Thursday, June 12, 2008

Behavior Analysts Rebut ABA Myths

Most of the criticisms of ABA as an autism intervention come from sources with little or no actual knowledge of, or experience with, ABA. Myths about suppression of an autistic child's personality, repetition and inducement of robot like behavior abound.

I have posted comments and pictures on this site of my son Conor waiting in anticipation for his ABA therapist to arrive. I have seen ABA help Conor learn skills, reduce problem behaviors and expand his ability to communicate. But as a mere parent my actual knowledge of ABA and its positive influence on my son's life is of no weight to the anti-cure, anti-treatment, anti-ABA ideologues who attack ABA despite their own lack of actual knowledge or experience with the intervention and despite the hundreds of studies and many credible professional reviews of those studies speaking to the effectiveness of ABA as an autism intervention.

In Autistic children show different behavior patterns Board Certified Behavior Analysts Dan Mruzek and Dennis Mozing rebut some of the myths and misunderstandings about ABA as an autism intervention. There is nothing particularly new about what Mruzek and Mozing have to say. What they have to offer is actual knowledge of, and experience with, autism as an intervention.

Unlke some anti-ABA ideologues who accuse behaviourists of misbehaving and propogate unfounded, negative myths about ABA Mruzek and Mozing have actual experience with ABA. They have more than empty, heated rhetoric to offer - they have, as Board Certified Behavior Analysts talked the talk and walked the walk. Unlike most anti-ABA critics they actually know what they are talking about. They offer their comments on an article which perpetuated some of the ABA misconceptions:

Unfortunately, the essay perpetuated some all-too-common misconceptions about applied behavior analysis, particularly that it is "rooted in repetition" and focuses mainly on making "children with autism ... indistinguishable from their peers." In fact, the concept is a very flexible approach, with teaching methods and goals carefully tailored to the needs of each child.

And they speak to ABA's effectiveness as a means of helping autistic children:

The first applied behavior analysis study specifically targeting autism was published in 1964. Since then, it has become the most-studied intervention for children with autism — the only one recommended by the New York State Department of Health. It includes a wide array of teaching methods grounded in scientifically derived principles of learning, especially those related to the powerful effect of positive reinforcement on behavior change.

Applied behavior analysis can help people with autism develop new skills (in academics, play, communication, social interaction) and support those who engage in challenging behaviors (severe tantrums, refusing food, injuring themselves).

Intensive, early intervention for young children with autism can be especially effective, although outcomes vary among individuals. A study under way at UR is investigating factors possibly implicated in these variable outcomes.

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