10 Effective ABA Therapy Techniques For Autism

As an ABA therapist, you're expected to administer many different types of ABA therapy techniques.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
June 23, 2023

10 Effective ABA Therapy Techniques For Autism

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a form of therapy that's designed to teach individuals how to use different techniques to improve their emotional and social skills while also reducing negative behaviors.

If you enter an ABA career, you'll be tasked with providing assistance for children with disabilities.

These disabilities include everything from anxiety disorders to autism.

aba therapy techniques

As an ABA therapist, you're expected to administer many different types of therapeutic techniques, the most common of which are detailed below.

ABA Therapy Techniques

The many types of ABA therapy techniques available to you include:

  • Functional Behavior Assessment
  • Functional Communication Training
  • Modeling
  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Negative Reinforcement
  • Parent-implemented Intervention
  • Picture Exchange Communication System
  • Pivotal Response Training
  • Redirection
  • Scripting

Functional Behavior Assessment

Functional behavior assessment is a type of ABA therapy that involves identifying behaviors that need to be altered in order for an autistic child to continue learning.

This technique is effective at providing therapists with information on why specific behaviors occur and if any factors are currently contributing to them. This assessment is essential for future interventions that a therapist performs.

Functional Communication Training

Functional communication training (FCT) is a technique that focuses on teaching children who suffer from autism spectrum disorder about functional and meaningful communication.

This technique can also be applied with other developmental disorders.

The training is mainly used to teach children how to replace some of their more difficult behaviors with effective communication that's acceptable in social settings.

When children undergo this form of therapy, they'll also learn how to properly ask for things they require in their everyday lives. The difficult behaviors that can be mitigated with FCT include everything from self-harm and aggression to non-compliance.


Modeling is a simple ABA therapy technique that can be performed by therapists and parents alike. The goal of this technique is to help children slowly change their bad behaviors.

When a parent or therapist performs an activity that the child is expected to do, the child can then model how they do the activity off the example that the parent or therapist provided.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves providing a child with a reward or praise for an accomplishment, which tells them that they should react the same way in the future.

For instance, if a child with autism behaves well, they could be given encouragement, which increases the likelihood that the child will make efforts to act in the same way.

This technique is simple but highly effective at reducing the severity of ASD symptoms.

An example of positive reinforcement is when a child is told to move their toys after they're done using them and responds accordingly.

If you provide positive reinforcement every time the child puts their toys away, they may eventually improve to where a reward is no longer required. This technique can be applied to many different behaviors and is common in ABA settings.

Negative Reinforcement

In many scenarios, children who have ASD don't behave like their parents want them to. These bad behaviors should be mitigated immediately.

There are times when negative reinforcement is called for to tell the child why their behavior isn't acceptable.

While punishments need to be consistent, they should never be harsh.

An example of negative reinforcement involves taking away a favorite toy for a day or two. These small actions can curb the child's bad behaviors.

One common symptom of autism is a tantrum, which children tend to throw if their parents don't administer negative reinforcement.

When negative reinforcement is applied during ABA therapy, it may help in getting rid of some of the more severe reactions that children with autism can display.

Parent-implemented Intervention

Parent-implemented intervention is among the most effective ABA techniques since it involves the therapist collaborating with the child's parents.

This form of intervention builds communication while also promoting effective behavior changes.

An ABA therapist will need to train parents on the primary principles of this therapy and how it can be used with children. The parents can then apply it even after the therapy has concluded.

Picture Exchange Communication System

Children who undergo ABA therapy typically find it challenging to express their feelings and wants.

To resolve this issue, therapists can administer picture exchange communication systems (PECS), which are cards with graphics that display everyday terms. These cards are effective aides for communication that children are able to point to.

Any children who have limited communication skills or are nonverbal can benefit from this technique.

Over time, this communication system allows children to develop skills and expand their vocabulary. The child eventually learns how to string sentences together by reading the words or phrases on the picture cards.

Pivotal Response Training

There are numerous additional techniques that can be performed with applied behavior analysis to reduce problematic behaviors.

Pivotal response training is a type of play-based ABA therapy that's designed to reinforce development in social behaviors and language. The affected children will initiate this training.

Children who suffer from autism and other developmental disorders should also obtain relief from self-stimulatory behaviors.

Instead of working on a single behavior, the ABA therapist is tasked with focusing on several essential areas of the child's development. The "pivotal" areas that a therapist aims to improve during pivotal response training include:

  • Self-management
  • Motivation
  • Response to numerous cues
  • Initiating social interactions

Motivation strategies promote natural reinforcement by encouraging a child even when an attempt at a positive behavior isn't perfect.


The redirection technique is commonly used by ABA therapists and parents when they want to help children with autism mitigate their poor behaviors.

This technique involves distracting the child intentionally when they begin to behave poorly.

If performed properly, the bad behavior shouldn't grow into self-harm or a serious tantrum. Redirection allows the child to potentially focus on something that takes them away from the cause of their previous behavior.


ABA therapists use the scripting technique when a child is repeating the same words or phrases over and over. This technique allows children to learn communication skills quickly.

The therapist will provide the child with a simple directive, which could be to move an object, put something away, or look at someone.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis therapy is a method of treatment that aims to use positive reinforcement and other therapeutic techniques to improve a child's communication, learning, behavioral, and social skills.

This form of therapy uses different behavioral principles to set specific goals, reinforce positive behaviors, and measure the outcomes of these techniques.

This approach is widely used by therapists and has proven to be highly effective as a treatment for autism and other developmental disorders. When applied correctly, it can improve skills and reduce problem behaviors.

The basis of ABA therapy involves the principles of behaviorism, the primary of which is to use consequences and rewards to alter behavior. During the mid-20th century, mental health professionals used token economies and other principles to treat conditions like schizophrenia.

Eventually, this therapy was adapted to be used in the treatment of autism.

The initial approach to this treatment centered around teaching social and behavioral skills while eliminating bad behaviors with the use of rewards and consequences. Since that time, numerous techniques have been created and used as part of ABA therapy.

While the latest approaches have made ABA therapy more effective and efficient, the basics of ABA therapy are still around. An ABA therapist will help children:

  • Learn how to transfer all of their learned behaviors to completely new environments
  • Reduce negative behaviors, which can be as severe as self-harm
  • Modify the learning environment to effectively challenge children
  • Implement ongoing maintenance behaviors like self-regulation and self-control
  • Improve such social abilities as learning new skills, communicating, and completing tasks

Who Is ABA Effective For?

ABA therapy is used to treat a wide range of conditions, the primary of which include:

  • Developmental disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance use disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Applied behavior analysis is a highly flexible treatment method that comes with numerous techniques for therapists to try.

Every technique aims to eliminate problem behaviors and replace them with positive ones that are more appropriate for social settings. Over time, a child may experience improvements in their concentration, social connections, and speech.

This form of therapy can also be customized to meet the child's exact needs.


  1. https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/aba-therapy-techniques
  2. https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/lists/5-techniques-used-in-applied-behavior-analysis/
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-an-aba-design-2794809