Common Misconceptions

ABA Is Autism-Specific

ABA is not an autism specific therapy. ABA has also been shown as effective to use with a number of populations including schizophrenia (Wilder, Masuda, O’Connor and Baham 2001), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Northup et al.1997) Down Syndrome (Dalton, Rubino and Hislop 1973), and feeding disorders (Piazza et al. 2003),as well as typical learners (Darrig et al. 2005). ABA is commonly associated with autism because of widespread coverage of its effectiveness for people with autism.

ABA Ignores Biology

ABA takes account of biological influences on behaviour, but does not focus strongly on biology or genetics. A lack of sleep or the presence of pain may be a ‘setting event’ for problem behaviour and a comprehensive functional behaviour assessment and will try to discover any such problem so that it can be treated or addressed. But as well as biological and genetic determinants, our ABA science has shown us that behaviour is very strongly influenced by the surrounding context or environment and this is where a behaviour analyst primarily focuses.

ABA Is a Method

ABA cannot be identified with any single method, programme or intervention. It represents a person-centred approach to behaviour change. ABA is the applied arm of the science of behaviour and as such it provides a framework for understanding and changing behaviour. It can be applied in any situation where a behaviour change is desired.

ABA Is Discrete Trial Teaching

Discrete trial teaching often plays an important role in ABA programmes, however it is only one of many behavioural teaching methods. Some of the other teaching methods derived from ABA include incidental teaching, precision teaching, pivotal response training and personalised systems of instruction.

ABA Is Robotic

ABA does not create robots. ABA interventions are individualilsed to the learner and some clients may learn best using programmes that are highly structured and emphasise repetition. For these clients, the aim is to move from the structured enviornment to the natural environment.

Behaviour Analysts Do Not Believe In Minds

Behaviour Analysts find the use of mentalistic terms problematic. Behaviour Analysts believe it is more useful to talk about things like thoughts, feelings and memories in terms of private events that are subject to same laws that govern public events.

Parents And Lay People Cannot Do ABA

Parents and lay people can carry out ABA programmes when properly trained by a board certified behaviour analyst. Parent training is typically an essential aspect of any programme for children with autism.

A Short Training Course Is Sufficient To Design And Supervise ABA Programmes For Children With Autism And Developmental Difficulties

The internationally recognised criteria for practicing ABA while supervised involves the completion of 135 classroom hours of instruction and 1000 hours of supervised fieldwork while the criteria for becoming a qualified behaviour analyst involves the completion of a master’s degree in behaviour analysis or a related area and 1500 hours of supervised field work. Interventions that are not supervised by people with appropriate training and experience should not be regarded as ABA.

ABA Is Incompatible With Other Treatments For Children With Autism

Behaviour Analysts do not reject anything that works and prefer a team-based approach to addressing a child’s needs. While working in a team, behaviour analysts encourage the use of data-based decision making for all recommendations made by team-members. This makes all professionals more accountable to the client and allows parents of children with autism to make informed decisions.

Several studies have found EIBI to be more effective than standard educational services or “eclectic services”. It is important to note that adopting an eclectic approach is not the same thing as working in a multidisciplinary team. It is common for behaviour analysts to work with other professionals, such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, doctors and physiotherapists, when designing EIBI programmes.