Applied behaviour analysis (also known as ABA) is a systematic way of observing someone's behaviour, identifying desirable changes in that behaviour and then using the most appropriate methods to make those changes.
It is based on the idea that someone's behaviour can be changed by altering what happens before the behaviour occurs (known as the antecedent) and /or by altering what happens after the behaviour occurs (known as the consequence).
So, for example, an ABA therapist may try to improve a child's communication and social skills (the behaviour) by demonstrating more effective ways to interact with other children (the antecedent) and then rewarding him (the consequence) when he demonstrates the improved behaviours.
The therapist will then analyse how well that approach has worked and, if necessary, make changes to the intervention to improve the child's behaviour next time around.
Applied behaviour analysis has been used to treat a wide range of people, including children and adults on the autism spectrum, as well as individuals with other conditions.
The principles of applied behaviour analysis are incorporated within many specific interventions (such as discrete trial training, incidental teaching and pivotal response training). They are also incorporated within many forms of early intensive behavioural intervention (such as the University of California at Los Angeles Young Autism Project model).