Monday, November 2, 2015

ABA is not restricted to autism

I recently had a discussion about ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) with a friend. His argument was that ABA can only be applied to children with autism.

In previous blogs I wrote about some of the real life applications of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and specifically its use with autism. I also emphasized that ABA is not synonymous with treatment for autism. In fact, ABA can be applied to any situation where a behavior change is desired. That’s the meaning of “applied” in Applied Behavior Analysis. And of course, the principles and strategies can be implemented when it comes to every day parenting. Picky eating, doing homework, cleaning up their room, doing chores are great examples of this. 

Furthermore, the same systematic techniques can be used to teach skills. Actually when we target a behavior for reduction or elimination we teach appropriate behaviors to replace it. The problematic behavior is functional for the child because it gets his needs and wants met. Just eliminating it is leaving the child in the vacuum, which he will likely fill with another challenging behaviors. The solutions to this problem is teaching the skills that will allow this child to address his wants and needs in functional and socially appropriate ways.

Let’s take the example of a child who screams and cries when he needs something or is denied a request. In this case access to desired objective should not be allowed following the child’s misbehaviors. Once the child is calm and able to listen, acceptable alternatives ways to obtain what he wants should be model to him. He should be rewarded for engaging in those functional ways to obtain access. During the training process ample opportunities to request wants and needs should be provided.  

Another example can be a child who is picky eater. If your child has a severe aversion to a certain food, start with baby steps, breaking down each task into very small reachable goals. For example, you can start by just having the undesired food on the table. Get the child used to having it there next to his other food and seeing other people eat it. Once he accepts the food on the table, you can move on to having him smell it, bringing it closer to his mouth. Remember that every successful step needs to be rewarded with, for example, a bite of a food that the child likes. Possible next steps can be to have the child lick the food, getting him used to the taste. After that, move on to taking a bite. He may not even chew or swallow the food, just take a bite and spit it out. Remember, we are breaking this down into tiny achievable steps. After the child agrees to take a bite, you can move on to swallowing and so on and so forth until the child agrees to eat the new food.

These are just a few examples that show that ABA principles and techniques can be applied at everyday life situations and are not restricted to autism.

However, I’m not quite sure I was able to convince my friend.

 Daniel Adatto, BCBA



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