Applied Behavior Analysis: Literature Review
Applied Behavior Analysis: Literature Review
For a long time, psychologists have used Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to suggest methods of changing behaviors that have a social significance. The current study uses a case study to gather information about a child with a behavior disorder and how his parent and teachers use ABA to correct the behavior. As discussed in unit two assignment, the case study is about William and his mother, Miss Tooley. William is a five-year-old pupil who bullies his classmates. While his mother corrects the behavior by scolding him, teachers respond to the disruptive behavior by sending William to the Principal’s office. William’s behavior is significant to society since it affects other children and may make him violent at adolescent. Understanding how William’s mother and teachers can respond to William’s behavior requires a review of previous studies on ABA. The current study uses William’s case to introduce the problem and its significance. The next step after unit four assignment is a literature review on studies that discuss the problem of disruptive behaviors.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strives to promote socially significant changes in people’s behavior using different concepts and principles. According to Hernandez and Ikkanda (2011), using ABA has helped psychologists and clinicians to treat people with mental illness and developmental disabilities successfully. Slocum et al. (2014) assert that ABA is highly successful as it focuses on solving behavioral problems in socially important settings. However, for ABA to succeed, those using it should use different strategies based on the principles of behavior (Hernandez & Ikkanda, 2011). The strategies constitute the concepts that ABA analysts should understand for them to apply the method to change disruptive behavior successfully.
One of the strategies that caregivers and clinicians apply to enhance the success of ABA is relying on observable variables to monitor changes in the target behaviors. Heitzman-Powell (2013) asserts that parents and guardians need to understand the strategies of ABA to ensure they implement them at the family level. For the parents to apply ABA successfully, they should tract the observable behaviors of their children and tell when there are changes in these behaviors (Hernandez & Ikkanda, 2011). Tracing meaningful changes in behavior requires parents and physicians to use direct observation to analyze the behavior of their children (Community Behavioral Health, 2019). Hernandez and Ikkanda (2011) suggest that the strategy of direct observation should focus on social, linguistic, recreational, academic and self-care behaviors. Thus, ABA can only succeed when its users embrace the idea of interacting with those with behavior challenges and directly observe their behavior changes.
Additionally, ABA practitioners examine the functional relationship between behavior and environment for their interventions to succeed. Hernandez and Ikkanda (2011) and Community Behavior Health (2019) agree that examining the functional relationship between behavior and environment is essential to modify behaviors. In this case, analysts using ABA monitor behavior based on how it deviates from the socially accepted behaviors of a certain environment.
Also, evidence-based behavior measurement is an essential strategy that ABA practitioners use to enhance behavior changes for people with mental challenges. Slocum et al. (2014) assert that choosing intervention measures that guarantee behavior changes requires the use of evidence-based results of behavior measurement. For behavior measurement to succeed, practitioners should clearly and operationally define the target behaviors and their significance (Smith, 2013). In this case, practitioners and caregivers should agree that the target behavior occurred (Bradshaw et al., 2014; Community Behavioral Health, 2019). Therefore, without evidence from behavior measurement, it is difficult for ABA practitioners to suggest intervention strategies to use in responding to disruptive behaviors.
Concerning the principles of ABA, researchers agree that interventions targeting disruptive behaviors should be based on the principle of learning. Slocum et al. (2014) and Hernandez and Ikkanda (2011) assert that ABA achieves social validity based on its success in enhancing behavior change. Based on the principle of learning, ABA practitioners identify intervention measures that integrate the values of victims of disruptive behavior disorders and those of the physicians and caregivers (Bradshaw et al., 2014; Smith, 2013). Behavior analysts also apply the principle of learning by considering environmental factors before suggesting interventions to change the target behavior (Slocum et al., 2014). Therefore, the best interventions that ABA analysts propose should integrate evidence, patients’ values and environmental factors that affect behavior change.
The theoretical underpinnings of ABA anchor on its application of the theory of behavioral psychology. Fryling (2013) and Davis et al. (2015) assert that ABA practitioners need to understand different concepts of behavior theory before they propose intervention strategies. Also, ABA analysts need to understand principles of behavior as a function of conditioning and environment before suggesting intervention measures to deal with disruptive tendencies (Hernandez & Ikkanda, 2011). Based on the principle of behavioral psychology, ABA analysts use the concept of reinforcement for them to implement strategies of behavior change (Slocum et al., 2014). In this case, ABA practitioners consider the prompts, actions, and consequences that trigger the need for interventions to change behaviors (Davis et al., 2015; Fryling, 2013). Using direct observations, ABA analysts consider the role of the environment in causing prompts that trigger disruptive behaviors (Slocum et al., 2014). The observations can help the ABA analysts to consider interventions that they can use to reinforce behaviors that occur in different contexts.
Hernandez and Ikkanda (2011) indicate that using behaviorism helps ABA practitioners to use both negative and positive reinforcement to change behavior. Fryling (2013) and Smith (2013) agree with this perspective indicating that adding stimulus can cause a change in behavior. ABA specialists can increase stimulus by praising the victim of autism or disruptive behavior disorder (Hernandez & Ikkanda, 2011). The move adds stimulus or prompt that causes the victim to adjust their behaviors. An opposite move that reduces the stimulus leads to negative reinforcement. In this case, ABA practitioners withdraw the conditions that support the occurrence of behavior to discourage the victim from repeating the behavior (Fryling, 2013). These moves anchor on behaviorism theory that requires psychological intervention to control behavior. The application of behaviorism in ABA practices demonstrates the role of the behavior psychology theory in supporting the ABA.
The purpose of ABA is to combine different strategies to respond to behavior disorders. According to Weiss et al. (2010) and Bradshaw et al. (2014), ABA strives to assess behavior based on environmental conditions and suggest intervention measures that align with the values of the victim. One of the benefits of ABA is that it uses evidence to understand behavior change before suggesting solutions (Heitzman-Powell et al., 2014; Smith, 2013). Also, the approach considers environmental factors that influence behavior before suggesting solutions to behavior challenges. Another strength of ABA is that it connects caregivers with children that need behavior change to ensure that the former suggests behavior changes that relate to observable variables of the latter (Smith, 2013). However, Cook et al. (2013) and McIntosh (2010) point out that ABA is applicable in specific cases based on environmental conditions. This proposition detaches its application from the theories and studies that support it. Since practitioners need to suggest solutions that are specific to different environments, they may fail to consider the previous findings ABA thus making the approach weaker.
Therefore, ABA is applied when practitioners identify behaviors that need to change and use their observations to suggest interventions. The ABA approach uses direct observation and behavior measurement as strategies to identify and assess intervention measures to deal with disruptive behaviors. In William’s case, her mother and teachers should consider these strategies before suggesting behaviors they need him to exhibit in school and at home. They should also use behaviorism to suggest positive and negative stimulus that they can use to either encourage or discourage William’s behavior.
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Community Behavioral Health (2019). Applied Behavior Analysis Performance standards. Retrieved from https://cbhphilly.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/ABA-Performance-Standards-FINAL-2.pdf
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Fryling, M. J. (2013). Theory, philosophy, and the practice of applied behavior analysis. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 14(1), 45-54. https://doi.org/10.1080/15021149.2013.11434444
Heitzman-Powell, L. S., Buzhardt, J., Rusinko, L. C., & Miller, T. M. (2014). Formative evaluation of an ABA outreach training program for parents of children with autism in remote areas. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 29(1), 23-38. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1088357613504992
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