Highly structured comprehensive early intervention programs for children with ASDs, such as the Young Autism Project developed by Lovaas at the University of California Los Angeles, rely heavily on discrete trial training (DTT) methodology, but this is only one of many techniques used within the realm of ABA. DTT methods are useful in establishing learning readiness by teaching foundation skills such as attention, compliance, imitation, and discrimination learning, as well as a variety of other skills. However, DTT has been criticized because of problems with generalization of learned behaviors to spontaneous use in natural environments and because the highly structured teaching environment is not representative of natural adult-child interactions. Traditional ABA techniques have been modified to address these issues. Naturalistic behavioral interventions, such as incidental teaching and natural language paradigm/pivotal response training, may enhance generalization of skills.
Functional behavior analysis, or functional assessment, is an important aspect of behaviorally based treatment of unwanted behaviors. Most problem behaviors serve an adaptive function of some type and are reinforced by their consequences, such as attainment of (1) adult attention, (2) a desired object, activity, or sensation, or (3) escape from an undesired situation or demand. Functional assessment is a rigorous, empirically based method of gathering information that can be used to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of behavioral support interventions. It includes formulating a clear description of the problem behavior (including frequency and intensity); identifying the antecedents, consequences, and other environmental factors that maintain the behavior; developing hypotheses that specify the motivating function of the behavior; and collecting direct observational data to test the hypothesis. Functional analysis also is useful in identifying antecedents and consequences that are associated with increased frequency of desirable behaviors so that they can be used to evoke new adaptive behaviors.