What is ABA?

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ABA, or applied behavior analysis, is a science and a technique that focuses on understanding and improving behaviors of social significance. Practitioners of ABA focus objectively on defined behaviors, use interventions to improve the behavior of children with autism and related exceptionalities and analyze the relationship between the intervention and the behavioral improvement. In short, ABA discovers what is controlling behavior in the environment and develops procedures to change behavior based on the discoveries. What really sets ABA apart from other therapies and modalities is its devotion to focus, goals, and methods.

There are several misconceptions about ABA, which this post will address one by one. It is not bribery, solely focused on problem behaviors or experimental.

ABA is a science!

This means ABA practitioners must always follow the attitudes of science, continually questioning the truthfulness and effectiveness of procedures implemented. If the data shows treatment is not effective, practitioners should transition to an alternative evidence-based practice.

ABA is evidenced or research based!

Any interventions used when providing ABA treatment must be derived from the basic principles of ABA and have research articles backing its effectiveness. If you are currently receiving ABA services in your family, you can always request for research and ask questions about the different interventions being implemented.

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ABA focuses on the socially significant!

Behaviors targeted for increase or reduction are important and individualized to the clients’ needs. Skills and behaviors targeted should be relevant for the client’s social relationships, age-appropriate, and increase the client’s independence and access to his or her environment. As an example, if your child is biting other kiddos at school and she has to be removed from her classroom because of this, we work on that behavior (biting) to make sure she continues to have access to her environment (school-classroom).

ABA uses reinforcement! Reinforcement is NOT bribery!

Reinforcement is anything that follows a behavior that increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again in the future. Practitioners use actions or objects as a reward for a client completing an action. Practitioners often also use the action or object as motivation for the client to complete a task, for example: “If we finish this worksheet, we can go play on the swing for 5 minutes!” The act of bribery assumes both parties receive something out of an exchange, while the act of reinforcement is a motivator and is solely focused on one party: the client.

ABA focuses on skills and behaviors!

While practitioners do work on decreasing maladaptive behaviors, they do so by reinforcing appropriate alternatives. It means that if a client is screaming because they want their family’s attention, practitioners can teach them to request for attention instead, using words, signs, pictures, or gestures. By teaching appropriate alternative behavior and skill, practitioners can give attention to the newly learned skill and not the screaming.

ABA evaluates the environment!

Firstly, practitioners should observe what is going on in a client’s environment. It means not only observing the behavior but also what event happens before and after. By evaluating these events practitioners, we can decipher a function or a reason as to why the behavior is occurring. After gathering evidence behind this function, they can develop a treatment for the behavior. For example, your child has difficulty with transitions (playing to nap time, playground to going home, etc.). We might incorporate a visual schedule, give reminders, and even use timers (if needed) to help your child understand what is coming next. In this way, we modify “the environment” to help with the behavior.

When used correctly, ABA can be tremendously beneficial to all age groups with varying ranges of abilities. By individualizing, evaluating, and using evidence-based practices, practitioners can teach functional skills and promote socially significant behavior change.

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