An Overview of Applied Behavior Analysis

Image credit: Learning Ladders Society

Since I have announced that I was accepted into the Master's in Applied Behavior Practice at Florida Institute of Technology, I have received several questions of what this field is, why I have chosen to study this field, and what I intend to do with my degree. After receiving several responses to if I should write an article on this topic, I have decided I could explain what ABA is. I will try to address every aspect of this field, but if you have any other questions, please comment at the end of the article!

Think back to when you were a child. If you're a parent, think back to when your children were young (under the age of 10). Did you ever receive a timeout, or give a timeout to your child? If you said yes to either of these questions, that's an example of ABA. Applied behavior analysis is a therapeutic approach to "correct" behaviors associated with autism or related disabilities. The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) shares that ABA "focuses on the process of behavior change with respect to the development of adaptive, prosocial behavior and the reduction of maladaptive behavior."

To better understand why a child with autism (or neurotypical child) is behaving the way they are, therapists utilize the ABCs of ABA. The ABCs refer to the Antecedents, the Behaviors, and the Consequences of the behaviors. Antecedents refer to what leads to any negative behaviors, like a trigger. With behaviors, there are two types: functional and nonfunctional. ABA therapists observe both. Consequences is what may happen after that behavior and may reinforce behaviors (either good behaviors or bad behaviors).

Here's an example to explain the ABCs of ABA. My sister and I are watching an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. My brother doesn't understand 1) why we aren't paying attention to him, and 2) why he isn't getting his show. That's the Antecedent. He starts biting the chair or his toy to get [negative] attention. That's the Behavior. What's the Consequence? How he responds to the Behavior, but also how my sister and I respond. Depending on what we do, this could cause his negative behaviors to continue, or we can respond in a way to stop the bad behaviors/lead to better behaviors.

There are some criticisms towards ABA. For example, many against ABA believe that "correcting" behaviors associated with autism isn't fair to that individual. That it takes away who they are as a person. Essentially, you're not trying to help that person with autism. You're trying to "fix" them or make them "normal." Some even consider this practice to be abusive, by trying to normalize someone with autism. Regarding this argument, I think every case is different. While ABA helped my brother, it may not have been good for another child with autism. It's up to the caretaker or even the individual to decide what is best. 

Why I chose this field is because I have witnessed firsthand how beneficial this field can be with children (or even adults) like my brother. Even now, as he is an adult, we still utilize ABA in helping him deal with being an adult. I believe this field is extremely beneficial. I also chose this field because I noticed there is a lack of resources for families like mine. After my brother graduated high school, we assumed there would be options for him regarding continuing education or day treatment centers. Sadly, there aren't. Because my brother is on the lower end of the autism spectrum, he cannot continue education nor participate in a work study program. I hope with my combined degrees in Business and soon ABA, I can help give parents more options that we don't have. I also think another option could be involved in counseling or assisting victims of human trafficking in learning how to get past their experience and begin healing. Who knows what God has planned for my life?

I hope this answered some of your questions! I am nervous and excited to begin classes at the end of the month. I do want to let you all know that because psychology is a difficult field, I won't be able to write as often as before. I will need to focus on my schoolwork. I will try to write at least once a month, maybe twice, if possible. Thank you all for supporting me in my journey!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Looking forward to reading your comment! Side note: If you are using Safari to read/comment, you will have troubles commenting. Use Google Chrome for comments!