Montessori and ABA – A Unique Combination



When I was first introduced to the entire Montessori system by my mother, I was in high school and wanted to be an artist. It was three years after that, that I got my first diploma in Montessori Early Childhood Teaching during my college program, and then shortly after, my second diploma from another board in the same discipline.

By then, my plans to pursue fine arts as a career had vanished and I was all prepped to become an educationist. Thought I could pursue education as a field and design curriculums for schools, sounded like a great idea. Little did I know, that I would end up with a degree in Behavioral Sciences with a psychology major after the next four years, during which I was introduced to the wonderful world of Applied Behavior Analysis.

As I started to read more about it and volunteered at a place where it was applied in order to teach life skills to children with Autism, the more I grew fond of it. Not only did I fall in love with ABA, I began to notice certain similarities between the teaching principles of ABA and the strategies introduced by Maria Montessori.

Modules in Montessori Curriculum

In the Montessori curriculum, Early Childhood Education is divided into a certain set of ‘modules’ or areas that are covered as follows:

  • Exercises of Practical Life
    These include activities of personal care, grooming skills, caring about the environment, daily living skills and exercises of grace and courtesy.
  • Exercises of Sensorial Development
    These exercises focus on the development of the basic senses such as tactile sense, auditory sense, visual sense, smell, and taste.
  • Language & Phonics Exercises
    These activities are designed to train the child to progress in phonics, alphabet recognition, phonemes and graphemes moving towards complexed tasks like language and vocabulary building and then reading. Apart from that, it also covers writing insets.
  • Handwriting & Grammar
    In this, the child is guided how to write using chalkboards and different activities that allow for the development of this complex fine motor skill.
  • Mathematical Exercises
    Number recognition, formation, decimal system, and linear counting along with other related operations are taught as a part of the mathematics module.
  • Geography & History
    This module is also referred to as ‘Culture 1’ and introduces the child to the world around them and gives them the chance to experience it by getting information about countries, people, natural phenomena, cultures, and arts.
  • Zoology, Botany & Science Experiments
    This module is also referred to as ‘Culture 2’ and covers knowledge about plants, animals and related scientific areas along with experimentation.


Montessori Learning Techniques for Developmental Disorders

Skimming through my set of modules again from my diploma years, I noticed how the exercises of practical life such as pouring solids from one pitcher to another or transferring water from one bowl to another using a sponge, actually exercised that could really be taught to a child with Autism and related developmental disorders, using the principles of ABA.

Besides, the main aim of therapy is always to teach the child independent living. Moving on, exercises such as buttoning, unbuttoning, zipping, unzipping, buckle and unbuckle frames are all pretty doable activities in an Autism classroom. Not only does it teach them the skill, but it also targets other related areas in the child, such as fine motor skills and visual perception, along with the development of other senses that is covered in the sensorial module.


Montessori Techniques and ABA

The discrete trial teaching method is the most common strategy to teach used in ABA, and the precise trials of teaching, with short phrases used as instruction or ‘SD’, is something that has been reinforced by Maria Montessori in a very similar manner.

She always emphasized on breaking a task into smaller steps and teaching one thing at a time, maintaining eye contact and being short with the instruction using clear language. It’s like she was using task analysis with children way before ABA even became a thing!

I did my part of the research on this wonderful combination and found out that I was not the only one with this idea in mind. Apparently, the first bright mind to come up with the Montessori-ABA mesh and introduce it to the world was Michelle Lane, founder of The Lane Montessori School for Autism in Toronto, Canada.

Her experience of working with children having special needs and knowing about behavior therapy, combined with a degree in Montessori teaching enabled her to come up with this innovative combination that, according to her, was very workable and tested. In an interview with Montessori for Everyone, Lane states how “Maria Montessori originally worked with children with special needs in the asylums and made great gains with them – so much so that their IQ scores were similar to typical children. She created the Montessori method as a way of teaching a typically developing child”

The question is, can the Montessori method be fully incorporated with a child on the Autism spectrum? The answer is, no. But it can be integrated to a great extent with certain modifications made keeping in mind where on the spectrum the child lies since the spectrum ranges from mild to moderate and severe.

Certain things need to be kept in mind, such as while using a sand tray to teach letter formation to a child on the spectrum, one needs to be sure that the child does not have any sensory issue that restricts him/her from touching the sand. Certain textures or materials used in the conventional Montessori curriculum may not be beneficial to a child with Autism, even if the concept that is being given is very much up to their level. Hence, certain things need to be modified in order for this blend to work with children having differentiated needs, but that does not limit, in any manner, the effectiveness of this combination.

More Articles Link Below :

  1. Depression – Clinical Depression (2018)
  2. Anxiety Disorders
  3. Applied Behavior Analysis
  4. REBT

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Applied Behavior Analysis  ABA

ABA is a type of therapy based on principles of learning and motivation from Behavior analysis. This therapy helps us to understand the applicability of behaviors in real life
situations. ABA is an adult led therapy technique that is one of the most widely used technique for behavior modification. free consulting


Core Principles of ABA : The consequences of behavior decide whether behavior will increase or decrease.

The goal of ABA is to teach children the skills they need to learn from the environment with Special ABA Techniques & ABA Therapy . Basically it identifying specific behaviors and modifying them and keeping data on them so that you can tell what is changing. The threeterm contingency (also known as the ABC contingency) in operant conditioning describes the relationship between a behavior, its consequence, and the antecedents.


Aim of ABA:

The aim of the therapy is to:

  • Increase the probability of occurrence of desirable behaviors and to decrease the probability of undesirable ones
  • To teach new skills (adaptive skills, communication skills, social skills etc.)
  • To maintain behaviors
  • To decrease the frequency and intensity of disruptive behaviors (e.g. self-injury or stereotypic behaviors)


Who introduced ABA?

ABA was introduced in 1970 by Psychologist Ivar Lovaas and Robert Koegel at UCLA.


Types of ABA Therapy

Its approach has expanded to include several different types of ABA Therapy or techniques to aid application


1 Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
2 Behavior Modification
3 Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
4 Functional Analysis
5 Differential Reinforcement
6 Behavior Mapping
7 Sensory Strategies
8 Advanced Play Skills


How does ABA Therapy work?

  • It tries to meet the individual needs of each person (individualized education plan), skill repertoire development for skill deficits and behavior management for excessive disruptive behaviors.
  • Can be implemented in one on one therapeutic intervention and in a group setting as well
  • ABA can be implemented at various places – at home, school, and community
  • It goes by an initial assessment of behavior, led by monitoring of behavior (baselines), then devising a management plan and recording the change in behavior as per the management is given. The baselines and recording strategies are the key methods to monitor behavior in ABA.


Three Term Contingency : ABC

  1. Antecedent
  2. Behavior
  3. Consequences

     1 – An Antecedent: this is what occurs right before the target behavior. It can be verbal (command, request) or non – verbal like picture, toy or physical. A command can be from the environment, from another person or sensory stimulation.

     2 – A resulting Behavior: this is the person’s response to the antecedent. The behavioral response can be an action, a verbal response or some other

     3 – A Consequence: the outcome that immediately follows the response. The consequence will decide the future probability of occurrence of behavior, whether it will increase or decrease.

Looking at A-B-Cs helps us understand:

  1. Why a behavior may be happening
  2. The consequence of behavior would determine whether the behavior will
    occur in the future or not


Applied Behavior Analysis Applications:

ABA is effective for people of all ages. It can be used in regular and special education setups, pediatric medicine, treatment of troubled teens, sports psychology, business and service organizations, early intensive treatment for children with autism, and eating disorders.

*As soon as the child is diagnosed with autism seek ABA therapy as soon as possible.


Evidence based therapy working hours for ABA

Forty hours one on one session in a week.


What does an ABA Program Involve?

An ABA program devised by a BCBA will compromise on detailed assessment of the child on the following domains taken from THE ASSESSMENT OF BASIC LANGUAGE AND LEARNING SKILLS MANUAL (ABBLS R). The ABBLS R is an assessment, curriculum guide and skills tracking system for children with language delay.

  • Basic learner skills assessments
    1. Cooperation and reinforce effectiveness
    2. Visual performance
    3. Receptive language
    4. Imitation
    5. Vocal imitation
    6. Requests
    7. Labeling
    8. Intraverbals
    9. Spontaneous vocalizations
    10. Syntax and grammar
    11. Play and leisure
    12. Social interaction
    13. Group instruction
    14. Follow classroom routines
    15. Generalized responding
  • Academic skills assessment
    1. Reading skills
    2. Math skills
    3. Writing skills
    4. Spelling
  • Self help skills assessment
    1. Dressing skills
    2. Eating skills
    3. Grooming
    4. Toilet skills
  • Motor skills assessment
    1. Gross motor skills
    2. Fine motor skills

The ABLLS R manual compromised of these four major categories having 25 domains on which the Behavior analyst assessed the child and devises the management plan accordingly. The scoring is done on each domain based on the competency of the child, the planner is made accordingly.


Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI)

EIBI program offers 10 major components

  • Treatment should begin early (prior to age 4 years)
  • Intervention should be intensive (40 hours per week)
  • Intervention must be based on behaviors (principles of behavior analysis)
  • Treatment is individualized for each child
  • Treatment must be comprehensive (detailed assessment of behaviors)
  • Treatment should occur in child’s natural environment
  • Active parent involvement
  • Opportunity to learn from and interact with typical peers is provided
  • Duration of treatment
  • Treatment supervision is only provided by individuals with experience in autism and advanced training in ABA


Behavior Teaching approaches in EIBI

  1. Discrete trail training
  2. Natural environment
  3. Fluency based instructions


  1. Discrete Trail training

Discrete trail training is one of the most frequent and widely use strategy/ approach in ABA. It comprises of Stimulus (SD), a response or prompt, reinforcement or correction.

  1. a) Discriminative Stimulus: a stimulusin the presence of which a particular response will be reinforced
    • SD should be clear and consistent
    • Free of extraneous information
    • Slightly louder than normal tone
  1. b) Prompt

A prompt is some form of assistance so that the child response correctly.

  • To help the child to learn through errorless learning
  • Response comes after the prompt (SD + Prompt = Response)
  1. c)Reinforcement or correction
  • Once the SD is given the child either respond correctly and reinforcement is delivered or the child responds incorrectly and a correction procedure is applied.
  • To general approaches to deal with incorrect responses
    • Informational “NO”
    • The therapist doesn’t say NO but does not deliver the reinforcer

2) Natural Environment

To help a child to learn new skills, Natural Environment Teaching (NET)
utilizes real-world scenarios, applying principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to teach
in the natural environment.

Natural Environment Training is a mode of teaching that is based on the
individual motivation to learn while using naturalistic or environmental cues. But this
learning is systematic but using the cues in a structured manner. 

3) Fluency based Instruction Training or Precision Teaching

Precision teaching is one of the modalities that focused heavily on systematically monitoring the data the frequency of the desirable responses will determine each learner’s curriculum. The aim is to maximize the learning based on personal fluency
measurements.. free training of ABA


ABA Infographic

Applied Behavior Analysis - ABA -


Strategies used in Applied Behavior Analysis


  • Reinforcement:procedure of providing consequences for a behavior that increase or maintain that behavior.
    • The most important assessment in ABA is to identify the reinforce the child requires to respond to a command.
    • It motivates the child to learn
    • The more powerful the reinforce the rapid the learning
  • Prompting:A procedure in which a stimulus is provided in addition to antecedent to evoke the targeted / correct response
  • Fading:behavior modification procedure in which behavior that are initially prompted are gradually withdrawn
  • Chaining:Breaking of complex behavior into sequence of easy sequence of behavior. e.g. wearing a shirt
  • Shaping:it is the procedure in which one systematically reinforces successive approximations of a target behavior while extinguishing previous approximations. E.g. language development; babbling.
  • Generalization:one a child learn a skill we consider it generalized if the child is able to perform the skill across new and novel situation. All of the skills that the child learns will learn should be flexible and widely used in natural life situations.
    • Children need to generalize across people, Settings, Stimuli and responses
  • Incidental teaching

Incidental teaching is a method of instruction that make use of opportunities that arise in child’s daily life to create a teaching moment


Who are ABA certified professionals to work?


A qualified applied behavior analyst is a licensed clinical therapist with additional training and experience in applied behavior analysis.

A board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) provides ABA therapy services. Behavior analyst examines the cause and consequences of behavior and they are certified professionals to work with children and people having behavioral issues.

The BCBA certifications have certain requirements like a master degree or PhD and to pass a certification exam from Behavior Analyst Certification Board (to learn more about the certifications go to Behavior Analyst certification board

The BACB offers a doctoral designation for Board Certified Behavior Analysts with doctoral training in behavior analysis — Board Certified Behavior Analyst-DoctoralTM (BCBA-DTM).

An RBT works in the supervision of a BCBA and is a 40 hour RBT training developed and conducted by BACB. RBT applicant must have 18 years of education.  To get RBT credentials an RBT competency assessment is the basic criteria
along with clinical supervision by a BCBA or BCaBA. The RBT assessment has to be done by a BCBA certified professional upon
completion of40-hour training.

The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) offer certifications and masters’ degree to professionals working with special needs. For more details about the courses, certifications and degrees click on the following link click here 


More Articles Link Below :

  1. Depression – Clinical Depression (2018)
  2. Anxiety Disorders
  3. REBT – Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy


This Article is Written By Anum Farooq

  • Co-Founder & Organizer:
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • ABA therapist 
  • Researcher

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