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Jul 2 2021

Applied Behavior Analysis Myths Debunked


Applied behavior analysis therapy, or ABA Therapy, also called behavioral engineering, is the application of respondent and operant conditioning principles to modify behavior. Other uses of respondent and operant conditioning include experimental research and the study of the philosophy of the science. This article will introduce you to applied behavior analysis therapy, who conducts this form of therapeutic intervention, and debunk various common myths you may run into as you learn more about ABA Therapy.http://positivebehaviorservices.com/

Category: ABA Therapy
Posted by: Alejandro Hernandez BCBA

Applied behavior analysis therapy, or ABA Therapy, also called behavioral engineering, is the application of respondent and operant conditioning principles to modify behavior. Other uses of respondent and operant conditioning include experimental research and the study of the philosophy of the science. This article will introduce you to applied behavior analysis therapy, who conducts this form of therapeutic intervention, and debunk various common myths you may run into as you learn more about ABA Therapy.

What Is Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy?

Applied behavior analysis therapy begins with an analysis of behavior in a given environment. Once the behavior is identified within the environment and interactions between the behavior and the environment are identified, ABA therapy works to modify unwanted or maladaptive behaviors by replacing them with more effective actions. These behaviors are brought about by the use of positive reinforcement to encourage appropriate behavior in the mastery small tasks which can then be accumulated and applied to larger, more complex tasks.

Who Performs Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy?

The minimum requirements for an applied behavior analysis therapist are graduation from high school, 40 hours of training under another ABA therapist, a certificate, and a test of proficiency. While these are the baseline requirements for a certification in applied behavior analysis therapy, it is important to note that many people with more advanced degrees, such as those in psychology and psychiatry, apply the principles of applied behavior analysis therapy when working with clients and patients. Now that you understand the basic form of ABA Therapy and who might be conducting it, read about the top myths you might encounter and the facts that debunk them.

One of the most common myths is that applied behavior analysis therapy is only for children with autism. While children with autism can benefit from this form of intervention, it is important to note that ABA therapy uses common aspects of learning and development which makes it an appropriate intervention for children that are typically-developing, those with intellectual disabilities, those with emotional disabilities, and those with behavioral disabilities. Applied behavior analysis therapy can also be directed at a group-based setting, like a classroom, further expanding its uses. Through the use of positive and negative feedback, all children can alter their behaviors toward more socially appropriate actions with the appropriate use of applied behavior analysis therapy. By learning to take small steps and achieve small successes that build into greater success with a more complex task, children and adults of all backgrounds can use the principles of ABA therapy to learn basic skills of listening, imitating, and looking to advanced skills of conversation, reading, and understanding various perspectives.

Another myth commonly discussed in applied behavior analysis therapy is that the intervention is focused solely on punishment. To understand the truth about how ABA therapy uses punishment among other strategies, you must first understand the definition of punishment. It is taking or adding a stimulus with the end goal of reducing a certain behavior’s frequency. While punishment may be involved in some plans of applied behavior analysis therapy, its use is a last resort when other methods of intervention have failed and only when the behavior change warrants the use of punishment. It is key to keep in mind that punishment should only be used sparingly and always within ethical use guidelines.

When using rewards to encourage behavioral change as is done in applied behavior analysis therapy, another myth is that this is a more complicated form of bribery imposed on children. Reinforcement of behavior, giving rewards when a desirable behavior is elicited, is part of applied behavior analysis therapy. The form of reward is not always a physical toy or snack, however. For children or adults who respond well to verbal praise, this may be a non-physical method of reinforcement utilized as well. Other alternatives to food or toys may also include the opportunity for the learner to participate in a chosen activity for a specific duration of time as a reward for appropriate behavior. All reinforcement should always be accompanied by a plan to decrease their use while continuing the behavior in the learner such that the behavior is not solely driven by the reward, but by true behavioral change.

Some people have also doubted the scientific evidence that supports applied behavior analysis therapy, calling it experimental and ineffective. This myth is disproved by the multiple peer-reviewed articles and peer-reviewed journals dedicated to applied behavior analysis therapy that support this intervention’s efficacy. The peer review process ensures that articles, journals, and information about ABA therapy are well-researched, and well-founded in evidence to prevent myths and unsound evidence altering the scientific method as it has been applied to the study of applied behavior analysis therapy. In fact, applied behavior analysis therapy has been endorsed by several evidence-based practices, as well as state and federal agencies including the New York State Department of Health and the Surgeon General of the United States.

One myth frequently discussed is that applied behavior analysis is a new study and form of therapy and therefore may not be as effective as other methods. In stark contrast to this myth, the foundations for applied behavior analysis therapy were laid in 1913 by John B. Watson. His ideas were further supported by the research of renowned psychologist B. F. Skinner in his publications of research about operant conditioning in 1938. Additionally, ABA therapists began to apply applied behavior analysis therapy principles to help teach critical skills of play, work, communication, and community living in the 1960’s. Applied behavior analysis therapy was applied more directly to children with autism in 1970 and became more prominent with the publication of Ivar Lovaas’ book detailing the principles of applied behavior analysis therapy in 1981.

While there are other myths surrounding applied behavior analysis therapy, these key myths and facts debunking them will give you the tools to understand the basics of this intervention and continue to learn more about the application and principles of applied behavior analysis therapy.

 

 
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