What Are ABA Therapy Techniques?

Applied behavior analysis using ABA therapy techniques is a leading treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders. It takes significant analysis and insight to develop a treatment plan — and significant support to implement one — but the techniques themselves are often surprisingly simple.

What Are ABA Techniques?

ABA techniques for autism improve and change as new research emerges. There is also a wide variety, each suited for a specific circumstance. Every ABA therapy technique was developed from foundational ABA concepts, such as identifying patterns, engaging with the patient, and providing positive feedback for desirable behavior.

Here are some general summaries of a few ABA therapy techniques. Please keep in mind there is no such thing as a typical ABA therapy session — the treatment is unique to each child.

Behavior Chains

Analyzing behavioral patterns is one of the core elements of ABA treatment. This comes to the forefront in a technique called behavior chaining.  It usually involves breaking up a single task into multiple, smaller steps, then demonstrating how to perform the entire task, step-by-step. You may also notice therapists teaching behavior chains in reverse order, starting from a target result and proceeding to an action that precedes it.


Modeling techniques empower your child’s natural abilities to imitate positive behavior. You will probably see many examples of this technique in a typical ABA session. For example, your child might imitate characters in a video, mirror peers in a small group, or follow a teacher’s model behavior in a one-on-one session.

Discrete-Trial Teaching

This ABA technique uses a series of brief instruction sessions. In each discrete, highly controlled instance, a teacher would ask your child a direct question or provides a simple instruction. As the teacher repeats these lessons over time, your child would receive guidance towards — or positive feedback for — the correct response.

Incidental Teaching

During the course of ABA therapy, teaching opportunities sometimes arise that are too good to pass up. These moments allow for incidental instruction, a technique in which an ABA therapist would encourage your child to re-engage verbally. Your child would then receive some form of positive reinforcement after continuing the conversation.

Script Studies

Children who require improvement in verbal skills or social interactions sometimes work with scripts. This ABA therapy technique involves teaching complete statements while gradually removing words.

Picture Exchange Communication System

PECS is an ABA therapy technique a therapist might use if your child needs to work on core verbal skills. This type of treatment involves a series of trades: pictures for the objects they represent. It’s designed to develop the cognitive relationship between real-world objects and symbols. For example, your child might begin by exchanging pictures for the items in those pictures, and then move on to expanding vocabulary using a similar method.

As you can see, some techniques are designed to address specific concerns. ABA therapists choose the appropriate treatments based on a detailed analysis of your child’s current learning level and behavior patterns.

Finally, please know this is far from a complete list. You will probably encounter ABA therapy techniques other than these when you enroll your child into a program — some techniques might even enlist your help as a parent. Please call us today at 866-342-8847 to learn more.