November 2019 archive

Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism

Although behavior analysts can help anyone with behavioral challenges, we often work with children and adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) Interventions based in ABA can be very beneficial to people with autism. Not only is it backed by decades of research, it has become widespread in popular culture.  

Children and adults with ASD are very intelligent. Often, they may have a hard time communicating their feelings to others and why they may behave in way that is confusing. Since BCBAs based their interventions on what actions a client does, a child or adult who cannot communicate is not something BCBAs worry about. Instead, we outline actions we want to see the client do more, and we measure how well our interventions work on increasing the appropriate behavior. 

Interventions in ABA are effective for those with ASD because we know each person is a unique individual. No two children are the same. Clinicians in ABA prioritize getting to know the child and make their treatments fit their needs. We recognize that those with ASD may engage in actions that are confusing to teachers, parents, community members, and siblings. This can lead to frustration, and we, clinicians from the Husky ABA clinic, want to help!  

At the Husky ABA clinic, we are experts in producing meaningful behavior change. This may create an individualized plan to teaching a child to independently toilet. Or teaching a child to recognize their frustration and ask for help! In addition, we work with families, teachers, and other important people in the child’s life to create positive environments.  

For more information check out Autism Speaks

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Second Year Feature- Kelsey

Meet Kelsey! 

She is another second year student at St. Cloud State in the ABA program. Kelsey received her undergraduate Psychology degree at University of Wisconsin- River Falls. She has also worked at a center for children with Autism Spectrem Disorder (ASD) for three years. While working at this clinic she started to show an interest in the field of ABA. She is currently doing in-home therapy for children diagnosed with ASD while working towards her master’s degree. 

Kelsey chose to come to St. Cloud State because her coworkers encouraged her to check out the master’s program. She says that she thought the program would be easier than it is, but she could not be happier at SCSU and is also learning so much more than she ever imagined. All the professors want students from the ABA program to come out of it with as much knowledge and experience as possible, and because of this all the class work can be challenging at times, which is why Kelsey says one of her biggest accomplishments so far has been making it through the first year of the program. 

A not-so-fun fact about Kelsey is that her laptop crashed during finals her first semester in the program, so now she prints all her work or has it on one of many flash drives, so she never loses it again. She also prints out every article from class (which can be up to 10 a week) and loves to use highlighters to pick out the most important information. 


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What is a Preference Assessment? 

Photo by: Vanessa Bucceri

When a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) first meets their client, they prioritize in building a positive relationship with the child. They want to know what their client likes and is motivated for.  BCBAs are all about reinforcing good behaviorBCBAs often receive information from caregivers and people who have worked with children in the past on what they like. We know that preferences change frequentlyso a BCBA will take time to systematically assess the child’s preferences after receiving recommendations from a parent.  

The most common way a BCBA finds out what a child likes is through a preference assessment. Most preference assessments contain 5-10 items that may include toys, snacks, or activities. The first set of choices that are used are often picked based on information from caregivers and what is available to the BCBA at the time. Some common things that children work for are crackers, breaks (just having time to lay down or sit), electronic devices, toys, and time in the gym or on the playground.  

The preference assessment included at the top of this post is called a Multiple Stimulus Without Replacement (MSWO). In this assessment the child is presented with multiple items (7 were used in the example) and they are asked to pick on item at a time, after they pick an item they get to spend time playing with it or eating it, and then that choice is no long available to them. This process repeats until the child has picked each of the items once, and the order in which they chose is recorded. Then the order in which the items are lined up is changed and the process starts over. At the end of the assessment items that a child chose first most often are identified at the high preference items. 

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What is a BCBA?

Photo retrieved from

 Within the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), there are many titles a clinician can have. BCBA stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Clinicians who hold this title have received a master’s degree, completed at least 1,500 hours of supervised work with implementation of behavior-analytic work, and taken an international certification exam. At the Husky ABA clinic, we have four faculty advisors who are BCBA-Ds, meaning that they have a doctorate degree in ABA or related behavior.  

You may have noticed another title, the BCaBA, Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst. BCaBA have undergraduate degree, completed at least 1, 000 hours of supervised works, and have passed an international certification exam. BCaBA’s  

practice under the supervision of a BCBA, monitoring front-line clinicians that are implementing the individualized interventions the BCBA has created.  

Finally, front-line clinicians in ABA, are often Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT). RBTs hands-on with the clients, directly implementing structured programming to help the child to be successful. RBTs work with clients every day to implement the interventions written by the BCBAs. RBTs are heavily supervised by both the BCaBA and BCBA to ensure treatments are implemented with fidelity.  

Overall, in ABA, we aim to identify the changes we need to make in the environment to enhance the lives of clients AND the individuals around them like their parents, teachers, classmates, and siblings.  

  For more information about Applied Behavior Analysis check out  

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