What is behaviour anyway and why does it matter?

CC BY-ND by John Brawley

CC BY-ND by John Brawley

I have been working with children with autism and their families since 1999 implementing a treatment that is based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis or ABA.  ABA is something that I am very passionate about and I have seen first hand the power that it can have in improving the quality of life for children and youth with autism and their families.  There would never be enough room in a single post to convey all of the reasons why.  So when I was asked to write a series of posts on ABA I was delighted!  In this post I will review how an approach that is based on ABA looks at behaviour.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word behaviour?  Many people would say non-compliance, aggression or some sort of acting out behaviour.  Indeed this does qualify as behaviour, but so does following a teachers instruction, or using our words to get our needs met.  The difference between the examples above is one may be regarded as challenging behaviour while the latter is generally associated with someone that may be seen as well-behaved, or has the skill/ability to follow instructions.  Generally speaking behaviour is anything you can see a person doing or hear a person saying.  This is why it is never good enough to simply say my son engaged in behaviour, rather it is important to clarify with challenging behaviouror problem behaviour.

This distinction between a challengingbehaviour and any other behaviour is very important because an approach that is based on ABA will look at both types and attempt to help improve a persons quality of life depending on his/her unique circumstances and behaviour.   Whether the behaviour is a challenge for them and those that live or work with them, or whether that behaviour is a strength/skill of his or hers that we can build upon, is going to inform any program that is based on ABA.  An approach that is based on ABA will:

1. Develop skills or new behaviour based on individual strengths and areas of need

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