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Scientific, Professional, and Government Organizations' Position on ABA
Based on the empirical evidence, many scientific, government, and professional agencies and organizations have concluded that ABA-based procedures represent best practices for individuals with autism and intellectual disability.
Scientific and Professional Organizations
Autism Speaks states that “ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism”; and “Behavior analysis is a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment.”
The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (formerly the American Association on Mental Retardation), the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization of professionals concerned with intellectual disability and related disabilities, designated ABA-based procedures for the treatment of behavioral problems with individuals with intellectual disability and related disorders as "highly recommended" (Rush & Frances, 2000).
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concluded: “ABA techniques have been repeatedly shown to have efficacy for specific problem behaviors, and ABA has been found to be effective as applied to academic tasks, adaptive living skills, communication, social skills, and vocational skills” (Volkmar et al., 2014).
Organization For Autism Research ("The Best of the OARacle"; see page 10) stated that “…[ABA] is distinguished from other interventions because it has been proven effective in promoting skill development in persons with autism.”
National Autism Center’s National Standards Report (2009) noted that behavioral interventions based on ABA were found to have an established level of evidence to support their use. Examples include behavioral packages, antecedent packages, comprehensive behavioral treatment for young children, modeling, schedules, pivotal response training, and self-management packages.
The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders provides a list of several treatment options or components founded in applied behavior analysis (e.g., antecedent-based intervention, differential reinforcement, discrete trial training, functional behavior assessment, functional communication training, extinction, prompting, reinforcement) which have been demonstrated to be efficacious in children with autism.
The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) found that “…ABA is effective in increasing behaviors and teaching new skills….ABA is effective in reducing problem behavior…and also indicates that, when implemented intensively (more than 20 hours per week) and early in life (beginning prior to the age of 4 years), ABA may produce large gains in development and reductions in the need for special services.”
Various federal government agencies have also concluded that ABA-based procedures are well-established - particularly for individuals with intellectual disability and autism who display problem behavior.
The Centers for Disease Control (see types of treatment) indicated that a “… notable treatment approach for people with an ASD is called applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA has become widely accepted among health care professionals and is used in many schools and treatment clinics….”
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) noted that ABA has become widely recognized as an effective treatment for individuals with autism (see treatment options section).
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development stated that “… applied behavior analysis (ABA), [is] a widely accepted approach that tracks a child's progress in improving his or her skills…”
The Surgeon General of the United States stated, "Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior" (1999).
Several states have assembled task forces comprised of parents and professionals to develop guidelines and position statements. These committees identified ABA procedures as representing best practices:
Task Force and Position Statements:
The California Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders: During an informational hearing on Health Insurance Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in 2010 and 2011 the California Department of Insurance concluded that “…Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is a medically necessary treatment for individuals with autism.” Furthermore, it was determined that “ABA therapy is neither experimental nor investigational; and leads to significant improvements in IQ, communication and language skills, and adaptive behaviors; as well as to reduction in self-injurious behaviors.” The reviewers further noted, “providing such essential health care treatment to children with autism results in enabling them to learn in school, succeed at work, and participate fully and productively in family and community activities, thereby providing a better quality of life for the patient and the family”.
New York State Department of Health ("Guidelines: Autism/Pervasive Development Disorders, Assessment and Intervention for Young Children (0-3), Chapter IV - Behavioral and Educational Approaches"): “It is recommended that principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and behavior intervention strategies be included as an important element of any intervention program for young children with autism”.
Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities ("Report of the MADSEC Autism Task Force"; see page 21 of report): “Over the past 30 years, several thousand published research studies have documented the effectiveness of ABA…across a variety of populations, interventionists, settings, and behaviors.”
Best Practice Guidelines and Technical Assistance Manuals Recognizing the Importance of Applied Behavior Analysis:
California Department of Education: Best Practice Guidelines for Designing Effective Programs for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders “Applied behavioral analysis is usually needed to assist a child to gain skills and reduce negative or undesirable behaviors”.
Autism Spectrum Disorders: Services in West Virginia Schools; Guidelines for Best Practice: Teaching strategies shall be based on peer reviewed and empirically validated evidence-based practices/methodologies for students with autism. “At this time the science heavily favors, but is not limited to those based on the science of applied behavior analysis, defined as the application of behavioral principles for the benefit of the learner and includes simultaneous evaluation of the effect of these applications”.
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