Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is essentially the study of socially significant behavior - how to change old behaviors and how to teach new behaviors.
ABA is a research and evidence-based approach. Extensive research over the last 30 years has consistently identified ABA as the most effective treatment option for individuals with autism, however ABA is also an effective, empirically validated approach to achieve behavior change and learning with a wide variety of individuals, including typically developing and special needs individuals, as well as individuals of all ages.
As behavior analysts, we take on the assumption that everyone engages in the behaviors that they engage in for a purpose. Every behavior has a function. We do things for one of four reasons: to gain access to items or activities; to escape, end, or avoid situations; to gain social attention or continue a social interaction; or because it feels good.
This assumption is the foundation of behavior change, because it allows us to understand why someone is engaging in a behavior. Our goal is to identify why an individual is engaging in a specific behavior and then teach a more socially appropriate replacement behavior, while also rendering the challenging behavior ineffective and/or inefficient. Often times, we see challenging behaviors as a result of skill deficits, which means ABA programs may often focus heavily on teaching new skills.