Joined: 3 Feb 2006
Location: Ohio, USA
I'm sorry, but the "positive reinforcement" used on me as a kid didn't help a bit. I have bad memories of that time, to the point that, today, when I read the journals and they mention ABA (or the journal itself is all about ABA), I tend to have to take breaks because I get downright angry just reading the stuff.
When I was asked to do something in exchange for a reward that I wanted very much, eventually I just started to hate the whole process. It made me feel like I could never get a break, never relax, or I'd lose what I loved most... I felt totally helpless, like they were yanking me around on a string and could make me do whatever they wanted. My decisions weren't my own. I couldn't predict what was going to happen because I couldn't organize myself well enough to know whether I was going to succeed at what they wanted.
Eventually I was labeled "oppositional defiant". My main offenses were having tantrums, hating chores, and reading under the covers at night.
On top of that, I became so dependent on people telling me what to do that I didn't take initiative to learn how to get myself to do those things. At seventeen, I was still dependent on my mother telling me to take showers and sometimes physically standing there repeating the order until I got into the shower. If she didn't, I'd go weeks without. When everything is dependent on whether you've got stars or "good job" or bits of candy or whatever, then when you don't get people directly telling you, you fail out. Oh, sure, it got from the point of being told specific steps to being told to do the whole thing, but that didn't help much either, since if I wasn't told specific steps, I took two hours to shower... This is just showering. There were other major struggles.
Oh, and I learn best when I'm NOT graded. So do most of us here, I'll imagine, because the way I see 'em talking about their special interests, I'm going to guess they didn't learn those things at school and never got a single grade to motivate them. It's all about the joy of learning.
Reports from a Resident Alien:
I want my child ask me to train her body to do what she want. I don't want to train her body to do something I want.
I so agree. ABA therapy looks like it reinforces rigidity and discourages flexible thinking. I'm all about breaking things down into discrete steps. That really does make it easier to learn. But ABA seems to focus on the "how" and completely ignores the "why", which will severly hamper kids as they get older.
This is key. It also applies to kids with no diagnosis and is extremely controversial. Slfie Kohn wrote a good book called "Punished By Rewards" about how children lose all initiative when they are taught to do things for reinforcement. People complain about it with children and reading. Behaviorism principles have been applied in many schools to get children to read recreationally. They have been given pizza parties and other prizes when they read X number of pages. They are pitted against each other in competitions to see who can read the most number of pages to win prizes. And when there are no prizes forthcoming, they stop reading. That's the damage of behaviorism. God bless JK Rowling for writing a book series so compelling that it got children to read voraciously despite the damaging effects of behaviorism.
My biggest problem with ABA is what you've put right here. It reduces learning to a behavior. Sure, lots of things that we need to do in life are learned beahviors. Kids have to learn to use the bathroom, not hit other kids and so on. But ABA seems to turn everything into a behavior, which is the opposite of flexible and critical thinking. It destroys the sense of wonder and curiosity that mainstream educators (the good ones) know lies at the heart of all true learning. When I see ABA being promoted for autistic children as the be-all and end-all of their learning (rather than used mildly to teach them to use the bathroom or other necessary behaviors) it makes me think that the people who promote this don't think that autistic children are capable of curiosity-based learning because they have no curiosity. It's demeaning. Behaviorism is fine for potty training. But as the main form of teaching for a child? I don't think that's good at all. Autistic children are capable of abstract thought, of curiosity and wanting to know things. To teach them in a way that refuses to acknowledge that is just not right.
Not to put too fine a point on it but if what she got from her 6 years was that ABA therapy is a must and early childhood intervention people don't know what they're doing then, yes- 6 years wasted.
I prefer the approach of Dr. Stanley Greenspan. He calls it the "Floortime Approach" and it is probably what your daughter is getting, more or less, from the ECI teachers in her life. "Floortime" is meant to be taken literally. He believes the best way to teach a child (any child, not just autistic) is to get down on the floor with them and engage in their world and connect with them and show them how their world works. Here's a bit from his book "Engaging Autism".
"Behavioral approaches, when succesful, may change specific behaviors, but because they rely on repetition and highly structured learning, most children who learn tasks with this approach may perform the tasks only in the way they practice them. Therefore they may not develop fundamental cognitive, language or social cpacities."
Callista says as much in her linked blog- a blog entry I stumbled onto through googling well before I found WrongPlanet and which convinced me that my daughter was better off without ABA as such. Though we used behavioral approaches to potty train her, as many parents do. Behaviorism has its place- all parents have to use it because otherwise kids would run out into the street and do other ill advised behaviors. But it doesn't teach you how to connect with people or with the world in any meaningful way. If your daughter is in Early Intervention, she is probably in the care of people who use the developmental approach (at least that was true withmy own daughter's ECI teachers). No wonder this ABA zealot was huffy about them. The very fact that she was running them down speaks well of their preferable methods.
Joined: 9 Dec 2009
I joined just to respond to this post because this is such a high interest area for me as a speech therapist. In the world of intervention, ABA is everywhere. A pet peeve of mine is that so often ABA therapists in the therapy world assume you must be ignorant of ABA principles if you are not using them - after all, ABA is the 'right' way to treat autism, and anyone not using it must simply be sadly unaware. I have to do a lot of gentle explaining that yes, I am aware of ABA principles and have even been trained in them, and that yes, after careful analysis I still disagree with some of it and do other things.
Starlight...to be fair to you, I am never going to 100% agree with ABA because I am never going to 100% agree with pure behavioralism. A fundamental difference, if you will, so I doubt we'll ever see eye to eye. I certainly respect your devotion to helping children, however.
I think ABA has made behaviorism so mainstream that most people aren't aware that the ideas behind pure behaviorism are well...a bit extreme, at least to me. Essentially, that everything we do, say, think, is a mere response to stimuli in the environment. Maybe not an immediate consequence - maybe a reaction we learned long ago - but essentially that - we just...react. Amoeba like. I've heard Vincent Carbone himself say he thinks that Piaget and Chomsky are basically nutters for thinking that there is more to human cognition than simple reaction to positive/negative stimuli.
Now, I think that behaviorism is certainly a part of human learning...no more, no less. A PART. Not a whole.
I think this fundamental difference is where I get annoyed with ABA. For example, an ABA therapist might ask a child "Where do you sleep?" and then immediately prompt "Say... 'I sleep in a bed' ". Most teachers would say "Hey, he doesn't 'know' that'. He just memorized an answer and is spitting it back out for a reward." ABA, on the other hand, basically says there is no real difference between 'knowing' and 'memorizing', because the observable 'behavior' is the same - the child answers correctly. ABA theorizes that all children in fact learn this way but typically at a vastly more rapid pace. Again, I disagree here.
I think this can often lead to programs that are not developmentally appropriate for a child. Children can learn much more at a memorization level than they can at a true comprehension level. If you are teaching to the level where the child can memorize vs. comprehend, you are often teaching skills that are developmentally too advanced and therefore won't be understood and / or carry over.
My second beef with ABA is that I think there are huge chunks missing from most ABA programs. The majority of programs teach children all different types of vocabulary words and focus a LOT on requesting. I want, I want, I want, I want are common in ABA sessions (contrary to what many believe about things being forced on the child, it is not uncommon to see a full hour of the child engaging in what I call I WANT IT! therapy.)
It's fine to teach functional language regarding what a child wants and needs. It's fine to teach vocabulary. The problem? This often doesn't carry over to any kind of social language. Sure, you can teach a child to say "I want cookie" if you are holding a cookie. That won't, however, teach them to say "Hey mom, look at this dinosaur toy I got today, isn't it cool!" I seen plenty of older kids who are lifelong ABA students who can answer literally hundreds of questions upon request, and almost never communicate of their own free will unless it's to request something! In this case, what good does all of that language do? Who cares if they can label all of their colors, prepositions, shapes, and states if they never speak unless asked to?
Now, I think ABA is certainly useful in some ways. I think the sheer volume of time in most programs helps a lot of young children who are still at that stage where the brain is developing. I'm not convinced it's ABA per se working the magic, or just the fact that they are spending 40 hours actively engaging with another person in some productive, educationally based way. Often, ABA therapists are lively, young college students who can really get the child to enjoy some social time, and I think that has a big impact.
I think ABA is great for teaching very specific skills, as well. Toilet training, brushing teeth, even early cognitive concepts like shapes and colors all lend themselves well to ABA in a way that high level cognitive tasks like critical thinking and social flexibility do not.
Joined: 11 Nov 2009
Location: Texas, for now
I feel the same way. I have had this arguement many times myself. Try asking them which therapy NT's have to go to in order to learn how to except people for what they are and they get really angry. Personally I opted out of all therapy for my son and he is thriving since. I can not pretend to know what is best for your child, but you know your family do what you think is right and tell everyone else to kiss your @$$.
Attachment Parenting has brought me the most success in every aspect of parenting including ASD areas. I would recommend seeing if it might be right for you too.
~To be filled in later~
Joined: 10 Sep 2012
Hi I actually teach aba and I am a qualified psychologist. Meaning I have been taught the different methods and seen the research behind it. I am not by any means saying it is the only way to treat a child with asd but its better to do something than nothing. If your child had a physical disability that changed their walk I am sure you would seek help or if they had a medical condition im sure you would use medication. Why should it be different for asd? Your right in saying that full descriptions of diagnosis have not been written however we have to work with whats there. Every childs case is different.
Aba does not involve sitting at a desk for hours on end...even though thats what children do at school all day to learn. It is flexibile and is simply teaching through play which is used to a much higher age in other countries and has been shown to work better. It is not like training s dog! If your child was naughty you would tell them off or take away something they favout. If they did something good you would socially praise them. All the reinforcement is for is to let them know they are doing a great job and who doesn't like to be successgul in what they do? I have seen children who are non verbal who scream and get themselves very upset brcause they simply can not tell you what they want. After just a few months on aba they can use picture exchange to ask for what they want in the hope that this will turn verbal. The children simply can't access environmental informationthe same so we try to facilitate this.
To teach words is through joint attention which asd struggle with because they get fixated on the object. So we try to promote the occurances that joint attention can happen. I could go on explaining but u won't know until you try. If an Aba tutor sits them at a desk all day then they clearly are not creative enough. The skills we teach are things such as matching to help discriminate colours and objects. How can one learn what a plate is if they can not distinguish it from a rubber duck. You take these skills for granted because they came easily to you. Even if aba is not for you I suggest getting some aid it is unfair not to try and help.
Joined: 12 Oct 2010
Location: Rome Italy
Like you, I don't think autism has to be "fixed".
BUT I do think ABA is right for some kids - especially kids with no language at all.
I agree. My son had no speech at all when he was 3 and he needed it. It took an year of therapy to him to say his first words and that was not still a functional language but he was echoing . He just turned five but he still has a great amount of work to be done. I wouldn't do ABA for an Asperger kid.
|Good therapy or bad therapy||
05 Dec 2014, 8:27 pm
|Might therapy help?||
07 Feb 2012, 4:21 am
13 Jun 2014, 6:28 am
19 Mar 2008, 9:38 am