When we talk about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) we tend to immediately think of Autism. While ABA is commonly seen in the education and treatment plans of individuals with Autism, it can also be used for many other disorders as well as common issues. ABA is simply applying behavioral principles and techniques to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior. It is used all over to help a wide range of ages of people to overcome all kids of social and behavioral problems. These problems could be a common issue such as quitting smoking, as well as disorders including Autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Down syndrome.
When we look at any behavior, we can also look at the function that it serves. For example, smoking cigarettes serves a function. Smoking doesn’t just happen but it happens because it may relieve anxiety, and allow escape from stressful situations, etc. Just like with the problem behaviors that some children with Autism struggle with, smoking can be considered the problem behavior and a functional assessment can be conducted to assess the chain of events before smoking occurs as well as the result of smoking or the consequence. Strategies to address smoking behavior include strategies that also address problem behaviors exhibited in children with Autism. Self management strategies (recording the occurrence or absence of the behavior and receive reinforcement), stimulus control strategies (avoiding certain events that exert control over behavior), and contingency management strategies (engaging in alternative responses that serve the same function as the behavior).
We looked at a common issue that ABA can have a positive effect on and there are also other disorders other than Autism that can best be addressed using ABA techniques. A lot of problem behaviors that children with Autism engage in can also be seen in other disorders such as OCD and Down syndrome. These behaviors include, but are not limited to, self-injury, aggression, and repetitive behavior. After a functional assessment is conducted, a treatment plan can be put in place which may include alternative behaviors to replace problem behaviors, reinforcement in the absence of the problem behavior, as well as many other interventions that cover a wide range of issues, big and small.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. ABA therapy and techniques are Autism’s “go-to” but doesn’t have to stop there! The number of issues and other disorders that ABA can serve is numerous and should be considered in the treatment of many different behavioral issues across the board. If you’re a teacher, caregiver, or simply looking for some techniques to address your own behavior, explore ABA!