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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 1)

Natural environment training can require more creative and immediate responding for children with autism spectrum disorder as compared to structured discrete trial training. When ABA providers are recommending strategies to parents that they can incorporate into daily life, finding ways to incorporate ABA concepts into the family’s everyday activities is recommended.

The benefit of recommending that parents incorporate ABA concepts into their everyday routines and activities allows parents to help their child generalize skills targeted in ABA intervention into the home and community environments. It also allows for parents to catch onto behavioral management and skill acquisition strategies that they can continue to utilize in life even without having formal ABA intervention or having to set aside time out of their probably already busy life to “work on” skills.

Remembering what ABA is and being open to new ideas and applications of ABA concepts will help ABA providers as they work with parents to create optimal plans for increasing skills and decreasing maladaptive behaviors.

For more guidance on ABA parent training, go to


ABA is “the science in which tactics derived from the principles of behavior are applied to improve socially significant behavior and experimentation is used to identify the variables responsible for the improvement in behavior (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2014).”

ABA also focuses on the 7 dimensions of applied behavior analysis (Baer, Wolf, Risley, 1968). These 7 dimensions include:

  • Generalization: the child learns to be able to display the skill outside of just the initial training setting
  • Effective: intervention actually works
  • Technological: intervention strategies are clearly defined
  • Applied: behaviors are selected that are socially significant and important for the client
  • Conceptually Systematic: intervention is based on quality literature and research
  • Analytic: progress is monitored, and modifications are based on data
  • Behavior: behavior is objective and measurable

Behavior analysts also reference the task list and are familiar with the concepts identified in this document from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.


Regarding the 7 dimensions, when ABA providers are giving recommendations to parents, they should remember the following tips:

  • GENERALIZATION: Inform parents that practicing the skill in different settings helps the child to learn and maintain skills.
  • EFFECTIVE: Be sure to follow up with parents on how the strategies are working.
  • APPLIED: Collaborate with parents on finding socially significant goals. What goals are important to the family? What goals will help the client improve his overall quality of life?
  • CONCEPTUALLY SYSTEMATIC: Make recommendations that have research support for their effectiveness.
  • ANALYTIC: Ask parents to document or help them document progress on the identified goals.
  • BEHAVIOR: When selecting socially significant goals, make the goals measurable.

Although ABA providers often incorporate the 7 dimensions in direct ABA services, it is also important to consider how the 7 dimensions are incorporated into ABA parent training.


Applied Behavior Analysis, 2nd Edition. John O. Cooper, Timothy E. Heron, & William L. Heward, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 1(1), 91–97. doi:10.1901/jaba.1968.1-91

Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 1)

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2019). Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 1). Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from