By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
President, bSci21Media, LLC
Applied Behavior Analysis has seen enormous growth over the past 15 years due to its successes in the areas of autism and developmental disabilities. ABA is unique in that it’s analytic goals are the prediction and influence of behavior. With goals such as those, behavior analysts are primarily concerned with one thing and one thing only — behavior change.
Applied Behavior Analysis has documented applications across a wide spectrum of behavior including Organizational Behavior Management, environmental sustainability, and many others. Just check out the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and Behavior & Social Issues to see for yourself.
Myth #6: ABA therapy promotes robotic language/behavior.
Behavioral rigidity is one of the characteristics of autism, and many mental disorders. ABA treatments seek to overcome rigidity by teaching multiple exemplars and teaching for generalization to the real-world situations relevant to the individual. In the beginning of a program, responses might seem overly simplified and therefore “robotic” but you need behavior to work with, and those skills are eventually built up and transferred to naturalistic settings in a functional manner.
Myth #7: Anybody can direct an ABA treatment program.
If your state covers ABA treatment, it must be overseen by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). BCBAs undergo a long course sequence in many aspects of ABA, in addition to a lengthy (1500 hours) supervised fieldwork experience.
Myth #8: Children must undergo 40-hours of ABA therapy a week to achieve a positive effect.
The length and intensity of any ABA program is dependent upon the individual and his/her baseline behavioral state. As mentioned above, the key feature of ABA is it’s focus on individuals, rather than groups. ABA is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.
Myth #9: ABA programs institute punishment in their teaching procedures.
In the early days of ABA, punishment was used more often but today positive reinforcement is the overwhelmingly dominant mode of behavior change. Punishment might be used in rare cases, for example, to prevent serious self-injury to oneself, but reinforcement can be used in a given situation, it will be. If punishment is absolutely necessary, reinforcement procedures targeting alternative behavior should be in place concurrently.
Myth #10: ABA uses bribes consisting of food and toys to manipulate children’s behavior.
Do you encounter these or other myths in your work? Let us know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive new articles directly to your inbox!
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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com. Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues. He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.