ABA in the Classroom: Ideas for Teachers

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) uses the scientific principles of learning and motivation in order to effectively teach.  ABA in the classroom, whether in a 1:1 setting or integrated in a public school classroom setting, presents children with a variety of developmental disabilities a chance to learn at their maximum capacity while keeping inappropriate and disruptive behaviors at a minimum.  Again, ABA caters to children (and adults) with a variety of problems including those with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and many more; therefore ABA therapy is tailored to fit an individuals unique needs.


ABA in the classroom can look different depending on the classroom setting and the needs of each individual but there are some practical ideas for teachers in every setting that are effective in decreasing problem behaviors while teaching skills and lessons.  These include, but are not limited to, visual aids and schedules, sensory breaks, token boards/reinforcement schedules, and social stories.


A visual schedule can be crucial for children who like routine and like to know what comes next.  It prepares them for the next activity and allows them to be a step ahead.  This can be a classroom schedule that is posted on the classroom board or an individual schedule on the students desk.  Knowing which activity comes next, especially non-preferred activities, can significantly reduce problem behaviors.


Visual Aids are also extremely helpful for children who need a little extra help.  Visual aids can help with most skills and tasks and can vary greatly in the way they look and what they help with.  For example, their is a child who has trouble remembering the steps to wash her hands after lunch.  Her teacher created a visual aid that she carries with her to lunch.  This aid is simply a small index card that has a list of each step to washing hands.  Another example of a visual aid is a small card with velcro on a student’s desk that says “raise hand.”  This kind of visual aid can act as a prompt to a child who blurts out answers or questions and remind them to raise their hand first.  Again, there are many different kinds of visual aids to help with a variety of skills and tasks so get creative!


Sensory breaks or sensory fidgets are another practical idea for teachers to help accommodate the special needs of their students.  Sensory fidgets for students at their desk can help them focus and stay on task.  These can include a strip of soft velcro on the side of the desk that they can rub or a band that stretches from one chair leg to the other for their feet.  Sensory breaks are another option for children who seem to benefit from sensory input.  A sensory break could include earning a token to have access to the classroom rocking chair or having a scheduled time to go outside and swing.  Each child has a unique set of sensory needs and while some children benefit from a more calming input, others benefit from a more alerting input.  Sensory fidgets and sensory breaks are a great way to help a child with sensory issues get back on the “right track.”


Token boards, which allow a child to earn “tokens” for a preferred item or activity, can be just the motivation they need to get through their math problems or stay quiet during lunch time.  Token boards are easy to make and are a practical way to provide a student with that extra push to stay on task and decrease problem behavior.


For a teacher who has a child that requires a little extra help learning and managing their behavior, these ideas are a great start.  They not only decrease problem behavior but they also build the foundation for effective learning!







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