Here, we have tried to answer some common questions here about ABA. You can hear Adam Dean speaking about ABA on the multi school councils podcast here
The UK SBA have put a fantastic document together which addresses many of the concerns raised in the media and on social media about ABA. You can access that document here
What is behaviour analysis? And what is ABA?
Behaviour Analysis is a science, the science of understanding behaviour, a bit like biology is the science of living things and physics is the science of the physical world. Much like any science, behaviour analysis has many applications. Many of the tools that behaviour analysis has created come under the umbrella of applied behaviour analysis or ABA.
ABA uses the science of behaviour analysis to support and work with individuals by helping them learn new skills which have a positive impact on their lives.
If you want to learn more click here
You can also read about the the values of UK ABA here
Is ABA evidence based?
Applied Behaviour analysis is the application of a science and as such ABA professionals only work with interventions which are evidence based. Peer reviewed articles pertaining to the effectiveness of ABA can be accessed through a number of journals, for more information of this you can go here . The UK-SBA information pack found here provides an excellent summary of current evidence for ABA. At Chatten the term 'evidence based' works on two levels:
Evidence based interventions
Essentially we will only use interventions that have a strong evidence base in the scientific literature. We avoid interventions that make claims of ‘quick fixes’ and ‘cures’ for any and all conditions. Essentially, we need to see positive peer reviewed evidence of teaching techniques before we use them.
Individual effectiveness evidence
We also continually take data on the effectiveness of an intervention for individuals. For example, if we are teaching a new skill using a specific intervention we will take data on how quickly or effectively that skill is being acquired. We monitor this data and if after a short amount of time it becomes apparent that the intervention is not working we will either make adaptations to the intervention itself or change the intervention entirely.
What kind of fields does behaviour analysis get used in?
Many people think of ABA as a specific intervention for young people with autism. They often think of ABA as involving sitting at a table with quick fire questions and food based rewards.
This is a massive fallacy which has created a huge amount of misconception around ABA. In actuality ABA is used in a range of fields and with a variety of tools and interventions.
Yes- ABA is used to support people with autism in a multitude of different ways but it is not the only application.
ABA is also used effectively in the following fields:
Substance abuse (including smoking, drugs and alcoholism)
Safety – including work and community safety
Behaviour forensics – including supporting with crime and criminality
Supporting the environment
Work place – known as organisational behaviour management or OBM
Mental health support – known as acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT
ABA is also the basis for many other well-known interventions including:
PECS – Pictorial exchange communication system
PBS – positive behavioural support
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) also has its roots in ABA.
Can anyone practice behaviour analysis?
People may read books on ABA and attempt to apply some of its interventions or theories in everyday life. They may even attend short courses or workshops and learn specifically about how to apply certain interventions.
However, this is much akin to reading a book on physiotherapy and suggesting you are a physiotherapist.
People who do this may be applying their own personal understanding of some behaviour analytic principles but they are not behaviour analysts.
People who are using applied behaviour analysis should either:
Receive frequent supervision from a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA)
Be a BCBA themselves
In order to become a BCBA an individual must:
Have a Master’s level qualification in ABA (OR) Have a Masters in another relevant topic such as education AND Have completed course work equivalent to having a masters in ABA
Received 1500 hours of supervised practice
Passed the BCBA exam
In addition, a BCBA must earn 32 continuing education credits of which 4 must be in ethics every two years to ensure they are up to date with current science and ideas.
Do ABA professionals have an ethics code?
Does ABA involve the use of edible rewards?
It is true that on some occasions edible items are used as reinforcers. However, this is only in very specific circumstances in such situations it is a priority for the tutor and the BCBA supporting to phase out the use of edibles as quickly as possible. Of course if the target is to support a pupil to ask for food items then the result will be a food item. We would all get very frustrated if we asked for chocolate and got a high five.
Does ABA use lots of punishment?
In ABA Punishment is defined as something which is added or removed from the environment which reduces a behaviour. Time out is a form of punishment (if it works) which is widely used in schools and homes across the UK.
Punishment used to be much more prevalent in ABA but much like all sciences and professions we have evolved and changed our practice and this is no longer the case.
In actuality ABA professionals actively avoid using any punishment unless as a last resort. This includes time out. This means you are less likely to see punishment used in a well-managed ABA provision then you would be to see it in most other educational environments.
Does ABA cure autism?
No, ABA is an intervention to support people and teach new skills. Autism (as defined by its diagnostic criteria) is ‘a lifelong developmental disability’ which effects the way people view and interact with the world around them’.
Does ABA try to train people with Autism to be the same as neurotypical people?
Absolutely not! ABA is designed to support people and teach them new skills or reduce behaviours which might be damaging to themselves or others by teaching replacement skills and coping strategies. Autistic people are an important and valuable part of our society.
ABA does not change the person it supports them to learn and grow.
Is ABA damaging or abusive?
Is ABA outdated?
ABA is a science which is continually growing and evolving. Like any other science ABA is different now to 50 years ago and it will be even more different in the future.
Is there such thing as bad ABA?
Sadly, yes. We know that there is bad ABA out there. And bad ABA feeds many of the misconceptions around ABA. All sciences and interventions can be applied badly or even with negative intentions this does not mean that the science itself is bad or negative.
Bad ABA exists but ABA is not bad.
How do I know Chatten is doing ‘good’ ABA?
To start with we ensure that our ABA is overseen by well-trained BCBA’s who understand how to use ABA positively and effectively. Our BCBA’s are required to keep up to date with current practice and ethical considerations to ensure we are providing nothing but the best quality ABA.
We work closely with parents and families to ensure that we are working provide the best outcomes for our pupils.
We are overseen by a fantastic local governing body who provide challenge on all elements of the school including ABA.
We work closely with other ABA provisions (and non ABA provisions) to ensure that we receive feedback from external peers on how we support our young people.