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What Is ABA?

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is the science of human behaviour. It offers a methodology for analysing behaviour in order to better understand its’ function; this information is then used to guide teaching and make positive behaviour change. The ABA curriculum is tailored to each students’ strengths and needs; with targets set from a range of assessments which are continually monitored to ensure each student reaches their full potential.

ABA offers a set of guiding principles which are used to develop teaching programmes based on Skinner’s (1957) analysis of language – Verbal Behaviour (VB). All teaching is evidence-based, taken from the behaviour analytic literature.

Teaching Principles

  • We pair teaching environments and stimuli with reinforcement
  • We build and confirm our students’ motivation
  • We fade in the number and difficulty of demands
  • We teach across the verbal operants
  • We use individualised reinforcement schedules
  • We use errorless teaching procedures
  • We use a fast pace of instruction
  • We generalise skills to the natural environment
  • We implement extinction to reduce challenging behaviour

Challenging Behaviour

Often, children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can display a range of challenging behaviours, which may interfere with their progress and learning. Behaviour reduction plans are developed to ensure these challenging behaviours are diminished to a point where they no longer act as barriers for our students. The principles of extinction and reinforcement are used to reduce maladaptive behaviours and teach the appropriate replacement behaviours. Where a student is in danger of harming themselves or others they will be safeguarded by trained staff.


Each student has an individualised programme which is constantly re-assessed and developed in order to help reach their full potential. The primary focus of each programme is to develop: functional language and communication, play and social skills, group learning and independent living skills. We use a range of tailored assessments and curriculums to teach our students and where possible/relevant elements of the national curriculum will also be incorporated.


Within the first two weeks of a VB programme each student is assessed on the VB MAPP (Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Programme); this baseline assessment is used to guide the development of each students’ individualised programme.
As a student progresses through the curriculum, other assessments – such as the ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learner Skills) and the EFL (Essentials for Living) – are introduced to ensure their individual learning needs are being met.


As our students’ mature it is important we begin to focus on a more functional curriculum, in order to promote independence. Assessments include the EFL (Essentials for Living) and the AFLS (Assessment of Functional Living Skills) so as to target these crucial life-skills for each student.

Assessments are a daily, ongoing process; however, each student will have at least one formal re-assessment every 6 months to document progress and guide which curriculum best suits their development.

Data Collection and Record Keeping

A range of data is collected and graphed daily on every element of each individual programme; this helps to best track both learning progression and the reduction of challenging behaviour:

  • Mand data – this records the various requests a student makes throughout the day, whether it was prompted or spontaneous and in what form e.g. vocal, sign, picture
  • ABC data – this records every instance of challenging behaviour a student engages in throughout the day, what the cause was, what consequence followed it and the total duration
  • Probe data – this records the first time a skill is completed that day (prior to teaching), a Y (yes) will be marked if the student completes the skill independently, correctly and within an allocated period of time
  • Trial by Trial data – this records how many times a student completes a skill independently and correctly throughout the day

Guiding Principles and Aims

The VB department has a number of guiding principles and aims. These underpin the philosophy behind the successful Carbone Clinic; developed by Dr Vincent Carbone who, along with his associates, trained the staff at Treetops to apply these principles to each students’ learning.

Guiding Principles

  • We believe every learner has the potential to develop skills beyond their current level and should be free of behaviours and activities that cause injury, pain or limit opportunities for full community involvement.
  • We will teach functional communication skills and other skills that will lead to rewarding personal relationships, well-being, vocational productivity and self-determined daily activities.
  • We rely on the literature of the science of applied behaviour analysis and its underlying assumptions to guide our analysis of learner needs and our recommendations of effective treatment and instruction.
  • Functional communication is the foundation that supports the development of skills in all areas and therefore B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behaviour and the supporting empirical work guides our treatment and instructional recommendations.
  • The choice of instructional methods will be guided by reliable data which are gathered and analysed on a schedule sufficient to make informed decisions.
  • We recognise that parents/carers are the child’s first educators and that their expertise in their child is of paramount importance to us.
  • The links between home, school and external agencies are crucial to fully support the all round development of the child.


  • To provide quality ABA services to children with ASD or difficulties in social communication, offering a curriculum that recognises children as individuals and allowing each of them to reach their full learning potential.
  • To provide a safe and secure environment where children have the confidence to develop new relationships and experience new learning opportunities.
  • To foster the partnership between home and school, including (where appropriate) programme development in both settings and in the community.
  • To teach socially significant behaviours, enabling the children to integrate as fully as possible into the curriculum.


The VB department is managed by Jane Flatt (VB Manager), who has extensive experience in ASD approaches and also runs the Outreach service that Treetops offers, supporting children, staff and parents in other settings.

Each students’ programme and behaviour reduction plan is overseen by Rianna Ritchie (BCBA) and Amy Clifford (BCaBA) who also offer support and supervision for each class instructor and senior to develop these programmes and behaviour reduction procedures effectively.

Tutors are assigned to implement each students’ programme. These staff are provided with continuous on-the-job training and supervision to ensure the best service possible is being provided for every students’ learning and progression. An RBT (Registered Behaviour Technician) qualification is now being offered for experienced staff in order to extend the training, experience and knowledge-base at Treetops.