Tag Archives: behavior

Myth #1

4 Aug

Like I mentioned in my last post, I want to try to dispel some misconceptions people have about ABA.

One thing I keep reading, by parents who hate ABA and also those with autism who hate ABA, is this idea that ABA is for “autistic people”, and it treats them like machines, or like animals.

No, no, no. This could not be further from the truth. ABA is all around us! The principles of behavior are what make ALL of us operate.

If you have ever scratched an itch- you just employed negative reinforcement.

If you have ever been paid to do a job- you just received positive reinforcement.

If you have ever stretched your muscles- that was automatic reinforcement.

If you have ever gotten a speeding ticket- that’s positive punishment.

If you have ever been grounded or put on time out- that’s negative punishment.

Do you see what I mean?? The principles of behavior are constantly around us. All of our behavior is shaped by our environment. Everybody’s is!

When you’re driving in the rain, you turn the windshield wipers on.

When it’s hot and sunny, you put sunscreen on.

When it’s too loud, you cover your ears.

When you don’t feel well, you take medicine.

When you want to go on the internet, you turn your computer on.

Our behavior is a direct result of our environment. And, our environment includes our bodies as well.

The difference between what I’m talking about here and what people with autism experience is just a matter of intensity and structure. Okay, so not all of us have 2 hour sessions, 5 days a week, specifically carved out for ABA. But, the principles are the same. We are operating under the same concepts, constantly.

ABA is not something robotic or mechanical; at least it shouldn’t be. ABA sessions should be utilizing the person’s natural environment to have them come into contact with new contingencies. (ie: If I ask for “more”, I will get more cookie. If I scream and cry for more, I will not get more cookie). It can also be contriving their environment in order to come into contact with new contingencies. (ie: If the cookie jar is too high up I can ask for “help” and get help. If I bang on the cabinets over and over, I will not get help).

For those that hate the principles of behavior analysis….I challenge you to live a day without them. (Spoiler alert: It can’t be done.)

Perhaps it’s the just methods of a particular practitioner that you hate, in which case, I suggest you find a provider who better meets your needs. There are good clinicians out there. As Priority ABA says on their website, “When done correctly, ABA will maximize a child’s ability to express their own personality and preferences by teaching them the skills they need to communicate, play, and otherwise enjoy life.”


Reality check….

2 Aug

This past week I was browsing around online….stumbled onto a blog (which will remain nameless)…and got a slap-in-the-face style reality check.

This blog, which is fairly popular, has an anti-ABA tone throughout it’s posts. The writer, a mother of an autistic boy, posts about how detrimental she thinks ABA can be. She believes ABA shames it’s learners, it is by nature a “dangerous” treatment and is harmful to those who receive it; she believes it damages a child’s ability to form relationships, it takes away their voice, it’s overall a very limited practice which ruins a parent’s view of their child, and it over-pathologizes children.


What struck me most was that in all of her rants about how terrible ABA is, she didn’t at all express the benefits of ABA or the years of research showing it to be the most effective treatment for individuals with autism. No, she didn’t shed light on any of that. Instead, she put out messages of skepticism and fear, encouraging others to stay away from so-called experts and to question everyone and everything.

Call me naive, but I had no idea parents out there so hated what I do for a  living. I had no idea parents out there call my work dangerous, damaging, and harmful. It really took me down a notch to hear that not everyone thinks what I do is as great as I know it is. Sure, I have worked with plenty of parents who don’t think ABA works; who don’t think ABA is valid or something they’d like to commit to. But I have NEVER met a parent who flat out loathed ABA the way this parent does. People out there think my work is emotionally injuring their child? People out there believe my work is taking away their child’s voice? It’s ruining their perception of their child? What????!!!!!????

It’s really sad to me that any parent would choose to focus on the work of a few bad practitioners and thereby discredit the entire field altogether. Would any parent hold doctors to the same standard? If a doctor misdiagnosed, or couldn’t cure a disease, or gave the wrong prescription to his patients…would that mean that ALL doctors are bad? The entire medical profession is tainted? I don’t think so. So I wonder why this is the case with behavior analysis.

It’s also really sad to me because I know the kind of work I do. I know the way I think about and feel about my learners, and I know the ways I have helped them and their families. I know that I use ethical practices that ensure my client’s dignity. I know that I genuinely care, and that I see my clients as people, not as diagnoses.  It’s just a shame that some parents out there are so let-down by some people practicing ABA that they decide the whole science is destructive.

How can I change these parents’ minds? Why do I even feel like I need to? It’s funny, because I’m normally more of a “live and let live” type of girl. Opposing views don’t threaten me; I’m secure in my beliefs and don’t care if people disagree with me. I have no interest in debating people online, and can’t stand when bloggers pick fights that they’re “right” and someone else is “wrong”.  But right now, I find myself feeling very protective of my field. And, I guess I know why. Because I believe in ABA. I believe in it’s power to change lives. So, I feel responsible to untangle the myths and misconceptions about ABA. It’s interesting that this has stirred up in me a desire to defend my position, when I would normally let it roll right off my back. And, while I still respect that everyone has their own values and beliefs, and I would never pick fights or sling mud to be heard, I feel the need to spread the word about the incredible value of ABA. So… that’s my plan.  Stay tuned! I’m on a mission! 🙂


Some new letters…

23 Feb

I have had an amazing past week. On Thursday and Friday I got to attend my states regional ABA conference. I heard lots of thought provoking and informative presentations. (More to come on this!)

Our Keynote speaker was Julie Vargas. Julie just happens to be the daughter of BF Skinner. Skinner, of course, is one of the most influential behaviorists to ever live. His discoveries and theories are still widely used today.

Then, as if my day could have gotten any better…it did!

I found out that I get to add some new letters to my name. I passed my BCBA exam! I am now a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

After years of hard work and studying, I’m celebrating this big success and looking forward to the new opportunities this will afford me. I’m also relishing that this huge milestone along the path I’ve chosen goes all the way back to my little brother being diagnosed 7 years ago. 🙂

There is a reason for everything.

Yours Truly,

Angelina, MS, BCBA, MFTI 😉

Reinforcement: Timing is everything

27 Aug

Research shows that “an imposed delay [in the delivery of reinforcement] will typically render a reinforcer less effective. The more time between the criterion meeting response, and the delivery of the reinforcer, the weaker that reinforcement relation will be.” -Iser DeLeon, PhD BCBA.

What does this mean in plain english?

When reinforcing a behavior, especially at first, it should be immediate. The longer the delay, the less effective the reinforcement. Recall that “reinforcement” is not the same as reward. In order to be a reinforcer, the item/activity/etc. has to increase the future frequency of the behavior. (Read more about reinforcement in my post here).

So when attempting to reinforce a target behavior, the sooner the better. Have the item readily available. If it’s an activity or outing a person is earning, get ready to get up and go as soon as the target behavior occurs. The longer the delay, the weaker the contingency. The child does not associate the reinforcer with the target behavior if the reinforcement is delayed too significantly. Thus, if the child does not associate the target behavior with the attempted reinforcer, they are less likely to repeat that behavior in the future.

A classic example:

Let’s say a child really loves bike rides. Riding his or her bike functions as a reinforcer. But bike rides are an activity; not something you can quickly hand a child, like a piece of candy. If you want to make doing the dishes the target behavior, reinforced by a bike ride, here are some things you’d want to consider:

  • Have the child already in the appropriate shoes, clothing, etc.
  • Have the bike already easily accessible when you go out to the yard
  • Once the last dish is cleaned, immediately take the kid outside, help them get on the bike and go!

If after the last dish was completed you had to help the kid put on socks and shoes, then get the bike out of the garage, then help with the helmet, etc….5 or 10 minutes might pass before the child actually gets on the bike! So the child would not necessarily associate doing the dishes with earning  a bike ride. Additionally, any behavior that occurs between the dish washing and the bike ride may actually be the behavior you end up reinforcing. If the child finishes the dishes, and then during putting on their shoes has a major tantrum, and then they still get the bike ride…you have would have then unwittingly reinforced the tantrum, not the dish washing behavior.

Conclusion: faster is better. The less time between the target behavior and the reinforcement, the less chance you have of mistakenly reinforcing a different behavior. And, the stronger the relationship becomes between the target behavior and the reinforcer.

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