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In our Topics in ABA series, we’re discussing Topics in ABA: Assent Withdrawal.

Consent- n. permission or agreement to do something.

In clinical practice, we know and value consent as an ethical requirement for treatment. We always ensure that our clients’ parents understand the treatment, the risks and benefits, and agree to services. What about the kids, the direct clients we serve, though? It is their right to agree to treatment as well, and often times our clients are too young or don’t have the skills to provide us with their consent. In these situations, they do have the ability to provide us with their assent.

Assent- n. the expression of approval or agreement.

We would all agree that happy learners are much easier to teach and make more progress when happy.  A child who shows up to the table or complies easily with directions makes more progress than those who struggle in these areas. Gaining assent of our clients demonstrates respect for their opinion and ensures our kids are at their best during each teaching moment.  When a child withdraws assent, it can be something as simple as not attending to instructions, “spacing out,” or it can be clearer- tossing the materials off the table. Either way, the child is telling us something is wrong. It is important that they are heard, and their withdrawal should function to us as clinicians to make changes to the intervention and, most importantly, to capture the teaching opportunity to improve our client’s self-advocacy skills.

Moving forward, we will be improving our training and understanding of Assent Withdrawal, always looking out for what is best for our kids!

Liz Lefebre, MA BCBA 

Vice President of Programming and Strategy

Bierman Autism Centers is where kids as young as 18 months to 9 years of age engage in play to learn foundational skills they can build on, such as self-advocacy and communication. They recognize that every kid’s success is unique, and their one-on-one approach allows them to drive progress and measurable outcomes while each child is advancing on their own terms.

With over 200 graduations, Bierman currently has centers and is expanding in: Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island. For more about Bierman Autism Centers, visit or call 800-931-8113.

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