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February 3, 2021

Common Misconceptions About Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for Your ASD Child

7 common misunderstandings about ABA Therapy for children

Key takeaways about ABA Therapy:

  1. It was developed over 50 years ago
  2. It is scientifically proven and endorsed by respected associations
  3. It employs a philosophy of positive reinforcement
  4. It promotes more natural responses to situations
  5. It uses “yes” more than “no” responses
  6. It can be beneficial for both young and older children
  7. Programs are individualized to meet the needs of your child

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, one therapy method you should consider is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy. This is a therapy designed to help children cope with challenging behavioral issues while mastering new social and communication skills. It’s meant to help you and your child handle these issues, while vastly improving them.

While ABA Therapy can be a very effective method, there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Here we’ll go over some of the most common misconceptions and discuss the topics in greater detail.

What is ABA Therapy?

First, we should discuss the basics of ABA Therapy to make sure you understand its process. It is designed to help children with behavioral issues, particularly those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) develop social, communication, and self-control skills. In the end, children learn to control their own emotions and reactions to situations, which leads to more appropriate behaviors in different environments.

7 common misconceptions about ABA Therapy

1.  ABA is too new and untested

ABA Therapy was actually developed over 50 years ago by two UCLA psychologists named Ivar Lovaas and Robert Koegel. It has since been refined, with standardized treatment protocols that have led to continued success in helping families with children on the autism spectrum. It’s the only behavior therapy that’s been proven to work and it’s been recommended by the US Surgeon General for the past 30 years.

 2. ABA Therapy is not scientifically proven

ABA has been scientifically proven to work, and its use in building independence for children, while providing support and coping methods for parents and caregivers, is unparalleled.

“ABA has produced remarkably powerful interventions in fields such as education, developmental disabilities and autism, clinical psychology, behavioral medicine, and organizational behavior management…” according to the National Institutes of Health.

There have been almost 600 peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of ABA Therapy. Also, respected professional associations such as the American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychology Association have endorsed ABA Therapy.

3. ABA uses bribes, like food, to promote good behavior

ABA Therapy does incorporate rewards for appropriate behavior, but they are not “bribes.” Instead, positive reinforcement is provided after a behavior occurs, not before to “force” it, such as a bribe. Food does tend to be a good positive reinforcer in the beginning, but other items, such as social praise, toys, and books, are also used for children to encourage the continuation of appropriate behavior they’ve been displaying.

 4. ABA turns children into little robots

No, and in fact, the opposite is true. Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) display behavioral rigidity, especially when faced with situations that trigger fear, anger, or other strong emotions. ABA Therapy teaches generalization of responses for a variety of situations to decrease the rigidity in everyday life.

 5. ABA is all about saying “no”

ABA Therapy is not about using “no” all the time at all, it’s about positive reinforcement. It is not based on punishment, but rather rewarding appropriate behavior. The child learns how to be successful and then build on that success.

 6. ABA is only for young children

While early intervention is best when it comes to ASD children, it can be applied to older children as well. Although results may take longer, ABA therapy for older children is very much encouraged to achieve appropriate behavior changes.

7. ABA programs all look alike

There is no “one size fits all” philosophy when it comes to ABA Therapy. This type of therapy is highly individualistic and based on the unique needs of the child. One of the main goals of therapy sessions is to identify which behaviors you want to change and determine how to help your child learn them. A certified behavior analyst then designs a custom program to meet the needs of your child and family. Progress and improvements are measured individually as well.

ABA Therapy can help everyone cope and grow

Your child’s behavior impacts his/her life at school and home. ABA Therapy can help him or her learn appropriate behavior using different reinforcement techniques.

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service pediatric therapy practice with over 10 years of experience in ABA Therapy and other services. All of our therapists are Doctorate and Master’s level-credentialed and we offer traditional 1:1 therapy, therapeutic preschool, and enrichment classes. We also provide other comprehensive therapies so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.

Our services include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Social work
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

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