ABA: Beyond the Table and Little Kids

Ok, with the school year upon us, we’re kicking off a 5 part series about how ABA is not just for little kids on the autism spectrum learning to sit in a chair and make eye contact with their teachers. ABA can, has, and probably should be used across all settings and ages…but most people don’t know that or don’t know how to make it work. That’s where we come in. Over the next few weeks we’ll share information on different strategies to use in the classroom that will help in many ways: 1) understanding the challenges teachers face, 2) how to address the different functions of problem behaviors, 3) increasing motivation, and 4) how to use different types of assistance to ensure the best possible student performance.

PART 1: REFRAMING THE WORLD

Before we get too deeply into the different topics and strategies that can be used in all classrooms, I want to share one point of passion I have for my job and the worldview of behavior analysis. I share this with you because I believe with all my heart that behavior analysis is a compassionate and loving strategy that keeps everything (even the most difficult things) framed in a positive light to highlight the hope of growth for all of us.

One question we often hear in the world today is, “What’s wrong with that kid that he would do that?!” (or some variation of such). Nothing positive can possibly come as a result of such a question. All that question does is place blame and insinuate that other people need “fixing.” Behavior analysis helps reframe that question into “What can I do to foster positive change? Where/how can I support growth in others?” How much more supportive and growth-focused is that question? If we can frame our approach to working with kids (or co-workers) in a way that is necessarily focused on growth rather than blame, how much more impact can we have on the kids we are working so tirelessly to help, teach, and mentor?

This question and this approach is not to say that some of the kids we work with don’t need to learn to make better choices and don’t need to stop doing some of the things that they do. I am NOT saying that kids can do no wrong and we (i.e., the adults) are the ones “to blame.” This worldview, rather, posits that our own behavioral changes support and motivate behavioral changes in others. I love what I do and the science of behavior analysis because my own actions have helped to turn around kids and adults that were on a very difficult path of destructive and dangerous behavior.

My belief is that beginning with the question of “What can I do?” sets the stage for the most positive and healthy relationships in the classroom, and we hope to share the different impacts of this worldview with you over the next few blogs. Walk this road with us and feel free share struggles and success stories with us, too!

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2 thoughts on “ABA: Beyond the Table and Little Kids

  1. Another great post! I like the way that you framed this. Behavior Analysis is about helping people to become the best version of themselves possible 🙂 I get frustrated sometimes by the people who distinguish Behavior Analysis from Positive Behavior Intervention Supports. They are literally the same set of scientific principles being used and we are all looking to help people interact with and experience the world as successfully as possible.

    • Thanks for the feedback and your thoughts. I think we share that same frustration at times, as it seems ABA gets boxed into something so restricted that people don’t see the amazing utility of the approach. PBIS has found ubiquitous support, even though it is based in the same principles, which is hard to convey. We have been lucky enough to work with a PBIS coordinator in one setting that collaborates with us to support the idea that what we are teaching the staff is perfectly in line with and extends the PBIS systems that are in place. That has been a great help to us and might be a good way to begin making inroads with folks that see ABA and PBIS as two entirely different or competing approaches.

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