Contemporary ABA at Hawkswood School

In an effort to remain current and competitive in our educational programming, Hawkswood School has embraced a framework of Contemporary Applied Behavior Analysis (Contemporary ABA).

This change occurred gradually throughout the 2013-2014 school year and was completed in the fall of 2014 with the introduction of functional behavior assessments (FBAs) as a critical part of our behavior intervention plans.

You probably have not noticed any obvious changes in your child’s educational program. The reason for such continuity in programming is that the elements of the SCERTS model fit into the Contemporary ABA framework. Your child’s educational program is still driven by the content of his/her IEP and our desire to provide a full continuum of educational services that assist all of our learners in experiencing success in regard to the skills and competencies of the Common Core with the belief that our students should have the opportunity to develop workplace readiness skills.

Where did Contemporary ABA come from?

  • Contemporary ABA grew out of current research on social development, communication, and learning styles in both typically developing students and students with learning differences and autism spectrum disorders.
  • Consideration was also given to the core skill deficits in autism spectrum disorders (specifically, social, communication, and behavior regulation).

What is Contemporary ABA?

  • Contemporary ABA is a practice that has been heavily influenced by language and play development.
  • In this model, emphasis is placed on individualized and positive approaches in regard to both academic and self-care skill acquisition and managing challenging behaviors.
  • It is similar to other developmentally based practices including SCERTS and Floortime as it encourages and supports incidental teaching and positive behavioral supports.
  • A way of looking at skills and behaviors that acknowledges that every behavior or skill takes place in a given environment, under certain conditions, and with the expectation that some reaction will occur afterward.

What are the Priorities in Contemporary ABA?

  • Functional and spontaneous communication
  • Social skills instruction in the natural environment as well as specifically designed learning opportunities
  • Play skills that include both peers and recreational/ leisure activities
  • Instruction that leads to generalization and maintenance in the Natural Environment
  • A functional approach to academics that will support real-world life skills

What Contemporary ABA is not…

  • Discrete trial teaching
  • Isolated, teacher-led instruction
  • Compliance training
  • Aversive or punishment-based behavior management

Cornerstones of Contemporary ABA

  • Antecedent-Based Interventions
  • Differential Reinforcement
  • Structured Teaching
  • Task Analysis, Chaining, Shaping, and Total Task Instruction
  • Extinction
  • Functional Behavior Assessment
  • Functional Communication Training
  • Naturalistic Intervention (Interaction techniques and behavioral strategies designed to encourage specific target behaviors based on the learner’s interests)
  • Prompting
  • Reinforcement Response Interruption/Redirection
  • Social Stories, Scripts, and Narratives
  • Augmentative Communication
  • Visual Supports


Paul, R. (2008). Interventions to Improve Communication. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 17(4), 835–x. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2008.06.011

Prizant, B. M., Wetherby, A. M., Rubin, E., & Laurent, A. C. (2003). The SCERTS Model: A transactional, family-centered approach to enhancing communication and socioemotional abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder. Infants & Young Children, 16(4), 296-316.

Prizant, B. M. (2009). Is ABA the only way?. Social Thinking.


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