Applied Behavior Analysis is a Science and, Therefore, Progressive

J Autism Dev Disord. 2016 Feb;46(2):720-31. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2591-6.


Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a science and, therefore, involves progressive approaches and outcomes. In this commentary we argue that the spirit and the method of science should be maintained in order to avoid reductionist procedures, stifled innovation, and rote, unresponsive protocols that become increasingly removed from meaningful progress for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We describe this approach as progressive. In a progressive approach to ABA, the therapist employs a structured yet flexible process, which is contingent upon and responsive to child progress. We will describe progressive ABA, contrast it to reductionist ABA, and provide rationales for both the substance and intent of ABA as a progressive scientific method for improving conditions of social relevance for individuals with ASD.

Keywords: Applied behavior analysis; Behavioral intervention; Discrete trial teaching; Functional analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Early Intervention, Educational / methods
  • Humans