Unfortunately, writing good program descriptions wasn’t covered in the training to become BCBA-certified. Most of us have a solid background in the foundations and principles of ABA, yet we weren’t taught how to apply that knowledge to creating programs.
The assessment tools may guide us, but children don’t always learn through cookie-cutter programs. Programming is not as easy as filling a few color-coded boxes and spitting out a program!
Questions arise, such as whether to teach functions before verbs or vice versa, or even at the same time. When it comes to teaching functions, should we focus on receptive, expressive, use of pictures, or all of these methods?
With a background in Early Childhood Education and experience creating ABA programs, one thing is clear: each child is different. If kids don’t fit into boxes, why are we creating programs based on boxes?
This post will dive into the importance of tailoring programs to each student, allowing for teaching across multiple operants and maximizing effective learning.
7 Dimensions of ABA Programs
Write a high-quality ABA program and include key components so that it’s carried out in a way that meets the 7 dimensions of ABA:
Generalization: Applying learned skills in different settings, with other people, and to various stimuli.
Effective: Producing meaningful and lasting behavior change.
Technological: Clear and replicable descriptions of interventions for consistency.
Applied: Addressing socially significant behaviors with real-life importance.
Conceptually Systematic: Grounded in the principles of behavior analysis.
Analytic: Data-based decision-making using objective data collection and analysis.
Behavioral: Focusing on observable behavior and using positive reinforcement.
What Makes An ABA Program Effective?
The effectiveness of an ABA program lies in its ability to produce meaningful and lasting behavior change. Several factors contribute to the effectiveness of such programs.
First and foremost, individualized goals and objectives tailored to the specific needs of the individual are essential. These goals should be measurable, achievable, and time-bound. Additionally, the involvement of a qualified BCBA ensures that the program is evidence-based and well-designed.
Consistent data collection and analysis help track progress and make informed decisions. The use of effective instructional procedures, reinforcement schedules, and mastery criteria also play vital roles in promoting positive behavior change.
Finally, strategies for generalization and maintenance of skills across different settings, people, and contexts enhance the overall effectiveness of an ABA program.
9 Key Components of an ABA Program
1. Goal (Target Objective)
Clearly define the program’s objective. What do you want to achieve?
For example, the goal could be for the student to tact/label items or answer questions about a particular topic.
The goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
2. Instructional Procedure
Describe how the program should be implemented. Provide operational definitions for key terms and instructions.
Specify the expected response from the student, the prompt instruction, the discriminative stimulus (SD), and the materials to be used. This ensures consistency and clarity in delivering the program.
3. Teaching Steps
Break down the program into specific teaching steps. Define how the student will progress through the program, including multiple steps or sets of examples if applicable.
Consider if there are receptive and expressive steps or if there is an intraverbal component. These steps guide both the student and the therapist in implementing the program.
Clearly define the teaching targets for the program. These targets specify what skills or behaviors the student should acquire.
For example, if the program focuses on language development, the targets may include vocabulary expansion, sentence construction, or answering wh-questions.
5. Reinforcement Schedule
Determine the schedule for providing reinforcement. Specify how often the student should receive reinforcement for correct responses.
This could be for every correct response or every other correct response. Consistent reinforcement encourages motivation and reinforces desired behavior.
6. Mastery Criteria
Establish criteria for mastery of the program. In other words, define when the student can move on to the next level or target.
Consider if mastery needs to be demonstrated across different days or therapists to ensure generalization and consistency.
7. Data Tracking System
Implement a data collection method to monitor progress. Choose a data tracking system, such as point-by-point, rating scale, or interval recording, based on the program’s specific needs.
Collecting and analyzing data provides valuable insights into the student’s progress and informs decision-making.
Generalization is a critical aspect of any program implementation. It’s essential to consider how the program can be applied across different people, environments, and stimuli.
For instance, you might want to think about how the skills being taught can be used in various settings, such as at home, school, or in the community.
Similarly, consider how these skills can be adapted to interact with different individuals, like peers, teachers, or family members.
9. Suggested Teaching Strategies (if applicable)
It’s beneficial to identify teaching strategies that can enhance the effectiveness of the program. These strategies can provide valuable guidance for ABA therapists implementing the program.
For example, rotating program materials can help maintain a child’s interest and engagement, while interspersing mastered questions can reinforce previously learned skills and boost a child’s confidence.
Remember, the key to successful program implementation lies in personalizing strategies to suit each child’s unique learning style and needs.
Writing effective ABA program descriptions is an ongoing learning process. While the foundations and principles of ABA provide a solid framework, it’s crucial to recognize and celebrate the uniqueness of each child. Embracing individuality and tailoring programs to suit their needs allows for a more comprehensive and effective approach to teaching and learning.
By incorporating multiple operants and expanding the scope of our programs, we can encourage holistic growth and development in children. As we move away from the limitations of cookie-cutter approaches, we embrace the art of writing well-rounded, individualized ABA programs. That means we can create a brighter and more inclusive future for all learners.
Program Description: VERBS
Check out one of our program descriptions for how we teach "verbs".