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Activity Based Intervention

Activity-based intervention (ABI) provides a developmentally appropriate framework for incorporating several effective instructional strategies into a child’s daily activities. This approach is a promising way to utilize naturally occurring antecedents and consequences to teach children with autism target skills.


Activity-based intervention (ABI) originated with Diane Bricker and her colleagues at the University of Oregon. It is defined as a “child-directed, transactional approach that embeds intervention on children’s individual goals and objectives in routine, planned, or child-initiated activities, and uses logically occurring antecedents and consequences to develop functional and generative skills” (Bricker & Cripe, 1992, p. 40).

Novick (1993) described ABI as a “combination of selected strategies found in early childhood and behavior analytic approaches and shares many theoretical and philosophical underpinnings with developmentally appropriate practice” (p. 405). It is considered a naturalistic teaching approach and is commonly described in terms of embedded instruction, routine-based intervention, or integrated therapy (Pretti-Frontczak, Barr, Macy, & Carter, 2003).

ABI evolved as part of a linked system that moves from assessment to goal development to intervention, through evaluation (Bricker & Cripe, 1992). A child-directed approach, it emphasizes following the child’s interest and actions. Four sequential key elements make up ABI: (a) the use of routine, planned, or child initiated-activities; (b) the embedding of goals and objectives in routine, planned, or child-initiated activities; (c) the use of logical antecedents and consequences; and (d) the selection of target skills that are generative and functional.

Bricker, Pretti-Frontczak, and McComas (1998) suggested a five-step process of selecting appropriate skills for intervention:

  1. Administer comprehensive curriculum-based assessment/evaluation tools.
  2. Summarize the results of the assessment in terms of interests, strengths, and needs.
  3. Target skills that are (a) functional, (b) usable across settings with different people and materials, (c) observable and measurable, and (d) part of the child’s natural daily environment.
  4. Identify appropriate goals and objectives through prioritizing skills.
  5. Develop written goals and objectives that are observable, measurable, and clearly understandable to team members.

Two intervention criteria must be met in order for progress to occur: (a) goals and objectives must be addressed during developmentally appropriate activities, and (b) repeated opportunities for practicing targeted skills must be provided during these activities (Bricker et al., 1998).

Research Summary

Ages (yrs) Skills Settings Outcome
0-12 Social, communication, behavior, play, cognitive, school readiness, academic, motor, adaptive Home, school, community
*The information found in the Research Summary table is updated yearly following a literature review of new research and this age range reflects information from this review.

Outcomes:     Evidence-based     Emerging     No evidence     Comprehensive

Steps for Implementation


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