Beyond the B.A.S.I.C.S. Blog

ABA Myths

October 12, 2012


1.    ABA IS EXPERIMENTAL.          ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is a research based, scientifically proven teaching method.  It is the only treatment recommended for long-term benefit by the United States Surgeon General, and has many professional journals, including the Journal for Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA).

2.    ABA TEACHES ROBOTIC LANGUAGE.      Picture your favorite singer performing the Star Spangled Banner at the start of a sporting event.  She’s adding her own style to the song – changing a word here or there, adding grace notes, and maybe even altering the key.  In preparation for her performance, she practiced the song – as written – hundreds of times.  She knows the song so well she’s able to inject her own personality into it without altering the message she’s communicating.
ABA breaks down language skills in the same way – by teaching language piece by piece and having students practice until they know it “by heart.” Students, then, may appear to have rote conversations, when in fact they’re still learning pieces of a “song” they’ll later be able to personalize.  You may hear your program consultant referring to the “acquisition phase” of language versus the “generalization & maintenance” phase; this is what she means.

3.    ABA USES BRIBES.        False!  ABA uses positive reinforcement to increase the likelihood that a particular behavior will occur again.  In other words, ABA practice shapes the events that happen directly AFTER a desired behavior, thus improving the chance that behavior will occur again. A big distinction is that a bribe stops a negative behavior (ie: If you stop crying, I will give you a cookie). Reinforcement increases a positive behavior (ie: asking for a snack without yelling).

4.    ABA MEANS TABLE WORK.    BASICS ABA Therapy, LLC strives to teach in a natural environment. Depending on the specific needs of the student, table work may be an important element of an ABA session, but it is certainly not the only piece to a good program, and isn’t always used.  For example, if a student needs to learn how to eat at a restaurant, his ABA programming will include practicing the necessary skills at a restaurant.  Therapists may teach preliminary skills, like how to read a menu, in a more traditional venue, but skills are not considered “mastered” until they can be performed in a real world setting.
Certain teaching styles, including discrete trial training, can involve flashcards, rote memorization, and pen-and-paper activities, but at BASICS these styles are always be used in combination with natural environment practice, and never as the only approach to teaching a skill.

  1.    ALL ABA PROGRAMS ARE THE SAME.      False!  In fact, because ABA programs are specifically designed to address the needs of each particular learner, NO TWO ABA PROGRAMS SHOULD EVER BE THE SAME!  Each ABA practitioner begins a case with an intake interview, where he assesses the skills and challenges of each learner.  Practitioners then design a curriculum based on those specific needs.  Some programs will include mostly play skills, whereas others will focus on academics or social skills.  Some students will spend time sitting at a desk working on homework, whereas other students may practice riding public transportation, going to the grocery store, or going on a date.  Although there are several curriculums practitioners may utilize, the programs chosen for each learner are tailored to his/her unique needs.


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http://www.autismusaba.dc/ (Archives of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis)


-Melissa Ruiz, BCaBA and Saundra Bishop, BCBA

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