Let's start with what is ABA. Known as Applied Behaviour Analysis, based on Behaviourism (or think Palvlov's dogs). Today's ABA was "created" in the 1970's, formalized in 1982, and was researched clear into the '90's. It has many programs and organizations that support it and even endorse it. Some provinces and states seem to think it is the be-all and end-all to treating challenging behaviours.
Ok, ok, ok - but what IS it?
Remember Pavlov from science? You can change a response to something new by replacing it with something or if a kid is anticipating a reward, they will behave appropriately. The Socially Anxious Advocate explains it this way: "kids are repeatedly forced to do things that are unnatural, uninteresting, or even painful to them, all in the name of “therapy” – and all with smiles and upbeat attitudes from the therapists demanding it".
That sounds effective?
Let's go with "ish", it is a short-term solution and many adults who have come out of ABA programs in the 80's, 90's and up to today say it isn't effective. Here are some of the reasons:
Those are just some of the reasons.
- doesn't treat the person with respect - you are telling them that behaviours that are common to their neurodiversity are unacceptable, does that mean they are?
- doesn't help address what the behaviour was helping them do or communicate, it can internalize what the behaviour was trying to communicate leading to further issues
- aims to make people look more neurotypical, when they don't need to LOOK neurotypical, just be able to deal with neurotypical people effectively
Non-ABA, ok fine - what is it?
I wanted to be clear to my clients and the city I work in that I choose not to work that way. I do not use Discrete Trial Training. I do not only look at the behaviour and what we can replace it with. Using a combination of learning about the child, building appropriate trust, Natural Play Therapy and Collaborative Proactive Solutions to reach your child and your family.
- Compassionate Communities.
- Collaborative and Proactive Solutions.
- Sometimes the child's needs are family needs.
- Autism and other neurodiversity does NOT need to be cured.
- We can learn through play, through increased interaction with a variety of people.
- We all need to work together to be able to participate in society - it takes a village.
- Knowledge, exploration and getting to know a person will help us help each other more effectively. Innovation respecting the individual needs and interests.
But, but, but - what about CONSEQUENCES? changing BEHAVIOUR? Will they be able to PARTICIPATE IN SOCIETY? How WILL YOU MEASURE IT?
There is accountability through participation and follow through.
There is a change in behaviour by addressing lagging skills and practicing skills to build up our skills and confidence using them.
They will be members of society either way, but I hope the kids I work with can think for themselves and be self-reflective about their behaviour and learning.
You can measure effectiveness by the changes in your house - increase in clear communication, better understanding of each other's priorities, and trust to try something new.
Ready to challenge society's acceptance of ABA and try something different?