It's Never the Learner's Fault

Often when a child is having difficulty learning new skills or is engaging in problematic behaviors, people get caught up in thinking that something is “wrong” with the child themselves.  Sometimes, people will start making excuses for them – or even worse, blaming them.

A list of discouraging phrases I’ve heard as a BCBA include: It’s their autism, the child is lazy, they don’t care, they don’t pay attention, their skills are too delayed, and they are bad or mean.

This is a very discouraging way to think and makes it feel like solutions are beyond our grasp. The truth is though – it is never the learner’s fault. 

Why Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is used to change behaviors, but we don’t do it by directly changing the child.  No magic wand suddenly inspires the child to begin acting differently on their own.  Rather, we accomplish behavior change by looking at and modifying the environment surrounding the child.

We manipulate antecedent events to make behaviors more or less likely to happen in the first place. We do this by:

  • Removing triggers
  • Adding cues
  • Adding prompts
  • Altering consequence events to reinforce alternative or desirable behaviors to make them more likely to be repeated
  • Removing rewards for problematic or maladaptive behaviors, decreasing the likelihood that those behaviors will be repeated

Do you feel like you are running in circles?

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  If the child isn’t learning new skills or their problematic behaviors aren’t decreasing, then we need to try something else. Just because we just haven’t found the right combination of environmental events to facilitate progress doesn’t mean the journey is over.

Maybe there is a different, better way to prompt the correct response.

Maybe our reinforcer isn’t powerful enough.

Maybe reinforcers for the problematic behaviors are still too great.

Maybe the goal is too difficult and needs to be broken down into smaller prerequisite skills.

Maybe there is some unknown variable impeding the client’s progress that we haven’t taken note of yet.

Parent and caregiver collaboration

Children are also the most successful when the same expectations and contingencies are present across all settings.  Parent and caregiver collaboration and participation in treatment are essential to the child’s overall success.  Children may attend ABA therapy for 20-40 hours per week – and though this may seem like a lot, it represents only a fraction of their waking hours each week.

When we want our children to change and grow, we have to be willing to change and improve with them.  Parents and caregivers are an integral part of the child’s environment, and their involvement is key to making meaningful and lasting progress.

ABA is not the same for every child

Trying to pigeon hole kids into a one-size-fits-all teaching approach will not be successful.  That is what makes ABA different – and so much more valuable! We assess each individual child, and then we tailor their programs to fit their unique needs, strengths, and challenges.  What works for one child isn’t necessarily going to work for another.

Try, try and try again!

If our approach isn’t working – we have to keep working to find a better solution. We can’t give up.  We have to keep changing ourselves and how we teach, or we won’t get where we want to be.  Our accurate and precise collection and analysis of data helps guide the way down the path to success.

It’s all about that data

Data tell us when something isn’t working – so we know when to change how we are approaching things.  We have to figure out how that child learns, and we have to adjust ourselves to fit their needs.  We have to hold ourselves accountable and responsible for their learning and progress.

After all… It is never the learner’s fault.

Join Us for the Journey

Our team of dedicated professionals are happy to guide you through the process of starting services for your child. All you have to do is contact us to start the journey! Bridges Autism Therapies is now enrolling in Lafayette, IN and Evansville, IN. Call us today for more information (800) 715-1610!