Applied Behavior Analysis
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) has become a commonly practiced service for people with disabilities, particularly autistic children. In ABA, practitioners use procedures based on principles of behavior (such as reinforcement) derived from over a century of research. At its best, ABA is tailored to the person’s needs and interests by means of providing them with autonomy and self-determination throughout their experience with ABA and beyond.
There are many reasons people feel compelled to oppose the practice of ABA, and it is important to acknowledge that there is validity to some concerns. In fact, the description of ABA in the previous section does not largely match the understanding or experiences of people who oppose ABA.
TRIAD, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s (VKC) autism institute, has been engaging in listening, self-reflection, and change for the past several years in our ABA practices and training. With humility, we set out to listen to community concerns from numerous sources, develop guiding questions and principles to support the change we knew we needed to make, and develop a growth mindset to help ensure we’ll continually be listening, learning, and applying change as needed. The result is an approach to ABA service delivery which we continue to adjust as we learn more and regularly discuss within team meetings and peer review. We call this community-informed practice (CIP). However, we’re working toward community-assessed practice (CAP), which would necessitate regular review of goals and interventions by a community advisory committee.
In Tennessee, TRIAD has worked with colleagues across the three grand regions to begin discussion on promoting change at the statewide level. Nationally, TRIAD is working with colleagues from across the country to develop a large-scale approach to community engagement in resource development for ABA training programs.
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A. Pablo Juárez, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
Co-Director, Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD); Co-Director, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD); Director of Behavioral Analysis, Division of Developmental Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Senior Associate in Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, & Special Education
Adithyan Rajaraman, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; Director of Behavior Analysis Research, VKC TRIAD
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