ABA Techniques for Parents, Teachers and Technicians (RBTS)



Skinner defines operant behaviors as those that are controlled by their consequences. The most effective consequences appear right after the person does the behavior. 4 techniques we use in ABA , and which occur naturally in the environment, are reinforcement, punishment, extinction, and stimulus control.

See the wiki articles which are summarized below

Positive Reinforcment

In this procedure the person receives something they want immediately after they do a behavior. Therefore it is more probable they will do the behavior in the future. At times we will use a reenforcer that is not natural to the situation, such as rewarding a child with an MM or an adult with money (when not at work).

Negative Reinforcement

An unwanted stimulus leaves the environment after the person does a behavior. If the person is cold, and they turn up the heat, the cold goes away.

Positive Punishment

The person receives a stimulus they dont want after they do the behavior, such as their teacher saying No, try again, or a policeman pulling them over and giving them a ticket.

Negative Punishment

The person loses something they like after performing a behavior, such as paying the ticket they received from the officer losing money, or a child losing their desert because they did not eat their vegetables.


When a person does a behavior and it does not result in their desired outcome in that situation, the behavior is less likely to occur again.

Although punishment is a natural reaction to unwanted behavior in others, there is a problem with severe punishment. The person will tend to avoid the teacher or other person who uses punishment, and the person may use aggression of various types against the punisher. We call this counter aggression.

In ABA we use many more reinforcers than punishers. We use them timed in three basic ways or three types of schedules. The most important is called DRA. in which positive behaviors are reenforced with praise and perhaps concrete physical reinforcers immediately after they occur, although this may not happen every time the reenforcer occurs. Very often the positive behaviors are the alternative behaviors we are trying to teach the person to replace unwanted behaviors.

Another schedule of reinforcement is noncontingent reinforcement. We give the person praise and other physical reenforcers so they know we are a source of reinforcement, and so they are relaxed and happy. An example of this might be taking a new friend to a fine restaurant to get to know them. This can also be used as an environmental enrichment technique.

Reinforcement by Time DRO

In DRO we set a certain time period, which could be an hour, a day, or a week, and if a certain unwanted behavior such as aggression does not occur, the person receives praise and perhaps other rewards.

One advantage of DRO is that is fairly simple to do, but it does not increase positive behaviors as well as DRA does. Most people also make the DRO intervals too long. There is a rule, that if you determine how often the unwanted behavior occurs say aggression occurs twice a week presently, the reinforcement must come twice as often as that, say every day.

Token Economy

A very powerful form of positive reinforcement is a token economy, in which people can earn points or credits, sometimes represented as coins or tokens, for positive behaviors, and then cash them in at certain times for a wide choice of prizes. As with money, almost any reinforcer can be sold as part of a token system. DRO, DRA or both can be part of the token economy.

Fading of Reinforcement

A frequent question is whether we have to reward people forever for doing the right behavior. The answer is that it is a good thing to occasionally praise people for good behavior they frequently do,  and probably we would like to see a great deal more praise of good behavior in society in general. However in training new behavior, reinforcement by praise and other reinforcers should be frequent at first, then gradually less (faded) as the person performs the skill independently. The skill will then be maintained by natural reinforcers in the environment and occasional verbal praise from others. 


Youtube Videos

DRA in the Schools:

Positive Reinforcement

On The Big Bang


Reinforce Alternative


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