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  • Writer's pictureDr. Josh Levine, Ph.D., BCBA, LBA

ABA Therapy in Schools: A More Natural Approach than ABA Centers

Updated: Jan 9

fun looking school in pastel colors

The integration of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy into school settings has become increasingly popular and is often considered a more natural and effective approach compared to therapy in contrived environments like ABA therapy centers. This blog post delves into why incorporating ABA therapy in schools can be more beneficial for children, especially those with autism spectrum disorders or other behavioral challenges.

ABA Therapy: School Setting vs. ABA Therapy Center

The Natural Environment of Schools

Familiarity and Comfort

  • Consistency in Daily Routine: Schools offer a regular, familiar environment where children can apply learned behaviors consistently.

  • Comfort in Familiar Surroundings: Familiarity with the school environment can reduce anxiety, making it easier for children to focus on learning.

Social Interaction and Integration

  • Natural Social Opportunities: Schools provide real-world social interactions, helping children develop social skills in a natural context.

  • Peer Modeling: Interaction with peers allows children to observe and mimic socially appropriate behaviors.

Holistic Educational Experience

  • Incorporation into Curriculum: ABA techniques can be seamlessly integrated into the educational curriculum, making learning more holistic.

  • Collaboration with Educators: Teachers and ABA therapists can work together to create a consistent and supportive learning environment.

Contrived Setting of ABA Therapy Centers

Controlled but Less Natural

  • Structured Environment: Therapy centers offer a controlled environment, which can be beneficial but may not replicate real-world scenarios.

  • Limited Social Interaction: Opportunities for natural social interactions are often less in a therapy center compared to a school.

Transition Challenges

  • Applying Skills in Daily Life: Skills learned in a contrived setting might not transfer easily to everyday situations, such as school or home.

  • Adjustment to Different Environments: Children might find it challenging to adjust behaviors learned in therapy centers to other settings.

Why School-Based ABA Therapy is Beneficial

Real-World Application

  • Immediate Application of Skills: Skills learned can be immediately applied in the same environment, enhancing learning.

  • Contextual Learning: Learning in the context where behaviors are expected to occur is more effective.

Consistency and Collaboration

  • Consistent Approach: ABA strategies can be consistently applied throughout the child’s day, not just during therapy sessions.

  • Team Collaboration: A collaborative approach among therapists, teachers, and parents ensures a unified support system.

Emotional and Social Development

  • Enhanced Social Skills: Regular interaction with peers promotes natural social development.

  • Emotional Well-being: Being part of a regular school environment can boost confidence and a sense of belonging.


Integrating ABA therapy within the school setting offers a more natural, consistent, and holistic approach to learning and development for children. This environment provides the added benefit of immediate application of skills, natural social interactions, and a collaborative support system, all of which contribute to a more effective and enjoyable learning experience. While ABA therapy centers play a vital role, the integration of these therapies into school environments aligns more closely with the natural daily experiences of children, thereby enhancing their ability to learn, adapt, and thrive in the real world as they get older.

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