Intensive Behavioural Intervention

Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI)

ABA and IBI — What's the difference?

Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) are not the same therapy.  The following explaination is from CHEO:

All children with an ASD should receive appropriate evidence-based intervention which is based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  However, there is confusion about the difference between ABA and Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) and their respective goals.

ABA is a science which involves the application of principles of learning to improve socially important behaviour to a meaningful degree and to demonstrate scientifically that the procedures used are responsible for the change in behaviour.  (Adapted from Cooper, Heron and Heward, 1987)

ABA is applicable to many different populations and age groups as well as to a wide range of behaviours.  ABA is not just for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Some examples of common uses of ABA include:

  • Intervention for individuals with special needs to develop functional skills including self-care (toilet training, eating, dressing); riding the bus; money management;
  • Intervention for individuals with behaviour problems such as ADHD, oppositional or aggressive behaviour, or substance abuse;
  • Within school classrooms to keep children paying attention to the teacher, reinforce appropriate behaviours etc.;
  • Intervention for individuals with problems such as phobias, marital problems;
  • Organization and increased productivity in work settings.


There are a number of ABA based strategies that can be used with children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  These include but are not restricted to Intensive Behavioural Intervention (Expert Clinical Panel, 2007)

Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) is based on the scientific principles of the broader field of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).  IBI is an intensive, comprehensive treatment strategy designed for young children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  It is typically provided between 18 and 40 hours per week and should begin early in a child's life, ideally before 4 years of age.  IBI is comprehensive in that it is designed to target a range of skills within a developmental sequence (e.g., functional communication, social/play skills [cooperative play; appropriate toy play]; cognitive skills [imitation; matching]; pre-academic skills; self care skills; problem behaviours).  The goal of IBI is to change a child's developmental trajectory or rate of learning as defined by clinically significant changes in a child's cognitive, language and adaptive skills on standardized assessments (Expert Clinical Panel, 2007, p. 20).

The literature has revealed that some children do show significant benefit from IBI, while some children show less benefit with smaller gains.  Unfortunately, other children show no benefit over a 6 to 12 month period.  However, children who do not respond to IBI and/or who show limited response may benefit from ABA based teaching strategies focusing on specific skill development.

Local Resources

Autism Intervention Program (CHEO) - Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI)
(There is a two to three year waiting period for this government funded service.)

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