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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)


Successful early intervention research popularized ABA
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been given great recognition in recent years because of the successful findings by Ivar Lovaas and others that early intervention using ABA methods can bring about substantial positive change in young children with autism, including, in some cases, eliminating all signs and symptoms of the condition. Catherine Maurice’s book, Let Me Hear Your Voice, a parent’s perspective on the successful ABA education of her twins contributed greatly to ABA’s popularization.

Dr. Fitch and B.F. Skinner at an ABA Conference

Dr. Fitch and B.F. Skinner
at an ABA Conference

ABA derives from the research of B.F. Skinner
ABA is a substantial field of inquiry, one that is far too large to even begin to do it justice here. Click to find out more about ABA on the website of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. To a large extent, the field derives from the early research and thinking of B.F. Skinner.

Broadly speaking, ABA is first of all a perspective on or philosophy of human action or behavior, the most significant component of which is the well-founded belief that behavior occurs because of a history of its consequences. Secondly, ABA is a kind of engineering science in that it has established ways to investigate how behavior functions and to investigate how to change it. This science has produced a burgeoning research literature concerned with behavior change, including a great many studies on the effectiveness of ABA procedures in schools. Thirdly, ABA is a set of research-validated behavior change procedures. Finally, ABA is a set of principles on the basis of which teachers and other practitioners can develop their own practices. ABA also instills a commitment to validate practices with systematic evaluation of results; it is truly evidence based.

“Catch ’em being good”
ABA, based as it is on positive reinforcement of specific behaviors, or “catch ‘em being good,” has been a significant component of the teaching methods in TIEE schools since the early 1980’s, well before Lovaas’ original outcome study. Positive reinforcement techniques and other methods of ABA had been systematically researched and found effective in schools since the late 1950’s, leading to their use in TIEE’s schools.

At TIEE, we believe that learning and affect are inseparable; “learning and liking the learning process” is a far more desirable outcome to “learning and disliking the learning process.” Consequently, the very cornerstone method of teaching in a TIEE school is “catch ’em being good.” That’s our motto.

works-landing-signA school in which teachers, students, and everyone else regularly catches one another being good and praises them for it is a school that everyone wants to attend. It’s a school that celebrates learning, honors academic growth, recognizes citizenship, and creates good friends. Teachers want to teach; students want to learn. A school that is positive is a school without ridicule, “put downs,” bullying, and other undesirable social interaction. Years ago, we saw a sign in the world famous San Diego zoo and immediately thought its message was appropriate for children, so we edited it as it appears here.

Children with autism learn with evidence-based methods

Systematic instruction with lots of praise for effort and achievement produces remarkable results.

One important result of how well we implement our motto is that observers of our schools often comment that they have never seen such high levels of on-task behavior and such a positive learning environment. One California state reviewer said: “This is the most positive place I’ve ever been, not just the most positive school, but the most positive place of any kind!” Our teachers obviously care about their students.

“Catch ’em being good” is TIEE’s cornerstone method; yet, we do not merely wait for good behaviors to happen. As is consistent with ABA technology, we actively teach good behaviors and we develop ways to know that our teaching has been successful.

"You have the most positive schools I've ever seen!" State Department of Education site reviewer