Core Behavioral Solutions

Myths & Misconceptions about ABA

ignorance point of view

I am the first t admit that ABA is not without its issues and short comings but 99% of the time the criticisms I hear are just plain untrue. I think this stems mainly from ignorance, not malice. Yet I often read websites, work with individuals or attend trainings where I hear such whoppers told about ABA with such ferocity and to large crowds it drives me NUTS!

ABA creates rote responses.

Sure, bad ABA or ABA done wrong can create rote responses. But it is also true that you can bash your finger with a hammer. This is not the hammer’s fault, it is user error. A defining characteristic of ABA is that there is generality. This means good practitioners program for stimulus and response generalization (under what circumstances a behavior occurs and what behaviors are emitted). As a matter of fact ABA can be used to teach creativity. Here is a fun article on clicker training being used to teach creativity in gorillas. I have also seen studies on teaching creativity to children by reinforcing novel block designs.

ABA is synonymous with discrete trial teaching (DTT).

Discrete trial teaching is one of many ABA teaching strategies. Another Myth that goes closely with this is that ABA is done at a table. ABA is a set of learning principals. Read this for more information on “What is ABA?”. ABA can be used ANYWHERE to teach just about ANYTHING.

You cant use ABA to teach social skills to children that are high functioning, or not autistic.

One of the best methods I have seen for teaching social skills is called Teaching Interactions. The have been used successfully to work with students with Asperger’s, juvenile delinquents, and for staff training…just to name a few. I think this myth is connected to the myth that ABA is discrete trial that happens at  table in a certain tone of voice (that tone of voice is BAD DTT by the way)

ABA is bad for teaching social skills because it just teaches skills in isolation like “look at me”.

Again, this goes back to the hammer Smile I have issues with the “Look at me” program and how it is implemented in most cases. There are practitioners out there that don’t know what they are doing. Just because they use ABA wrong doesn’t mean that it is a problem with ABA. But there is NOTHING in ABA that says what social skills to teach or that you teach students skills like  look at your eyes when ever you say “look at me” with out teaching why or what it signifies. This is a criticism that I have heard in many Michelle Garcia Winner trainings that is simply untrue. Side note:I actually admire Michelle Garcia Winner and would love to have a conversation with her because I think she does A LOT of ABA with out realizing it.

ABA is for children with autism, not typical children or children with other issues.

ABA is for everyone. There are numerous examples in the research literature of ABA being used across populations, applications and species. Here are a few: Animals, teaching reading, math and science to ‘typical students’, schizophrenia, juvenile justice and corrections facilities, staff training, parent training, consumer behavior, weightless, recycling, gymnastics, animal husbandry …. and I may have been known to use it on my husband now and then Smile



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *