan

      • Contact the school secretary to set up a meeting with the Principal, and your behavior analyst.
      • Communicate with the teacher.
      • The BA will set up an initial visit with the teacher.
      • Develop behavior support plan.

      Defining Scope of Collaboration

      • Primary limitation of ABA: time intensive
        • Deals with patterns of behavior over time.
      • Factors influencing frequency of observations: frequency of behavior, complexity of the situation and urgency.
      • Three Types of Services Delivery:
        1. Communication regarding progress and generalization of IEP goals to the home and community setting.
        2. Problem behavior reduction.
        3. 1:1 early intervention.

      Scope of Collaboration Agreement

      • Sets the tone for collaboration.
      • Helps the team reach an agreement about what type of service delivery is most appropriate.

      Take Home

      • We can improve your child’s progress in the school setting by:
        • Being careful to follow school policy.
        • Working with the student’s treatment team.
        • Choosing goals that are relevant to the classroom.
        • Making requests/recommendations that adapt to the classroom setting.


      Helpful Resources

      • The Behavior Analyst Certification Board
        • www.bacb.com
        • Certificant Registry listed under the Consumers tab – find a BCBA in your area.
      • Advanced Behavior Consultants
        • www.advancedbehaviorconsultants.com
      • May Institute
        • www.mayinstitute.org
      • National Autism Center
        • www.nationalautismcenter.org
      • Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family’s Triumph Over Autism by Catherine Maurice
      • A Work in Progress by Ron Leaf and John McEachin
      • Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism: A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Catherine Maurice, Gina Green, and Steven Luce


      • Behaviorspeak by Bobby Newman, Kenneth Reeve, Sharon Reeve, and Carolyn Ryan
      • Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
      • Latham, G.I. (1994). The power of positive parenting.
        • Utah: Northwest. The “Tools of Choice” Curriculum derived from this book by Michael Stoutimore and Teresa Rodgers.
      • Newman, B., Reeve, K.F., Reeve, S.A., & Ryan, C.S. (2003). Behaviorspeak: A glossary of terms in applied behavior analysis. New York: Dove and Orca.
      • Wallin, J.M. (2004). The discrete trial. Retrieved April 22, 2009 from www.polyxo.com/discretetrial.


"We have an amazingly bright 4 year old who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 2. This was completely new to us, we had no idea what Autism or ABA Therapy was.Read More

Our Mission

The mission of Advanced Behavior Consultants is to provide our clients with the skills to enjoy an independent and fulfilling life filled
Read More