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Behavior Skills Training In Aba Therapy

Discover the human side of ABA therapy with behavior skills training. Uncover practical insights and empathetic approaches to skill development for therapists and clients alike.

mark elias
Mark Elias
December 26, 2023

Understanding Autism and Behavior Skills Training

In order to better support individuals with autism, it is important to understand the concept of autism itself and the role of behavior skills training in their development.

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that it can vary in terms of severity and the specific challenges individuals may face.

People with autism may display a wide range of symptoms, including difficulties in socializing and forming relationships, impairments in verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors or restricted interests, and sensory sensitivities. It is important to note that each individual with autism is unique, and their experiences and abilities can vary greatly.

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The Role of Behavior Skills Training

Behavior Skills Training (BST) is an evidence-based approach used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to teach and develop new skills for individuals with autism. It focuses on breaking down complex skills into smaller, manageable steps and providing systematic instruction and reinforcement to promote skill acquisition.

The main goal of behavior skills training is to improve the functional abilities of individuals with autism, enhance their independence, and help them navigate their daily lives more effectively. By targeting specific behaviors and teaching new skills, behavior skills training aims to improve communication, social interaction, and daily living skills.

Behavior skills training involves several components, including instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback. These components work together to provide individuals with autism the necessary tools and support to learn new skills and apply them in various contexts.

By understanding autism and the role of behavior skills training, individuals with autism and their caregivers can work towards building a foundation for progress and improving overall quality of life. Through targeted interventions and personalized treatment plans, behavior skills training can be a valuable tool in helping individuals with autism reach their fullest potential.

Components of Behavior Skills Training

Behavior Skills Training (BST) is a structured and evidence-based approach used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to teach individuals with autism new skills and behaviors. BST consists of several components that work together to promote skill acquisition and generalization. These components include instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback.


The first component of BST is instruction. During this phase, the behavior therapist provides clear and concise instructions to the individual with autism. The instructions are designed to be easily understood and guide the individual through the desired behavior or skill. The therapist may use visual aids, such as pictures or written prompts, to enhance understanding. Clear and consistent instructions help set the foundation for successful skill acquisition.


Modeling is an essential component of BST. The behavior therapist demonstrates the target behavior or skill for the individual to observe. By observing the therapist's actions, the individual with autism gains a visual representation of the desired behavior. Modeling provides a concrete example and helps the individual understand what is expected of them. It allows them to see the correct execution of the behavior and serves as a guide for their own performance.


After instruction and modeling, the individual with autism engages in rehearsal. During this phase, they have the opportunity to practice the target behavior or skill themselves. The behavior therapist provides guidance and prompts as needed to support the individual in correctly performing the behavior. Rehearsal allows for active participation and repetition, helping to reinforce the learning process. Through repeated practice, the individual becomes more proficient in the desired behavior.


Feedback plays a crucial role in BST. The behavior therapist provides immediate and specific feedback to the individual after each rehearsal. Feedback highlights what was done correctly and provides constructive guidance for areas that need improvement.

Positive reinforcement, such as praise or rewards, may be used to reinforce successful performance. Feedback helps the individual understand their progress, motivates them to continue working on the skill, and allows for adjustments to be made if necessary.

The components of instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback work together to create a comprehensive and effective approach in behavior skills training. By implementing these components in a systematic manner, individuals with autism can acquire new skills and behaviors. BST promotes skill acquisition, generalization of skills to different settings, and maintenance of learned behaviors over time.

Benefits of Behavior Skills Training for Autism

Behavior Skills Training (BST) has proven to be a valuable intervention for individuals with autism. This structured and evidence-based approach offers several benefits that promote skill acquisition, generalization, and maintenance of skills.

Skill Acquisition

One of the key benefits of Behavior Skills Training is its effectiveness in facilitating skill acquisition in individuals with autism. Through the instructional component of BST, individuals are taught new skills systematically and in a step-by-step manner. This approach allows for a clear understanding of the desired behavior and provides ample opportunities for practice and reinforcement.

By breaking down complex skills into smaller, manageable steps, BST helps individuals with autism learn and acquire new skills more effectively. Whether it's developing communication skills, social interaction skills, or daily living skills, the structured nature of BST fosters skill acquisition and enhances overall development.


Generalization is an essential aspect of skill development for individuals with autism. It refers to the ability to apply learned skills across different settings, people, and situations. BST emphasizes generalization by incorporating various strategies such as modeling, rehearsal, and feedback.

During the modeling phase of BST, individuals observe appropriate behaviors being demonstrated in different contexts. This exposure to diverse scenarios helps individuals generalize their skills and apply them in real-life situations. Rehearsal allows individuals to practice the learned skills repeatedly, further promoting generalization.

By incorporating generalization strategies within the framework of BST, individuals with autism can enhance their ability to transfer and apply learned skills to different environments and situations, leading to increased independence and functional abilities.


Maintaining acquired skills over time is crucial for individuals with autism. The structured and ongoing nature of BST helps promote skill maintenance. By providing consistent opportunities for practice and reinforcement, BST ensures that the learned skills are retained and continue to be utilized even after the completion of the training sessions.

Maintenance of skills is reinforced through the use of positive reinforcement techniques, which encourage individuals to continue practicing and utilizing their newly acquired skills. The involvement of caregivers and support networks in the maintenance phase of BST also plays a vital role in providing ongoing support and reinforcement.

By focusing on skill acquisition, generalization, and maintenance, Behavior Skills Training offers individuals with autism the opportunity to develop essential skills that enhance their overall functioning and quality of life.

Implementing Behavior Skills Training

To effectively implement behavior skills training for individuals with autism, it is important to work with a Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who specializes in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. The BCBA will guide the process of developing individualized treatment plans, ensuring consistency, and providing reinforcement as part of the therapeutic approach.

Working with a Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

A BCBA is a trained professional who possesses the necessary expertise to assess, diagnose, and develop treatment plans for individuals with autism. They play a crucial role in implementing behavior skills training by conducting assessments, identifying target behaviors, and designing interventions tailored to the unique needs of each individual.

Collaborating with a BCBA offers several benefits, including their knowledge of evidence-based techniques, their ability to create individualized treatment plans, and their expertise in monitoring progress and making necessary adjustments. By working with a BCBA, individuals with autism and their caregivers can have confidence in the implementation of behavior skills training.

Individualized Treatment Plans

Behavior skills training requires a personalized approach to address the specific needs and goals of each individual with autism. This is achieved through the development of individualized treatment plans. These plans outline the target behaviors, specific strategies to be used, and goals to be achieved.

The BCBA will collaborate with the individual and their caregivers to design a treatment plan that takes into account the individual's unique strengths, challenges, and preferences. The plan may include a range of techniques and interventions, such as reinforcement strategies, prompting methods, and behavior modification techniques.

Consistency and Reinforcement

Consistency is a key factor in the successful implementation of behavior skills training. It is essential to maintain a consistent approach across different settings and individuals involved in the individual's care. This consistency helps individuals with autism generalize skills and behaviors learned during therapy sessions to their everyday life.

Reinforcement is an integral part of behavior skills training. It involves providing positive consequences to increase the likelihood of desired behaviors being repeated. Reinforcement can take various forms, such as praise, rewards, or privileges. The BCBA will guide caregivers on implementing reinforcement strategies effectively. Reinforcement plays a crucial role in skill acquisition, generalization, and maintenance of targeted behaviors.

Through the collaboration with a BCBA and the development of individualized treatment plans, individuals with autism can benefit from the effective implementation of behavior skills training. Consistency and reinforcement play vital roles in the success of this approach, enabling individuals to acquire new skills, generalize them across different settings, and maintain progress over time.

Examples of Behavior Skills Training Techniques

Behavior skills training encompasses a range of techniques designed to help individuals with autism develop and improve various skills. Let's explore some examples of behavior skills training techniques that target communication skills, social skills, and daily living skills.

Communication Skills

Communication skills play a vital role in the overall development and well-being of individuals with autism. Behavior skills training can help enhance communication abilities through various techniques, including:

  • Speech Therapy: Speech-language pathologists use evidence-based techniques to improve speech production, articulation, and language comprehension. They may employ strategies such as visual supports, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, and social stories to promote effective communication.
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): PECS is a method that uses visual aids to support communication. It involves teaching individuals to exchange pictures or symbols to express their needs and desires, gradually transitioning to more complex communication.
  • Verbal Behavior Therapy: This approach focuses on teaching functional language skills by breaking down communication into different operants, such as requesting, labeling, and responding to questions.

Social Skills

Developing social skills is crucial for individuals with autism to engage in meaningful interactions and build relationships. Behavior skills training can help individuals acquire and strengthen social skills through techniques such as:

  • Social Stories: Social stories are narratives that describe social situations, providing individuals with autism with guidance on appropriate behavior and social expectations. These stories can help individuals understand social cues, emotions, and appropriate responses.
  • Video Modeling: Video modeling involves watching videos that demonstrate desired social behaviors. Individuals with autism can learn by observing and imitating the behaviors displayed in the videos.
  • Social Skills Training Groups: These groups provide structured opportunities for individuals with autism to practice social skills in a supportive environment. Participants engage in activities designed to improve skills such as turn-taking, listening, and initiating conversations.

Daily Living Skills

Daily living skills, also known as adaptive skills, encompass a wide range of abilities necessary for independent living. Behavior skills training can focus on teaching and improving daily living skills such as:

  • Self-Care Skills: This includes activities like personal hygiene, dressing, grooming, and using the toilet independently. Behavior skills training can involve breaking down these skills into smaller steps and providing visual prompts and reinforcement to facilitate skill acquisition.
  • Household Chores: Behavior skills training can be used to teach individuals with autism how to perform household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and organizing their living spaces. Breaking down these tasks into manageable steps and using visual supports can aid in skill development.
  • Community Skills: Behavior skills training can help individuals learn skills necessary for community participation, such as crossing the street safely, using public transportation, and following rules while shopping or dining out. Role-playing, visual supports, and real-life practice can be valuable techniques in this context.

By utilizing behavior skills training techniques tailored to specific needs, individuals with autism can enhance their communication, social, and daily living skills. Working closely with professionals in the field, such as certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the training process.


In wrapping up our discussion on behavior skills training in ABA therapy, let's reflect on the human side of this invaluable approach. Beyond the techniques and protocols, it's about empowering individuals—both therapists and clients—to grow, connect, and thrive.

Behavior skills training embodies the essence of ABA, bringing together empathy, understanding, and practical techniques to create meaningful change. As therapists, we embark on a journey of continuous learning, adapting our skills to suit the unique needs of those we support.

Let's celebrate the human connections forged through behavior skills training—the aha moments, the small victories, and the shared progress toward a brighter, more fulfilling future. Here's to the heart of ABA therapy, where skills training becomes a catalyst for positive transformation, one human connection at a time.