In recent decades, the world has made tremendous strides in understanding autism and its effects on children. ABA Therapy is widely recognized as the most effective and common treatment for autism. Regardless of the science-backed data that proves ABA Therapy is effective, there are still some misconceptions about it which may prevent parents from seeking treatment. In order to get the needed care for their child, parents need to be informed about what ABA Therapy is truly like so that they can make educated decisions about their child’s care.
MYTH #1: ABA Focuses on Punishment
Effective ABA programs rely on praise, pairing, and preferred items to help learners achieve new skills. Using methodologies that focus on reinforcement rather than punishment are written right into the Code of Ethics of the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB). Your child’s ABA program should be personalized and fun!
So, what role does punishment play in ABA Therapy?
Within ABA, the word “punishment” means something different than its’ traditional definition. It means the chances of a behavior happening again have decreased as a result of an event that followed the behavior. Here’s an example: Bobby stubbed his toe when walking through his room in the dark. As a result Bobby did not walk through his room in the dark in the future. The consequence of stubbing his toe resulted in a decrease in that behavior, therefore functioning as punishment.
MYTH #2: ABA Relies on Bribes
ABA Therapy relies on positive reinforcers which is something favorable that a learner receives for a job well done post-occurrence; it is a consequence provided immediately after a behavior. A bribe is something you hold over the learner’s head until they perform the way you expect. Positive reinforcement helps the learner link the behavior to the positive event and over time reinforcement may shift from something provided by another person to the completion of the behavior itself or social praise or interaction.
MYTH #3: ABA Wants to Change People Diagnosed with Autism
While we cannot speak for everyone, Bierman Autism Centers firmly believes that those with neurodiversity are a major asset to the world. The goal of ABA Therapy is to help children feel more confident and empowered to be more independent. ABA Therapy helps children diagnosed with autism unlock the tools they need to reach new milestones. Equipping children with developmental and communication skills can change their lives by allowing them to advocate for themselves. ABA does not seek to change the children who are in therapy, it seeks to help them improve their lives and give them more skills to be independent.
MYTH #4: All ABA Programs Are the Same
This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Applied behavior analysis is a science of individual behavior. ABA focuses on changing specific behaviors in each individual, therefore an ABA program for one child is dramatically different from another child’s program. ABA Therapy is most effective when adjusted to suit the client’s needs, wants, and motivations.
MYTH #5: ABA Therapy is only for Children Diagnosed with Autism
At Bierman, we focus on treating children ages 2-9 that have been diagnosed with autism, but ABA Therapy as a whole can help children and adults without autism adopt beneficial behaviors too! All humans learn through positive and negative reinforcement, therefore the principles and techniques of ABA can foster basic skills, such as looking or listening.