Common ABA Errors, continued
It isn’t all about cognition. Too many Instructor-Therapists (IT’s) think that all they need to do is teach to some standard curriculum such as the ABLLS-R or the VB-MAPP. Sometimes that is all that is needed, but that has more to do with the quality of the relationship that the Instructor Therapist establishes with his/her student than it has to do with the mechanical presentation of antecendent, elicitation of behaviour, and presentation of reinforcement.
In fact, the “laws of learning” are scientifically-derived observations of how learning works. But, as I have said in the past, most teachers know how to teach; they often don’t know what to teach. So here is the deal: Pairing isn’t just for the purpose of establishing your secondary reinforcement value. It is also the means of establishing a beginning social-emotional connection with the student, the kind of thing that people like Greenspan and Gutstein are better at articulating; and I expect that either of those approaches would provide a better frame of reference for instruction if it were not for the fact that neither sufficiently includes attention to the laws of learning. And by the way, I have seen excellent “mechanical” ABA-based instruction that I thought was essentially destroying the targetted child’s humanity. What a waste!
If you check back on my previous postings, you will see that Establishing Operations, Inc. has recommended that Intensive Trial Teaching (ITT, usually referred to as table work, and what most IT’s seem to think is their job regardless of the child’s developmental level) be the main venue for teaching intermediate learners – particularly, IMO, for those children for whom an opportunity to acquire as much information as possible is reinforcing – and that Natural Environment Teaching (NET) be the main venue for teaching beginning and advanced learners, building on the learner’s motivation-of-the-moment, i.e., motivation that is natural rather than arbitrary. How to develop a feel for this kind of teaching, over and above the mechanics of how to do it? Possibly modeling the teaching behaviour of excellent instructors.
Earlier, I mentioned Marcie Norton, one of my very first exposures to really good ABA-based instuction. Marcie was a “natural.” With a background in Early Childhood Education (ECE) and minimal (Vince Carbone workshop) training in ABA, she made learning fun. I have since met many excellent IT’s – too many to name – but they also didn’t learn their “people skills” in a classroom, and they are excellent instructors because they bring more to the table than a knowledge of ABA. This is quite a subtle point that I am trying to make, and I doubt if I am doing a very good job of it; but it boils down to my dissatisfaction with much of the ABA-based instruction that I see being provided, and I wish that there were some way to do something about it.