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The 7 Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis is based on core principles of behavior and learning. We recognize these as crucial dimensions. So, you may be wondering, what exactly are the seven dimensions that make up Applied Behavior Analysis, otherwise known as ABA?

The seven dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis are the foundational principles that make ABA successful at improving the lives of those on the autism spectrum. These are:

  1. Generality
  2. Effective
  3. Technological
  4. Applied
  5. Conceptually Systematic
  6. Analytic
  7. Behavioral

But before we understand the dimensions of ABA, we need to recognize what ABA is and what it is not.

What Is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

ABA is an evidence-based treatment approach that helps individuals with autism increase significant behaviors while reducing those that can be harmful or hinder learning. ABA employs autism professionals like Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) and Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). They work to understand the variables that influence behavior and create strategies that foster independence. The methods employed to increase independence are based on decades of research and analysis. BCBAs design therapy plans based on evidence, keeping the child’s best interest at the forefront of treatment. At the core of all ABA therapy are the seven dimensions of ABA.

Where Did the 7 Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis Come From?

Foundational ABA researchers Donald Beare, Todd Risley, and Montrose Wolf published an article titled “Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis,” which characterized the seven criteria BCBAs should consider for meaningful change. Below we will explore seven dimensions of ABA and why they are vital for effective behavioral treatment.


Take a moment to reflect on how you learned math and reading. How did you learn your letters, colors, turn-taking, and teeth brushing? You may have watched your parents do it, or you might have known it from Sesame Street. It is likely that when you learned the color pink off a color card in preschool, you could also recognize pink as the color of barbie’s dress at Target. Through exposure to the color, you generalized the skill. Generalizing means you learned and maintained the skill over an extended period, across environments and people, and now you’re able to apply it to a wide variety of people and settings.

It was likely that you were able to recite ABCs to your parents and do it years later for your third-grade teacher. You learned STOP and could read the word in many contexts. You may not have required additional training or support to learn these valuable skills. However, for individuals with autism, automatically generalizing learned skills as described is a challenge. ABA can help by teaching your child to generalize skills. For example, to learn about dogs, a therapist might present a picture of a German shepherd in the snow and a chihuahua at the beach to teach “dog” so the child can see that there is more than just one kind of dog. This awareness of alternatives makes a child more conscious of different settings and possibilities.


For a treatment approach to be effective, it must be meaningful to the client, their friends, and community. BCBAs will create behavioral goals based on the client’s passions and priorities. Behavior changes should also reflect the culture of the client’s family and community. The goal is to create independence so clients can participate in their communities. Socially significant behaviors make that possible, which must come from effective therapy plans.

Because every child with autism is different, what might be efficient for one learner may not be for another. For example, it is socially significant to train an 18-month-old to toilet train. However, it is of utmost importance and urgency to teach it to an eight-year-old. It would have a significant impact on their life if they did not previously have that skill.


Replication is an essential aspect of behavior analysis. Applied Behavior Analysis is evidence-based because its results have been replicated across providers for several decades. When developing a therapy plan, technology means that techniques and instructions are written so anyone can understand and implement them properly.


For treatment to meet the “applied” dimension of behavior analysis, it must be of social significance. For example, it is unlikely that teaching a child to tap dance is as socially significant as it is to teach them to address a stop sign and look both ways.

Targeted treatment goals are important because they have been deemed necessary to the individual and their family. What is socially significant will depend on their needs. Focusing on skills that allow individuals to function within their society and environment is imperative. To be warranted, behavior modifications must add considerable value to the child’s life. BCBAs are not going to make behavior modifications for every behavior. Kids are kids, and fun is essential!

Conceptually Systematic

When a program is conceptually systematic, it is based on the core principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. For example, therapy must always include reinforcement because reinforcement is a pillar of behavior analysis.


BCBAs and RBTs are constantly analyzing data. Data is collected every session, and clinicians use it to find patterns and correlations in behaviors and environment. These patterns will show progress and areas for improvement. For example, a BCBCA creates an intervention to decrease challenging behavior by reinforcing appropriate behaviors. If behavior problems diminish over time, the procedure is adequate.


In ABA, a behavior must be measurable and observable to be modified correctly. If the behavior can be seen, it can be measured. Providers study what can be influenced by the environment. It is imperative to remember that the term behavior does not equate to “bad” or “unwanted” behavior. Behavior is every action we take.

Why Are These 7 Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis Essential?

The seven dimensions of ABA are vital for preserving the integrity of an ABA therapy plan. Comprehending these dimensions within your son or daughter’s treatment goals will ensure more valuable changes and a more profound impact on their lives. When selecting a therapy program, ask questions that include these seven dimensions of ABA. Inquire how you can support integrating these dimensions into everyday life.

How Can ABA Centers of Florida Help Me?

ABA Centers of Florida can work with your family to create a program that meets your specific needs and goals. Our goal at ABA Centers of Florida is to provide your child with the best ABA therapy and autism services available. We offer home-based and community-based options that are individualized for your child. Call for a free consultation on ABA therapy or visit abacentersFL.com!

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