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General overview

ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), also known as the Lovaas method, is an early intervention program for the support of children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). It aims in particular to modify the child's behaviour in order to enable him or her to acquire greater autonomy. 


Of American origin, applied behavioural analysis (ABA) is one of the recommendations of the High Authority of Health (HAS) for the support of autistic children, as are the Denver and TEACCH methods. 

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Main objectives of the method

It is therefore a question of facilitating the learning of new behaviours 

  • Motor skills and attention

  • Language, and even reading and writing.

  • Games and activities

​Limiting some unwanted self-harm and anger behaviours

Specificities of the method

The method is based primarily on a detailed observation of the ASD child's behaviour by a psychologist, who identifies behaviours that are considered harmful. 


The therapist then defines the framework that parents and educators must provide to the child in an intensive way, to help him/her progress in speaking, playing and interacting with others.

More concretely, we will teach the child small simple gestures, which together can compose the desired behaviours. The teaching is less structured, i.e. less based on repetition, habits and a common time frame than the TEACCH method.


The method must be carried out intensively. It requires 20 to 30 hours of involvement per week and this for several years (at least 2 or 3 years). It is therefore necessary for the child to be accompanied by different people on a daily basis.


Positive reinforcement is one of the specific features of the method 

"Positive reinforcement is the presentation of a reinforcing agent immediately after the emission of a behaviour. It is the presentation of this reinforcing agent that will increase the frequency of the behaviour's appearance." (see detailed article here)

The method assumes that ASD children do not have a "natural" motivation similar to other children (could be related to a difference in the secretion of neurotransmitters such as dopamine) and that positive reinforcements must therefore be added if we want to help the child move in a certain direction.

Who is this method for ?

ABA is part of the early intervention programs for children with autism. The method works most effectively if the child is cared for as early as possible.

What parents say about it

Its high cost: the ABA method is not reimbursed. Psychologist consultations and training hours are entirely at the parents' expense (see


The ABA method requires an intensive investment from parents, who are often forced to reduce their working time to devote themselves to the child's training.

To know more about the topic

The Norwegian psychologist and initiator of the ABA method Ivar Lovaas found a very promising result in his first experiment: 47% of the children in the study who were initially autistic would have reached a normal level of intellectual development and would be able to enter mainstream primary schools. However, more recent studies challenge this figure and show that the rate of integration into the mainstream school system is lower than 47%:


"Studies converge to consider that the efficiency of ABA focuses primarily on cognition, language and the reduction of problem behaviours. Inclusive education is a more difficult result to produce: the children who succeed in it are only a small part of them," say Jean-Claude Maleval, Michel Grollier in their article

Any remarks or comments ?

This work is based on a collaborative approach to sharing research and family experience.

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