Market Field School

Market Field School

Learning For Life

What is ABA and why do we use it?


Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is perhaps best described as the 'science of learning'. Like most sciences, Behaviour Analysis involves both basis scientific research and the use of that scientific knowledge to help people in the real world. At MFS we use the practical element of this science. ABA uses knowledge and understanding of the science of behaviour to help us teach new skills and help children achieve significant goals in life.

ABA is used across a variety of settings including in large organisations and even at societal level. It is the route of any number of well known teaching interventions including PECS, behaviour contracts and token 'I am working for' systems. It is also used to help children with Autism learn vital life and communication skills which is our focus in the use of ABA at MFS.

ABA can often be used to identify the reason for a behaviour which is damaging to a pupil's opportunities to engage with their environment. For example, we might investigate episodes of physical aggression and find that the behaviour is actually being used as a way to escape an environment the child is finding it difficult to be part of. With this knowledge we can then move forwards and teach functional methods to achieve the same goal. In this case we might teach the child to request a break. 

ABA at MFS is usually delivered in a one-to-one programme including planned out table sessions and natural environment teaching designed to generalise skills learned previously so they can be used in all settings. The way these sessions are delivered and the ratio of different sessions to each other are highly individualised. ABA recognises that no two children are the same and everyone needs to learn different skills in different ways at a different rate. 

ABA has a strong focus on the use of positive reinforcement and in making learning a fun and enjoyable experience. Its focus is on increasing the rate of behaviours which help to teach and maintain new skills. This can only be achieved by positive reinforcement in a positive atmosphere. 

Our target is never to change the child but to empower them with new skills which will ultimately enable them to access more of the world around them. 

ABA has a considerable evidence base which continues to grow. The use of ABA and its methods/techniques have changed considerably since its first conception. We aim to keep up to date with new advances so that we can provide the best possible opportunities to our pupils. We are supported in this with monthly visits from a fully qualified, board certified behaviour analyst (BCBA)


Which classes is ABA used in?

ABA is used in Oak Leaf classroom and all the parents in this classroom are in full agreement with this. This is a very limited capacity class because of the specific nature of ABA, currently this class is at full capacity.


 The curriculum

Students are assessed on the ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learner Skills) framework within their first few weeks at Market Field School (or within the classroom if they have moved from elsewhere in the school). This assessment is used to form the basis of their individual curriculum. For some children we also use AFLS (Assessment of Functional Living Skills) and even national curriculum targets where appropriate.  

 The focus for every child is to develop a functional communication system. For some children this will be encouraging vocals, for others signing or PECS is the preferred method. After this targets are picked based on the individual needs of each pupil and might include life skills or relevant academic skills.


More information:

If you have further questions we encourage you to visit the UK Society for Behaviour Analysts (SBA) Website (


The following is a direct quote from SBA about the value of ABA. These are values which we also stand by.


"The values shared by behaviour analysts working in applied settings have been defined by several seminal articles across the past 40+ years (e.g. Baer, Wolf and Risley 1968; Wolf 1978; Van Houten et al 1988) These values include

Focus on the Individual

Behaviour Analysts ensure that the goals, methods and outcomes of any intervention are important, understandable, and acceptable to the person whose behaviour is being changed, as well as those who care about the person (eg parents, carers, teachers). Any decisions made about how behaviour will be assessed or changed are sensitive to the individual circumstances of the person and are aimed at improving quality of life.

Focus on positive intervention and use of least restrictive alternative

Behaviour Analysts value the use of positive, reinforcement based interventions as the first choice for enacting behaviour change. 

Focus on skill acquisition

Behaviour Analysts take a constructive approach to behaviour change and view acquisition (not reduction) of behaviour as the primary goal. Behaviour Analysts value equipping individuals with skills that will make them more successful across a range of life domains (eg work, home, leisure)

Reliance on science as the basis for assessment and intervention

Behaviour Analysts have a commitment to using evidence-based practice. This commitment involves selecting strategies validated by research as well as evaluating the efficacy of any interventions they implement (i.e. data-based decision making)

Focus on ecological validity of intervention strategies and behaviour change

Behaviour Analysts value lasting change. They recognise that an individuals skills must be portable across different environments and across time and consider the wider context in which behaviour occurs when planning strategies"