As my first true post, I felt (with some guidance from variousnotes) that it would be appropriate to address what applied behavior analysis is. To me, it makes more sense to start with what it isn’t, and work from there.
- First, applied behavior analysis is not specifically for “bad kids.” Anyone who works in behavior analysis will tell you that ABA can be applied to the entire spectrum of human behavior. My personal experience is with individuals with developmental disabilities who display problem behaviors, so when I get to talk to people briefly, that tends to be the perception of this field.
But, the same concepts apply across the board. It goes back to the simple concept of operant conditioning and operant behavior (which I will get to in the future). Your job, your life, and everything that falls in between is subject to the concepts of behavior analysis.
- Second, ABA is not solely adaptable to human behavior. Have you ever trained a dog to sit? Have you been to SeaWorld and seen ANY of the shows the animals perform in? It all goes back to the very same principles that behavior analysts use in treatments. As a matter of fact, I had the privilege of getting a behind the scenes look at how trainers at SeaWorld trained the seals for the Clyde and Seymore show. And terms like “immediate reinforcement” and “approximations to the target behavior” were used.
- Third, ABA is not a cure-all. The focus of the science is on behavior and it’s increase/decrease depending on social appropriateness. It is by no means the answer to medical problems, and it isn’t always the answer. As behavior analysts, we are always subject to medical interventions first. We can’t cure an earache if the real problem is an infection. We can, however, teach someone to ask for medical intervention rather than punching themselves in the head to attenuate the pain.
- Finally, ABA lends itself to simple explanations rather than lofty concepts and theoretical constructs. We are working with behavior, motivations, and reinforcement. It is simple and to the point (for the most part). It is definable across professionals, and it is (for the most part) easily agreed upon.
Just as an example, try to define “anger.” Define “depression.” Not that these aren’t important concepts, but is it easier to define the behaviors related to those concepts? How can you tell someone is angry? They make facial expressions, loud verbal statements (sometimes laced with profanity), or get physically aggressive. The word “anger” holds little weight in the ABA community, while a punch is like striking gold (because we can all agree what a punch looks like).
- As behavior analysts, we do just that; analyze behavior. But we analyze other variables in the individual’s environment as well as the behaviors themselves. So, I think that the keynotes here are as follows
1. ABA is not just for “bad kids.”
2. ABA is not just for human beings.
3. ABA is not the end-all, be-all answer to someone’s problems.
4. ABA works on simple, observable explanations first.
It’s science, and there is plenty of research to support it. If you are interested in anything, or have any questions for me, please feel free to ask. I will answer as best I can (and will even post the questions publicly if you don’t mind and they are appropriate). Thank you for reading!