Teaching Children with Autism, continued

Teaching Children with Autism, continued

Applied Behaviour Aalysis (ABA) is a teaching method that (1) is based on the past hundred years’ research into learning, and (2) has been shown to be an effective approach to teaching children with autism. It is not rocket science, and it can be learned by almost anyone; but it does take some skill to do it well.

ABA relies most heavily on two types of learning: classical conditioning (which was studied extensively by Pavlovian and his students) and operant conditioning (which was studied extensively by Skinner and his students). Let’s start with classical conditioning (and I admit that what follows is quite a paraphrase, but it does draw on the classical conditioning paradigm):

If two events occur at the same time, an observer will tend to associate them with each other. If one of those events is experienced as desirable, the other will come to be experienced as desirable. If a person is present when something desirable happens, the presence of that person will come to be experienced as desirable. If that person provides approval when something desirable happens, that person’s approval will come to be experienced as desirable. In ABA, this phenomenon is observed when an instructor pairs him- or herself (and his or her approval) with something that the child perceives as desirable.  This helps to overcome the aversiveness of other people’s presence and has the potential to provide you and your approval with reinforcement value – reinforcement to be discussed in tomorrow’s posting.

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