ABA Therapy: Fact or Fiction
The field of ABA has been around for almost 50 years. Within that time, there have been a lot of incredible things that have come out of the field. Unfortunately, there have also been some less desirable outcomes. Join us on a quick tour of “ABA Fact or Fiction” where we will debunk some of the common misconceptions about applied behavior analysis.
Myth #1: ABA Turns Kids Into Robots
“ABA turns kids into robots” – Fiction. If done correctly ABA provides individuals with the specific teaching they need to be able to get what they want from their environment in a safe way. Unfortunately, if ABA is done poorly you might see robotic-like responses from the learners.
Myth #2: ABA is Mean to Kids
“ABA is mean to kids” – Fiction. ABA is simply the application of the science of behavior. The foundational element of ABA is focusing on how our behaviors are strengthened and maintained over time, or reinforced. When we understand where the reinforcement for our behavior comes from, then we are able to rearrange how we get reinforced to increase prosocial behavior, or behaviors that will yield positive social outcomes. This could look like asking for a break rather than tearing up a piece of paper or giving someone a compliment to get their attention instead of yelling at them. When ABA appears to be “mean” it is oftentimes due to having to follow through on a contingency, such as you have to ask calmly for candy. If they don’t get what they want (because they were not following the way they are being taught to get it) it can appear that the ABA provider is being mean by not giving the learner what they want for engaging in unsafe or socially ostracized behaviors; however, by teaching these contingencies in a safe and controlled environment we are doing the most compassionate thing we can for those learners.
Myth #3: ABA Therapy Does Not Include a Family Component
“ABA therapy does not include a family component” – Fiction. Within the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s Code of Ethics for Behavior Analysts, many of the codes revolve around including the family and client in care and maintaining ongoing consent for treatment. If you ever feel like your voice is not being heard or your child is being put in situations that they have clearly shown to be uncomfortable, then you have every right to challenge that. While there are limitations to what can be done through ABA, it never hurts to ask for what you want!
Myth #4: ABA Therapy is Only for Children with Autism
“ABA is only for children with Autism” – Fiction. Applied Behavior Analysis has been proven to be an effective treatment for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but it also has proven applications in organizational management, self improvement, animal training, and as an educational tool to manage classroom behavior to name a few!