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We’re starting ABA! Wait, what is ABA?

June 14, 2016

Have you ever heard about positive reinforcement? How about negative reinforcement? And punishment? These are words that providers of ABA, applied behavior analysis, use everyday.

So let’s talk about these terms. Positive reinforcement is the addition of something that increases the likelihood a behavior will occur again, so if you want your child to eat their vegetables, then give them something they really like after they eat the vegetables (like a cookie or ice cream).

Conversely, negative reinforcement is taking something away to increase the likelihood that behavior will occur again. So again if you want your child to eat their vegetables and they say “no,” so you take the vegetables away, they are more likely to say no again in the future. Punishment is pretty much the same way, positive punishment is adding something to decrease a behavior – like a chore, doing the dishes, for throwing. While, negative punishment is taking something away to decrease a behavior -like taking away the x-box when they don’t do their homework.

In ABA we use these ideas (and a lot of other things) to work on socially significant behaviors. Wait, what do you mean “socially significant”? Socially significant behaviors are behaviors that impact daily life and quality of life. These can be things like hitting and throwing, or non-compliance like refusal, and things like simple requesting (verbal behaviors), brushing teeth and engaging in age appropriate play and activities.

ABA has started getting a lot more interest lately, which is great! It was originally developed by B.F. Skinner, known as the father of behaviorism (fun fact). For the time being ABA is primarily focused on children with Autism but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective with other kids (and people). I could use ABA sometimes to change my behaviors! At least that’s what I think.

If you’re looking for any more information about ABA, Autism Speaks has a lot of great resources for parents and we can give you more information too!

A really good book I’ve found about verbal behavior in ABA is called The Verbal Approach to Behavior: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders, by Mary Lynch Barbara. I like this book a lot because it’s actually written by a parent of a child diagnosed with autism and can be really helpful for parents.

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