8 Important ABA Techniques for Kids with Autism

By Natalie Schad | 29 February, 2024
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Supporting a child with autism means finding paths that lead to growth. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) shines as one such path, blending science with care to guide children toward better communication, learning, and social skills. In this article, we’ll go over eight essential ABA interventions and explain how each one can help your child’s journey.

Overview of Techniques Used in ABA Therapy

Modern ABA therapy relies on a variety of methods and strategies. The most popular ABA techniques for parents and caregivers are focused on improving the following aspects:

  • Social skills
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Focus

Surely, each child is unique, so not every technique will be equally helpful. Although there are advantages and disadvantages to ABA, most children tend to respond well to one or a combination of these strategies.

1. Positive Reinforcement

First on this list of ABA techniques is positive reinforcement. It’s a method that rewards children for displaying behaviors we want to encourage. 

This approach taps into what motivates your child — be it praise, a favorite snack, or extra playtime — to make good behavior more likely to happen again. Basically, it’s about helping them understand the connection between their actions and positive outcomes.

For example, after your child shares their toys with a sibling, you can praise them with a warm hug and say, “Sharing like that is so kind!” This immediate positive response is likely to motivate them to share more often.

2. Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

The Early Start Denver Model is an interactive therapy technique for autistic toddlers and preschoolers. It stands out by weaving together learning opportunities within playful activities, and it targets essential cognitive, language, and social skills. ESDM is grounded in the principles of ABA therapy techniques but delivered through joyful and engaging play.

Try this: when you and your child play with a ball, take turns rolling it. Each time it’s your turn, say, “My turn,” and encourage your child to do the same. This simple game teaches sharing, turn-taking, and using words to communicate, all wrapped up in fun.

3. Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

DTT is a methodical approach and one of the most popular ABA intervention examples, particularly useful when you want to break down complex skills into more manageable steps.

DTT is great when teaching a child a variety of daily tasks, like tying their shoelaces, greeting others, or independently washing their hands. Start by breaking down the task into steps:

  1. Turning on the water
  2. Applying soap
  3. Rubbing hands
  4. Rinsing

Prompt the child through each step and reinforce successful rounds. 

You can also try DTT by making the bed in the morning. Smaller steps, such as straightening the sheets, fluffing the pillows, and arranging their stuffed animals, can be part of your routine. When a skill is learned effectively, you’ll see progress within 8–10 teaching sessions, while a lack of progress signals it may be time to make some adjustments to the method.

4. Modeling

Visual modeling is where you (or a therapist) act out the behavior you want your child to learn. It’s among the most important ABA therapy techniques for autism, as it’s especially effective for kids who grasp concepts better by seeing them in action rather than through verbal instructions. Also, this approach is particularly effective in managing aggressive behavior.

Take cleaning up toys, for example. You could say, “Let’s clean up. Watch me put the toys away,” and proceed to do so. By doing this, you’re encouraging your child to mimic your actions.

During meals, a therapist might demonstrate proper table manners, such as using utensils correctly and saying “please” and “thank you.” Your child is probably going to start imitating these behaviors after observing them.

In social settings, like playdates, both you and the therapist can model sharing and polite communication. Your child sees these ABA techniques examples and is encouraged to replicate the positive behaviors with their peers.

5. Natural Environment Teaching (NET)

Although it can be challenging at times, NET is very beneficial in ABA therapy because it makes use of real-world environments as the backdrop for learning. This approach teaches skills where they naturally occur through activities that a child enjoys and participates in on a daily basis.  

For instance, a lesson on numbers and quantities can happen in the kitchen, where a child can help measure ingredients for a recipe. This method guarantees that skills generalize from classroom to playground and reinforces learning by doing.

6. Antecedent-Based Interventions (ABI)

ABA antecedent interventions alter the environment to stop challenging behaviors before they happen by changing their triggers. This strategy in ABA therapy works by identifying and modifying the specific conditions that lead to undesirable actions. 

Suppose bright lights tend to make your child uneasy. Dimming the lights or using softer, natural lights before they settle down for a reading session can create a more comforting atmosphere and ultimately help them engage more peacefully with the task at hand.

Moreover, antecedent interventions are one of the key ABA techniques for tantrums. Once you identify what triggers these outbursts, implementing changes immediately can significantly reduce their occurrence.

7. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

PECS is a method designed to aid non-verbal individuals in expressing themselves using images.

This approach allows children to communicate their wants and needs by handing over a picture of an item or activity to someone else, thereby overcoming the limitations imposed by traditional language. PECS alleviates the frustration that often comes with being unable to express thoughts or desires clearly, as seen in children who exhibit head-banging behaviors.

For example, a child could use PECS cards to select toys or games. If they want to play with building blocks, they simply hand over a card depicting blocks to you or a playmate. This way, they can clearly communicate their choice without needing to verbalize it. 

8. Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)

Among the many types of ABA interventions, PRT is a naturalistic intervention that targets the motivation and self-initiation areas of a child’s development. It has proven to be very effective in developing useful social skills for kids with autism. 

You can apply PRT by reinforcing the child’s self-initiating expression of emotions. Encourage them to appropriately convey their feelings, whether it’s happiness, frustration, or excitement. PRT is also useful for expressing preferences or dislikes, asking to join group activities, problem-solving during play, or sharing personal experiences.

The Importance of Exercise

Incorporating physical activity into ABA therapy sessions can only have positive effects on your child’s behavior and overall well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress, and contributes to a healthier lifestyle. 

Through exercise and play, you can introduce more ABA techniques for autism, like chaining, which involves breaking down a process into a sequence of teachable skills that link well together. Unlike DTT, which is great for teaching steps of each skill, chaining links learned skills into activity. 

You can try it next time when leaving the house to go play outside. Start by having your child dress themselves, then add picking up a ball from the garage, leading the way to the park, and so on.

Mastering ABA Therapy Techniques at Home 

Turning your home into a supportive learning environment improves your child’s progress in ABA therapy. Integrating ABA strategies into your daily routines and working with therapists will provide you with the necessary tools and knowledge. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Stick to a consistent approach. Use the same cues for tasks and the same rewards for achievements as the therapist.
  • Arm yourself with patience. Recognize that change is a marathon, not a sprint, and every small step forward is a win.
  • Sync up with the ABA child therapist. Regularly update on what works and what doesn’t. Home practices should complement therapy goals.
  • Start with clear prompts for new tasks, then gradually step back as your child gains confidence. This will encourage them to tackle tasks independently.
  • Mirror the therapy’s positive reinforcement at home and celebrate the behaviors you want to see more of. Your child will feel supported and understood on all fronts.

Final Remarks

As parents, you naturally want the best for your child, and learning about these successful ABA techniques is the first step on the journey of their development. Don’t feel discouraged if not all techniques work out for you. Reaching out and getting personalized ABA therapy services is another way to positively impact the life of your child. 


What are the techniques of ABA?

ABA therapy interventions are structured methods that use positive reinforcement and learning environments to improve communication, social skills, and learning behaviors. Examples include reinforcement systems, Discrete Trial Training, Pivotal Response Training, and Natural Environment Teaching. 

If you keep hearing about ABA but do not quite understand what the ABA method of therapy is, you can reach out to a center near you, on top of educating yourself. The ABA method of therapy helps you to analyze behaviors under specific conditions and apply interventions that improve social, communicative, and learning outcomes based on measurable changes in behavior.

What are the two teaching methods of ABA?

The two primary teaching methods of ABA are:

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT), which breaks down learning into clear steps, and 
  • Natural Environment Teaching (NET), which emphasizes learning through natural play and interactions within everyday settings.