April Newsletter | Celebrating Differences Through ABA

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Celebrating Differences Through ABA 

April and May are important months in our community: April is National Autism Acceptance Month, and May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. What do they have in common? Both months provide opportunities for us to celebrate differences, and principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can help! Read on for helpful ideas to implement in your classroom.


Applied Behavior Analysis is a teaching strategy based in clinical research and learning theory. The goal of ABA is to teach and improve meaningful skills like communication, interpersonal relationship skills, academics, and adaptive learning skills. ABA instructional methods of discrete trial training, pivotal response training and teaching functional routines form the instructional base of the STAR and Links comprehensive programs for children with autism.

One unique feature of all STAR and Links curricula is their strengths-based approach. Both curricula seek to identify students’ current and future strengths, desired outcomes, and methods and materials for capitalizing on students’ abilities.

It’s important to remember that engagement and motivation often hinge on students’ interest; providing choices and acknowledging preferences in all activities and routines can help keep lessons fresh and engaging.

Click here to see all of the routines taught in Links.

Choice, Advocacy, and Independence

As all kids get older, and especially for students using STAR and Links, they are taught self-advocacy skills and are included in conversations and decisions surrounding their learning. The power of choice and decision-making—whether as significant as an IEP or as routine as a snack—can impact how students view their environments, the people around them, and themselves. Check out our Participating in an IEP Meeting routine booklet, the snack choice wheel (English | Español) and the snack food icons (English | Español).

It is worth noting that while Applied Behavior Analysis does include some behavior modification, not all behaviors need to be modified. Autistic advocates often describe self-stimulation behaviors (or “stimming”) such as rocking, flapping hands, or playing with a fidget toy as a critical piece of self-regulation. When identifying which behaviors actually need to be adjusted, consider (and always ask!) what behaviors are socially significant to the student, and have ongoing conversations with parents and caregivers.

Speech-Language Pathology and ABA

ABA is a flexible scaffolding on which many modes of teaching and learning can build. While teaching with ABA can become almost second-nature to teachers using STAR and Links, speech-language pathologists can incorporate ABA in a variety of ways in their practice as well:

  • STAR Learning Profile and Links Lesson Assessment. Use these assessment tools alongside the classroom teacher to identify students’ present levels of performance, identify IEP goals, and formulate objectives. Check out the STAR Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Behavioral Objectives when writing IEP goals. 
  • Support and Implement Pivotal Response Training. Speech-language pathologists can provide suggestions on creating more language opportunities—for individual students, small group instruction, and classroom-wide activities—by using ABA scaffolding strategies and working on language articulation.
  • Augmented and Alternative Communication Devices. Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices can benefit people with autism and other disabilities by opening doors to independence and social interactions. However, many students struggle when learning to use AAC. Using Discrete Trial and Pivotal Response Training can help this learning process; consider using Themes First! to guide small-groups that incorporate receptive and expressive language. Get started with our Springtime Fun Circle Activity!