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The Origin Of Modern-day ABA Therapy

A photo of stacked colorful wooden blocks in geometric shapes that fit together with text that says "How did Modern ABA Therapy Come To Be?"

Written by: Joshua Sleeper

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy, is backed by years of research and is considered the most effective form of autism therapy. However, behavior analysis wasn’t always a formalized practice. The road to our modern-day ABA therapy isn’t linear, and many of its practices and procedures have been changed over the years. By looking back at how ABA was initially applied to the autism population, we can better understand the field and what direction ABA therapy should take in the future.

READ MORE: The Basics of ABA Therapy

Modern Day ABA Therapy

While the methodology and ethics of ABA therapy have transformed over the decades to meet present-day learner’s needs, the foundation of ABA therapy is rooted in early behavioral studies. Several ABA concepts, such as reinforcement, environmental manipulations, and motivation, have been used for decades to help children with autism practice appropriate behaviors and learn new skills.

Who Applied ABA Therapy to Autism?

Dr. O Ivar Lovaas spent decades studying how behavioral theories could help individuals with autism reduce challenging behaviors and develop important skills. In 1961, Lovaas began conducting research with children with autism and schizophrenia at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. Much of Lovaas’ early work demonstrated that a system of rewards and reinforcement could help children with schizophrenia decrease self-destructive behaviors and gain important language and social skills.1 2

The Lovaas Method

Over the next few decades, Lovaas focused on how behavioral interventions could improve the quality of life for children with autism. By 1987, Lovaas was helping children with autism gain lasting skills using early intensive intervention plans tailored to each child’s needs. Replication studies showed similar improvements using the Lovaas Method, and most importantly, most children in the study retained their skills for years after the treatment was complete.3 4

How Does Lovaas’ Work Connect To Modern ABA Therapy?

Some principles of Lovaas’ studies have informed the way we practice modern-day ABA therapy at Trumpet. For example, just as Lovaas created intensive, individualized plans to meet each individual’s needs, our team of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) creates personalized plans for every child with autism.

Today’s ABA therapy has changed in some substantial ways. Lovaas’ methods included averse punishment methods to decrease undesired behavior. Modern ABA therapy relies heavily on positive reinforcement and rewards to help children reach their full potential ethically and safely.

As a national autism treatment provider, Trumpet transforms the lives of children with autism and their families. Through individualized ABA therapy plans, a rigorous QA process to ensure your child is progressing, and parent, caregiver, educator, and healthcare provider training, Trumpet can help your child live life to the fullest. Contact us today to learn more!

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/5908077/
2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0022096565900160
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16685181/
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17438342/

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