03 Sep ABA Insights: Advocating for Positive ABA Experiences
Behavior Analysts use various ABA interventions and intervention packages to guide behavior modification. While many ABA interventions exist, specific interventions within certain client contexts may result in aversive experiences, at the same time, others may result in more positive ones. Hence bringing an essential consideration to the forefront- Interventions of behavior analysis need to be selected carefully considering the client’s preferences, contexts, and historical learning experiences. Doing so ensures a Clinical ABA team selects interventions more mindfully to steward positive experiences and outcomes not just for the client but also for the client’s family. A good treatment team continuously attempts to advocate, educate, develop systems, and guide clinicians and families to select interventions cautiously to encourage least restrictive & positive experiences that are effective and have positive outcomes. At the same time, to ensure one is a part of a team that provides effective and ethical ABA services, families and staff need to become involved with the treatment team.
It is natural to feel doubtful about suggested interventions when one does not understand how they work or their expected effects and outcomes. Building awareness and knowledge about them allows you to develop comfort with the selected interventions to help identify if it is a good fit for your learner or child. Hence, Families and Staff are encouraged to learn about the basic ABA concepts and interventions the treatment team intends to use.
An important question to tackle is- How can one identify if the interventions used are positive and a good fit for your child/learner?
Since there are multiple routes one can take to intervening in challenging behaviors, the best intervention is one that the learner is receptive to and demonstrates consent through verbal and nonverbal communications. Begin with knowing your learner or child. One can make helpful decisions about a selected program or intervention package for the child by knowing them well. A nice way to learn about the child or client is by directly asking them (i.e., if they are vocal and can express themselves well), or closely observing their nonverbal cues. E.g., A learner may demonstrate consent to treatment by asking for the Staff to play or work with them, physically approaching the Staff more, smiling at the Staff, showing a willingness to share their toys with the Staff, and choosing to follow their instructions without challenges, etc. To help advocate for your child or client better, observe and explore their verbal and nonverbal behaviors of consent, as this can look different for different people.
Secondly, it is essential to familiarize oneself with the ethical obligations of the field. For instance, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board strongly advocates for the client’s rights to access effective services. It highlights the value of involving families in treatment plans and the importance of ensuring they know the conditions that result in effective treatments and their limitations. They continuously encourage BCBAs to ensure families and the client have access to information that allows them to make informed decisions and consent to treatment.
Finally, Look for a strong Rationale. Families and Staff are encouraged to engage in frequent dialogues with the team’s BCBA to understand the rationale behind selected interventions and why other interventions may not be a better fit. I often use this example with families and teams I work with- if someone asked me to do 20 pushups at a mall without any given reason or sharing the rationale for the task, I am unlikely to follow through with the requested task. I am less likely to do so for a good reason. It is generally unfair to expect a person to do something without understanding the rationale behind the requested task or activity. It is important not to follow suggestions blindly, so individuals can protect themselves and those they care for or work with by making informed decisions. No one should have to take their oxygen mask off without good reason.
Families and team members are encouraged to identify how, when and what kind of information to gather from their treatment team to make informed decisions. Getting involved with the treatment and observing treatment outcomes are excellent ways to become familiar with the treatment expectations, and to identify if the selected interventions are a good fit for the child/learner.
Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2014). Professional and ethical compliance code for behavior analysts. Littleton, CO.
Moes, D. R., Frea, W. D. (2000). Using Family Context to Inform Intervention Planning for the Treatment of a Child with Autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions;2(1):40-46.
Moes, D. R., Frea, W.D. (2002). Contextualized Behavioral Support in Early Intervention for Children with Autism and Their Families. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders; 32, 519–533.