ABA therapy is a widely used approach to treating autism and other developmental disorders.

But how did this approach come about? Who developed it and what was their original vision?

In this blog post, we will explore the origins of ABA therapy and discuss how it has evolved over the years.

We will also look at how Applied Behavior Analysis can help children with developmental disorders achieve their fullest potential.

The origins of ABA therapy

The origins of ABA therapy can be traced back to the work of psychologist B.F. Skinner, who was one of the pioneers in behavioral psychology research during his time at Harvard University.

In 1938, he published a book called The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis which outlined his theory on animal behavior and learning using operants (i.e., actions performed by an organism that lead to rewards or punishments).

Skinner described the process of learning as a form of reinforcement and punishment, which he called “operant conditioning” because it involves using operants to elicit desired behaviors from students; thus giving rise to ABA therapy today.

Who developed ABA therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy was first developed in the 1970s by Psychologist Ivar Lovaas and Robert Koegel at UCLA.

Lovaas and Koegel were interested in developing a more intensive, one-on-one therapy approach for children with autism.

Their early work was based on the principles of operant conditioning, which Skinner had pioneered many years earlier.

The original approach of ABA therapy

The original approach of ABA therapy was based on the use of Discrete Trial Training (DTT) techniques.

This involves breaking down tasks into individual steps and providing immediate feedback to the student after each step is completed.

This would help students to learn new skills in a structured, systematic way.

The goal was to teach children how to perform certain tasks or behaviors by providing immediate positive reinforcement when they succeeded; thus giving rise to today’s ABA therapy sessions.


Timeline of ABA therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy has a rich history that dates back to the mid-20th century. The roots of ABA therapy can be traced back to the 1960s when it was first developed as a type of behavior therapy.

The original inventor of ABA therapy was O. Ivar Lovaas (1927-2010), a renowned clinical psychologist. He pioneered what was then known as The Lovaas Method, which later evolved into ABA.

In 1960, Charles B. Ferster and Marian K. DeMyer were the first to conduct behavioral experiments with autistic children. This marked a significant milestone in the history of ABA therapy.

By 1964, the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project began in Kansas City, and Division 25 of the American Psychological Association (APA) was established. These developments contributed to the advancement of ABA therapy.

Over time, the field of behavior modification and autism services has evolved and expanded, leading to a significant variety among ABA providers. This evolution is ongoing and the timeline of the history of behavior analysis continues to be updated as new events occur.

In summary, ABA therapy has come a long way since its inception in the 1960s. It has evolved into a widely used treatment for autism today, thanks to the pioneering work of individuals like O. Ivar Lovaas and institutions such as the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project and the APA.

What is ABA as we know it today?

ABA has evolved over the years into a much more holistic approach that includes many different techniques.

ABA is not just about teaching children how to do things; it’s also about building relationships with them, helping them understand their own emotions and behavior patterns better than ever before.

The goal of ABA today isn’t so much on learning specific skills as it is in teaching students how to think critically and problem solve.


Current ABA therapy techniques

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy uses different techniques to increase helpful and adaptive behaviors and decrease harmful ones. Here are some of the most common techniques used in ABA therapy:

  1. Positive Reinforcement: This technique involves presenting a motivating item or rewarding behavior that strengthens the behavior’s future frequency.

  2. Negative Reinforcement: This is the removal of an undesired or unpleasant outcome after the display of a behavior, which increases the likelihood of the positive behavior being repeated.

  3. Discrete Trial Training (DTT): This structured teaching method breaks down skills into small, ‘discrete’ components and teaches each component one by one.

  4. Antecedent-based Interventions: These interventions involve modifying the environment or conditions that precede a behavior to change the behavior.

  5. Exercise: Physical activity is often used as a form of therapy to help reduce problematic behaviors and promote positive ones.

  6. Extinction: This technique involves stopping the reinforcement of a previously reinforced behavior, reducing the likelihood of the behavior occurring in the future.

  7. Natural Environment Teaching: This is a method of teaching in a natural setting and during naturally occurring opportunities.

  8. Prompting and Fading: In this technique, help is provided to guide the correct response. Over time, these prompts are reduced or ‘faded’ until the individual can perform the behavior independently.

  9. Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): This assessment looks at the causes and the types of reinforcements for behaviors to design effective treatments.

  10. Functional Communication Training: This is used to replace inappropriate behavior or communication with more suitable behavior or communication.

  11. Modeling: This involves demonstrating the desired behavior to guide the individual.

  12. Video Modeling: This involves watching a video demonstration of the correct behavior and then imitating that behavior.

  13. Behavior Chain: This technique involves breaking down complex behaviors into small steps, each of which is taught one at a time.

  14. Generalization: This method ensures that the behaviors learned in therapy transfer to other contexts or situations.

  15. Parent-Implemented Interventions: Parents are coached to implement ABA techniques to their children.

  16. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): Non-verbal children and adults are taught to initiate communication by exchanging pictures with their communication partner.

Remember, the chosen techniques will vary by individual, treatment setting, and targeted positive behaviors.


How can ABA therapy help my autistic child?

ABA therapy can be extremely beneficial for children with developmental disorders such as autism. It has been shown to help improve their communication skills, social interactions, and daily living skills.

In addition, ABA therapy can also help boost academic achievement and reduce problem behaviors. That being said, every ABA therapy session is tailor made toward the individual child. This is because no two children are exactly alike and each requires a unique approach to their treatment.

It’s important that parents work closely with therapists in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for their children.


If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

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