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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a science of human behavior. Fundamentally, we engineer individual environments to make positive behaviors, such as language, social skills, daily living skills, etc., more funtional; and to make interfering behaviors, such as aggression, self-injury, etc., less functional. Of course, the details of such programming necessarily differs between individuals, but that is the underlying structure.What follows is a comprehensive guide for patients and families to learn about how ABA works, where to find treatment, and which questions to ask when choosing a program.

Contact our office in Fort Collins, Colorado to find out how we can help


Amongst many others, an ABA program can help with the following:

  • Increase a client’s communication and language skills
  • Improve theirsocial skills
  • Decrease interfering behaviors, such as aggression, self-injury, or stereotypy

Applied Behavior Analysis has been studied and practiced for several decades. Behavior analysts have helped people gain any number of skills, from language to healthy living. Behavior analysts have used behavior analysis to help countless people with amazingly diverse needs for more than 70 years, including people with developmental disabilities, such as autism.

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ABA involves a variety of methods for understanding and changing behavior. These are systematic, but individualized, and can be:

  • adapted to meet each person’s unique needs;
  • provided in a variety of settings, such as clinic, home, in the community (e.g., park, grocery store), school, or other agency (e.g., day program);
  • used people skills they’ll use every day, such as social skills, language/communication skills, daily living skills, and others; and
  • provided in a variety of instructional formats, ranging from one-to-one to small/large group, depending on need.


One of the most important concepts in Applied Behavior Analysis is positive reinforcement. This is the process by which a behavior can be strengthened by following its occurrence with some positive outcome: for example, praising a correct answer.

This process starts during assessment, when strengths and needs are identified at a very comprehensive and precise level–we need to pinpoint exactly all of the behaviors to treat, and this generally includes hundreds from a variety of skill domains. Programming is then organized around these objectives, with many teaching opportunities engineered around each throughout every day–all of which are designed to result in success and positive consequences!


Best outcomes for our clients are often achieved when the “team” can function well together (i.e., be on the same page), providing intensive treatment (this is KEY–maximizing learning/teaching opportunities throughout every day/situations accelerates progress) across providers AND family members. Here are a few keys to consider:

  • Intensity. For most people with developmental disabilities, particularly autism, we must not only emphasize learning skills consistent with same-age peers, but accelerating that learning curve. To accomplish these goals, high-intensity programming is generally indicated. In other words, we need days full of learning!
  • Caregiver involvement. One of the best ways to capture high intensity programming–in addition to capitalizing on therapy hours–is caregiver training. Our families spend so much time with our clients; there are hundreds of opportunities every week to extend treatment! Thus, it’s crucial to include training for family members.
  • Response to intervention. One integral element of Applied Behavior Analysis is measurement. Behavior analysts measure client responses to learning opportunities, a variety of spontaneous responses, occurrences of inappropriate behavior, even the degree to which they deliver treatment strategies accurately! Measuring a client’s response to intervention is critical–we need to know if it’s time to move on to the next skill, or if we need to make adjustments to master the current skill.


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most appropriate programs for people with developmental disabilities are individualized. Best outcomes are achieved by designing tailored programs, based on distinct strengths and needs. ABA isn’t a cookie-cutter set of exercises; rather, programs are designed to meet each person’s individual set of needs. A program’s sole purpose is to help an individual acquire all the skills they need to succeed independently.

Following are the components of a successful program:
  • Assessment and Planning
    A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will assess, design, monitor, and oversee the program. The treatment package will be customized to a learner’s abilities, interests, needs, preferences, and home life. The intake process will begin with–and the program will be based upon–a detailed assessment which will be used, in part, to generate program goals and objectives.
    These goals and objectives are based on the each client’s age and ability level and may include areas such as language and communication, social skills, self-care, motor skills, leisure time, learning, and motor skills. Progress is measured very closely within each session, and the treatment team will regularly meet with one another the client’s family. From there, plans and goals may be adjusted based on the client’s response to intervention.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Philosophies and Techniques
    ABA instructors may use a range of treatment procedures based on individual strengths, needs, and preferences of our clients and their families. Parents augment treatment and extend intervention throughout the day and to other people and settings. Clients with autism and other developmental disabilities will practice and learn skills each day, in natural and planned teaching opportunities.
    Programming includes a rich schedule of positive reinforcement, and individualized intervention packages can be developed to address inappropriate and/or dangerous behavior. Applied Behavior Analysis is a science of human behavior, and can be helpful for all people, of any age, from childhood through adulthood.


Our services are provided by a team of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs©) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs©) in a variety of settings, including clinics in Larimer County and Denver Metro, homes, schools, day treatment facilities, and in the community. In order to become certified in ABA, professionals must:

  • have at least a Master’s degree in behavior analysis or a related field;
  • complete a number of “supervision” hours under the structured guidance of an existing BCBA, as well as passing a certification exam; and
  • maintain that certification by completing a number of continuing education units (CEUs) every two years, and obtaining state licensure in some states.
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Applied Behavior Analysis has been proven effective, according to the American Psychological Association and the U.S. Surgeon General. This evidence-based practice has a rich research literature with decades of use and thousands of studies documenting remarkable effectiveness.

Numerous studies in peer-review research journals have shown Applied Behavior Analysis can improve outcomes for individuals with developmental disabilities, particularly autism. Studies documenting the effects of early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) have demonstrated gains in the areas of language development, intellectual functioning, social functioning, and skills needed for daily living.


In most cases, Applied Behavior Analysis is covered by private insurance. However, coverage depends on the type of insurance a patient has and where they live.  In most states, Medicaid plans must cover medically necessary treatments for those under 21. Typically, if a physician prescribes ABA and deems it medically necessary, it must be covered. Please consult your insurance provider for specific information, or contact us directly to help check your benefits.


Finding and beginning ABA services can be relatively straightforward. Start by consulting a pediatrician or other healthcare provider. Only a medical professional can determine if ABA is suitable for a patient, and they can prescribe the therapy for insurance purposes. Look for a nearby ABA provider or ask the patient’s teachers and doctor for suggestions. Finally, call the provider to set up an evaluation.


When finding ABA therapy and providers, it’s important to find those that fit the patient’s and family’s needs.

The following questions may help families determine whether a program provider is a good fit:

  • How many BCBAs are on staff and can you describe the supervisory process and ratio (should be about 1 hour of supervision for every 5 hours of treatment)?
  • How many RBTs (Registered Behavior Technicians) are on staff and how do they fit into each team?
  • How many providers generally work with each client?
  • What kind of intial and ongoing training to RBTs receive? BCBAs?
  • Describe the BCBA supervision process, frequency, and duration
  • How do providers handle safety issues?
  • What do typical sessions include?
  • Consider setting(s) that best meet your needs and ask if intervention is available in those (e.g., clinic, home, community, school, etc.).
  • How are a client’s goals and objectives determined? Is the family’s input valued? How are differences resolved?
  • Are goals and objectives periodically re-evaluated? If so, how, and for what purpose?
  • How is progress measured? How often? To what end?
  • How much weekly therapy does the program include?
  • Is there a waiting list?
  • Does the program accept our insurance?
Asking these questions and considering the answers will help a family find the right program for their needs.


For people with developmental disabilities, including autism, Applied Behavior Analysis is the intervention of choice. By learning how these programs work, who they can help, and where to find them, families who support people with special needs can find the help they need when they need it.

Contact our office in Fort Collins today to discover how we can serve you. We’re located at 1330 Oakride Drive, Suite 105.