How did Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Start?

In the late 1800s, psychology emerged as a brand new field of science. Although people throughout history have always been curious about why people behave the way they do, it was around this time that formal observations and studies were conducted about human behavior. In the early 1900s, John B. Watson, B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, and others shared their groundbreaking work which collectively became known as the behavioral perspective of psychology.

What is behavioral psychology?

The behavioral perspective of psychology believes a person’s behavior can be changed through a system of rewards or reinforcements. This may not sound like a revolutionary idea today, but at the time, when psychology was still new, behavioral psychologists opened the doors of possibility for those who previously were given no hope. In the 19th century, many in the medical or the educational field believed that if a child was born with a particular weakness, they were fixed for life. Behavioral psychology proved that viewpoint wrong.

When did Applied Behavior Analysis get its start?

The term “applied behavior analysis” first appeared when the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis was founded in 1968. Still today, the JABA remains a trusted resource in the ABA field. The journal’s founders set out to share behaviorist’s research and explore how the principles could be applied in a socially and culturally relevant way.

When did Applied Behavior Analysis therapy begin?

ABA therapy has its beginnings in the work of two UCLA psychologists, Ivar Lovaas and Robert Koegel. Lovaas dedicated much of his professional life to studying the behavior of children with autism. As early as 1965 he was publishing articles explaining the patterns of behavior he noticed in children with autism in order to give families hope. In 1987, Lovaas published a thorough study describing what we now know as ABA therapy, where therapists, along with parents, work with children one-on-one at home promoting appropriate behavior. Robert Koegel was a student of Lovaas’ and went on to study, speak, and write on autism and the positive behavior interventions that are possible for children with autism.

How can ABA therapy help my child?

The beautiful thing about ABA therapy is the way the therapists skillfully implement the one hundred plus years of scientific study about how children in general learn and grow best. The ABA therapist gets to know each child’s unique strengths and weaknesses and pairs together the specifics of scientific research with what will work for each individual child. ABA therapy is where scientific behavior research gets practical and powerful unlocking the potential inside of each child with autism.