Applied Behavior Analysis
It sounds heavy, but it’s the backbone of everything we do here. It’s the process by which we create the recipe for the Behavior Bake. When it comes to raising your children, you want to know what works, why it works. And rightfully so! These are not just your children, they are the future! That’s why we teach the science of applied behavior analysis to parents just like you everywhere.
Applied behavior analysis, also known as ABA, is used in many areas of development, in classrooms and individualized sessions with children who have autism and others. It is rigorously understood, studied, and put into practice to show that with the proper environment and consequences, behavior can be controlled.
It all sounds a bit sterile, doesn’t it? That’s just the science jargon. Really, applied behavior analysis is all about rewards, punishments,
and reinforcements – the thing every parent already practices in their own way. But there’s a big difference between using something and understanding how and why it works. By utilizing ABA you will be building better behavior, better character — better kids! You won’t struggle to get them ready in the morning, they will come right home and get to their homework, and they will stay on top of their chores without constant nagging. Because their behaviors will be understood and worked with.
To understand ABA further, read on.
Brief History of Applied Behavior Analysis
Up until the early 1900’s, psychology was primarily focused on the internal world of individuals. John B. Watson, a psychologist from South Carolina, came along and sought to redirect the study of psychology towards the external. He thought that behavior was determined by stimuli in the environment, not from internal sources. This idea developed into the school of thought called behaviorism. Later researchers, like B. F. Skinner, determined that Watson’s original approach was too simplistic to explain every behavior. Additionally, they believed that consequences of the behavior were just as important, if not more so, than the stimuli that preceded it.
Skinner’s work was the beginning of experimental behavior analysis, which would be expanded into ‘operant conditioning.’ This theorized that behavior could be modified through reinforcements and punishments. The basic ideas of operant conditioning, combined with learning principles and experimentation lead to what we now recognize as applied behavior analysis.
The Seven Characteristics of ABA
The primary seven characteristics of ABA were outlined in 1968 in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis
Applied – The study of ABA is to help modify behavior, in this, the science is directly applied.
Behavioral – ABA looks to modify behavior, to do so means the behavior itself needs to be measured.
Analytic – These first three are right there in the name. Analytic means that the process is measured. The baseline behavior is measured, then intervention measures (reinforcements or punishments) are used, then measured again.
Technological – The findings must be clear, detailed, and easily replicated.
Conceptually Systematic – The behavior analysis should not only produce effective interventions but also use meaningful terms and be grounded in the principles of behavior.
Effective – While they are theoretically based, they must also be effective. If a proposed intervention does not modify behavior in a large enough way, it has failed.
General – Most behavior analysts should work to create generally applicable interventions, that apply to more than a single behavior or in a number of different environments.
There are some newer characteristics that have been suggested including accountable, public, doable, empowering, optimistic.
Note: About those seven (or 12) characteristics, these are for the scientific field of Applied Behavior Analysis. They may not seem like they overtly are connected to the way parents can utilize ABA intervention, but trust us, having an understanding of what ABA is and how it was developed can help you understand how it applies to parents.
Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis
-Consequences manage behavior.
-Reinforcement maintains behavior.
-When withheld, consequences that maintain behavior can weaken or decrease behavior.
-Punishment weakens behavior.
Consequences have a bit of a bad wrap. ‘Con’ makes us think of all the punishment we’ve received growing up. After all, no one talks about ‘If you do your homework there will be consequences!’ it is always ‘If you don’t do your homework…’ But they’re not bad, not by definition. Consequences are simply what comes after, what follows a specific action or behavior.
The consequences can be divided into two categories: whether they will increase or decrease the behavior.
Consequences that will increase (or encourage) a specific behavior are things like Positive and Negative Reinforcement. If you are looking to decrease (or stop) a behavior, then the consequences are extinction and punishment. They sound drastic… but read on. They aren’t quite as grim as you may think.
Positive reinforcement is obvious, it’s the favorite of parents everywhere. It’s the rewarding of a treat, praise, etc. Primary reinforcers can be further broken down into primary or secondary reinforcers.
Primary reinforcers can be things that are consumable or sensory such as food, drink, warmth, or physical touch. They are things that are immediately felt and enjoyed.
Secondary reinforcers cover a wide variety of other possibilities. Toys, praise, allowing an activity, etc.
Not all children respond to the same kind of positive reinforcement. Learning applied behavior analysis from a trained professional can help you identify which form of positive reinforcement will work best with your child.
Negative reinforcement can be a bit tougher to wrap our heads around. It is understood as the removal of an aversive stimulus (such as parents nagging or an alarm sounding) when a desired behavior or reaction is taken. The behavior is reinforced by avoiding those negative stimuli. With less and less.
Extinction and Punishment
Extinction is used to decrease problem behaviors. Keep in mind, it is not the fastest way to curb problem behaviors. Usually, it is met with resistance, sometimes worsening behaviors before resulting in improvement.
Punishment has many disadvantages associated with it. Studies have shown that it can lead to negative self-esteem, withdrawal, increase in negative behaviors (aggression or antisocial tendencies) and may also harm the parent/child relationship.
Putting Applied Behavior Analysis into Practice
ABA has a wide range of applications in any field where behaviors need to be managed, whether by being taught, discouraged, or reinforced. Animal trainers in zoos around the world use the same principles. Pet trainers working with owners and pets use positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement to teach behaviors. In the healthcare world, applied behavior analysts work with patients to develop plans and treat behavior issues. Educators use the techniques to manage their classrooms and students and have found exceptional success in the world of special education. Over 30% of applied behavior analysts are working in schools with developmentally disabled children.
With you! With parents! ABA works wonders for so many different people around the world, training animals, assisting patients, and helping educators with difficult students. But the thought of needing an applied behavior analyst or therapist can put a halt on what would otherwise be an amazingly beneficial process. The truth is you don’t need to have a degree in the field to implement the strategies in your own family.
Using applied behavior analysis, Behavior Bake offers customized behavioral recipes designed by parents and teachers with the support of our professionals. All workshops are three weeks long, meeting once per week for 2 hours. Following completion of the program parents and teachers are invited to join our private Facebook group for on-going support from other program graduates. A short “to-do” list is provided at the end of each session for participants to complete between sessions. There are a number of options available. Together we will help craft the recipe for best behavior performance for your family.
Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(1), 91–97. http://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1968.1-91