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ABA is Not Abusive – It Helps. Here’s Why.

Published on
June 21, 2019

ABA is widely used as therapy for individuals with autism, to support them in learning skills that help with daily living. As ABA has gained popularity over the years, it has also gained some misconceptions. Read along as we debunk the myth that ABA is abusive and learn how it aims to help.

If you or someone you know has received an autism diagnosis, then you know what a life-changing moment it can be. Since they don’t always know what this diagnosis means for their child, many parents turn to an expert for advice. In most cases, a physician will suggest developmental therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and ABA therapy. All of these therapies help with different needs, and ABA therapy targets behavior.  

Since ABA was introduced, individuals with autism have a better chance of making progress within their natural environment. As ABA became more popular, it also gained some misconceptions.  

Individuals who are against ABA often claim that it attempts to “normalize” an individual by removing certain behaviors that they use to calm themselves – but this is not the case. ABA therapists always determine the underlying cause of behaviors. If their calming behavior negatively impacts the individual’s ability to learn, work, or complete their daily living activities, then ABA therapists look for ways to replace that behavior to minimize the negative impact – but they never aim to eliminate it.  

The reason behind this is that a calming behavior is something every human does. For example, some people bite their nails, tap their feet or twirl their hair when they are anxious. It would never be expected for an adult to immediately stop doing any of these things because it’s not a “normal” thing to do. Instead, it would be more appropriate to discuss what is causing the person anxiety, and to teach them another coping technique.  

ABA is sometimes associated with strict table work or flash card drills. However, ABA can take place in many forms and settings. A naturalistic approach is highly preferred, as it allows the environment to serve as the teaching location. With naturalistic teaching, every opportunity is a teaching opportunity, and an ABA therapist can teach at the zoo, in the home, at the park, or even at the store.  

For those who may be concerned about ABA, please speak to a certified behavior analyst and ask your questions! We are here to help and the only way to do that is through honest and clear communication. At GBC aba, we are more than happy to answer any questions that you and your family may have.