10 ABA Therapy Techniques To Use For Kids With Autism

Here are 10 of the top techniques that ABA therapists use to help manage and treat autism.

Ruben Kesherim
April 27, 2024

10 ABA Therapy Techniques To Use For Kids With Autism

Best ABA Therapy Techniques

ABA therapy involves the use of numerous techniques to help treat autism. The types of techniques used are tailored to each individual patient and can change over time as the therapeutic needs of patients evolve.

1. Functional Behavior Assessment

A functional behavior assessment is, as its name implies, an assessment of the behavior of a child with autism. The therapist observes the child for several sessions and determines information like how the child behaves, why the child behaves in a particular manner and what factors maintain that behavior over a certain length of time.

The therapist may also consult with the child's parents, caretakers, teachers and medical providers for this assessment. The results from it become the basis for the child's overall ABA therapy program. They will allow the therapist to determine how to help the child with autism learn, grow and improve on the targeted observed behaviors.

2. Functional Communication Training

Functional communication training, or FCT, is designed to replace problematic behaviors with more desirable ones at home, school and elsewhere. It identifies what behaviors need to be curbed or changed and implements ones that are more productive in everyday life.

FCT is achieved through:

  • Assessing the problematic behaviors
  • Determining what appropriate communications will be for the child with autism
  • Teaching the new communication skills to the child
  • Reinforcing the new communication skill for everyday use
  • Providing reminders to the child to use the new communication skill
  • Ignoring and not rewarding the problematic behaviors when they occur

Children with autism who are verbal are typically taught to replace problem behaviors with appropriate language to express emotions. Children who are non-verbal are taught gestures to indicate emotions.

3. Modeling

Modeling is a technique that involves observation of a desired behavior. For example, if a child with autism cannot hold a pencil correctly, he or she may watch the ABA therapist hold and use a pencil properly to learn how to achieve this goal.

Modeling reinforces desired behaviors through watching others model them for the ABA therapy patient. It is one of the simplest techniques used in ABA therapy. However, it also is one of the most effective in achieving behaviors ABA therapists want to teach to their patients.

It also can be used repeatedly in numerous sessions. It provides consistent, non-verbal instructions and guidance so patients with autism can learn to try, implement and progressively master behaviors that are helpful in everyday life.

4. Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement rewards desired behaviors when children with autism use them properly. It is designed to identify and encourage children in ABA therapy to replicate the behaviors and recognize they should use these skills instead of problematic behaviors to obtain what they want or need.

Positive reinforcement works well when it is provided quickly after a child with autism displays a desired behavior. It can involve praising the child for engaging in behaviors that are taught during ABA  therapy. It can also involve giving a reward, such as a toy, to the child with autism after he or she behaves in the desired manner.

Positive reinforcement can help desired behaviors become second nature to children with autism. They may display problematic behaviors less often.

5. Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is the opposite of positive reinforcement in that it is designed to punish and discourage problematic behaviors in children. When used in ABA therapy, it immediately identifies and targets behaviors that are harmful, violent and disruptive to functioning in everyday society.

The punishments involved in negative reinforcement need to be provided in an immediate and consistent manner. The child with autism also must understand what behaviors are being punished and why they are not acceptable in which to engage.

If an ABA therapist, teacher, parent or caretaker fails to provide consistent and clear negative reinforcement, they may only encourage problematic behaviors to continue. They also may confuse children and make it unclear why problem behaviors are allowed in some circumstances but not others.

6. Parent Implemented Intervention

Parent implemented intervention, or PII, is the use of ABA therapy in a setting outside of a mental health environment. As it names states, it involves parents using ABA therapy techniques at home or elsewhere to encourage and implement desired behaviors in children with autism.

ABA therapists work with parents to teach constructive and consistent PII. Parents then can utilize it if or when their children with autism display behaviors, such as tantrums, head banging, rocking or others, that are not productive and ideal for everyday living.

Children with autism also benefit from consistent guidance without having to rely solely on their ABA therapists. They do not have to be brought to the ABA therapy setting to learn or get reinforcement for desired behaviors.

7. Picture Exchange Communication System

Picture exchange communication system, or PECS, is a type of ABA therapy that helps children with autism who are non-verbal. They often feel frustrated or angry at not being able to be understood. They need a clear way to express their needs and wants.

PECS utilizes pictures that non-verbal children with autism can use to indicate what they are trying to say to caretakers, parents or teachers. Studies have shown that PECS reduces undesired behaviors in children with autism who cannot verbally communicate. It can also foster language development and better communication in children who otherwise had no way to verbalize and let others know what they were expressing.

8. Pivotal Response Training

Pivotal response training, or PRT, is an ABA therapy technique that focuses on identifying what are called pivotal behaviors in children with autism.

Pivotal behaviors are thought to influence other behaviors, most notably those that are problematic and need to be curbed or changed. By identifying and positively reinforcing pivotal behaviors, ABA therapists hope to teach and reinforce more desirable behaviors in children with autism.

For instance, this technique can be used to teach children with autism how to ask for toys that are available in the therapy setting with which to play.

After they learn to ask for available toys, a pivotal behavior, they may learn to ask for other items that are not readily available or visible, which may be the skill ABA therapists aim to teach for better functioning in everyday life.

9. Redirection

Redirection involves directing the attention and energies of children with autism away from undesired behaviors toward behaviors that are more productive and acceptable.

It is an ABA therapy technique that disrupts the less than ideal behavior in which a child may be engaging and redirects his or her attention toward skills that are non-violent and more socially acceptable.

It also teaches children to use skills consistently to avoid behaviors that are not productive to living and functioning in everyday life. It demonstrates that behaviors like screaming, crying, hitting or throwing things cannot ever be used to obtain what they need or want.

10. Scripting

Scripting is an ABA therapy technique that involves the use of scripted words or sentences to teach desired behaviors. It is most effective for teaching children with autism how to behave in social situations. It involves repeating the words or sentences over and over to help children learn the targeted skill.

Once children with autism learn how to implement and use the skill on a regular basis, their therapists will then use fade scripting to reinforce it. This technique can be used to teach skills like how to look someone in the eyes while speaking to him or her. It allows children with autism to engage more productively and tolerate being in social settings.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a type of therapy that is used to address the symptoms and behaviors in children with autism. It is based on the sciences of behavior and learning. It is designed to be a flexible treatment and tailored to each individual patient.

It can also be adapted as the support and therapy needs of each patient changes over time. Patients can also undergo ABA therapy at home, school or in a mental health facility. It teaches skills that are useful in everyday life and can involve one-on-one therapy sessions or sessions that are held in groups.

Who is ABA Effective For

ABA therapy has proven effective for children with autism. It targets problematic behaviors, such as violent tantrums or obsessive compulsive tendencies, and guides children with autism toward behaviors that are essential for functioning in everyday life.

It helps parents, caretakers and teachers understand how behaviors work, how behavior is affected by the environment and how learning takes place. It is designed to increase communication and language skills, decrease problem behaviors and improve:

  • Attention
  • Focus
  • Social skills
  • Memory
  • Academics

ABA therapy has been an essential resource in addressing autism in children since the 1960s.


  1. https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/lists/5-techniques-used-in-applied-behavior-analysis/
  2. https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis
  3. https://hiddentalentsaba.com/aba-therapy-techniques/
  4. https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/aba-therapy-examples/

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