Linking families and individuals with autism to services, care, support and learning resources for more than 10 years.

Applied Behavior Analysis/Discrete Trial/Lovaas Therapy:


ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), also sometimes referred to as “discrete trial” is one of the types of therapy that you may choose to use with your child. Based on the philosophies of Dr. Ivaar Lovaas, it is one therapy that has data to back up its efficacy on children with autism. The therapy, which is based quite a bit on the old theories from B.F. Skinner, used immediate and positive consequences to reward positive behavior. This is the theoretical basis und er which ABA is delivered to children with autism.

Discrete trial and ABA are actually two different things. While ABA is the method, discrete trials are the activities that are conducted in an ABA Program. The activities, or “trials” are conducted with the child to elicit a proper response. It’s basically like a puzzle — these trials are used to teach smaller pieces of a larger concept. Once all of the smaller pieces of the puzzle have been taught, the child will then learn the larger concept — or, will have all of the pieces of the puzzle put together.

AutismLink does not recommend one type of therapy over another. We can, however, tell you that what counts is the amount of time that the child spends ENGA GED with other people. No matter which modality of treatment you choose, you will see your child make progress. There is considerable debate among parents and p rofessionals as to which type of therapy is the “best” or the most effective. Choose what you feel is right for your child. Only you can make that dec ision. You can also choose more than one type of therapy and use a combination approach.

In Pennsylvania, wraparound staff SHOULD BE trained properly in the treatment modalities such as applied behavior analysis, verbal behavior, play therapy/f loortime, RDI (Relationship Development Intervention), etc. Wraparound agencies are responsible for educating their professionals. Make sure that the therapist working with your child has been properly trained. To learn more about other modalities of treatment, click on the autism topics menu on the left.