Hey, it’s been a while
So, after a 2 year break, I want to start adding to the blog again and share some ABA love. Turns out the arrival of my own little guy has been pretty time consuming! I started writing the blog for people who are new to ABA (parents or other non ABA professionals) and hope that it explains some principles of ABA in a user friendly way with some day to day context – this is something I’m still passionate about.
Becoming a parent has added to my analysis for sure, helping me get a bit more of an insight to being a parent (also the extra caffeine I now drink makes me super alert). I find myself constantly looking at how he learns and it’s awesome to see it happening.
Ultimately, it’s what I already knew – reinforcement is the biggest part of learning. From an early age we teach our children that doing what we do is a good thing (we establish and reinforce the child’s imitation repertoire). We look down at young babies smiling, speaking/singing to them, stroking their heads, giving them cuddles and attention and when they smile for the first time what do we do?
We do whatever we did that got them to smile in the first place – I have made some ridiculous noises, sung many songs, and danced around like an idiot all in the hope of getting a laugh or smile! The smile/laugh reinforces our behaviour so were likely to do it again! (remember, something is only reinforcing if it increases the future likelihood of a behaviour).We also give them even more cuddles and attention which reinforces the babies’ behaviour (smiling).
This is when the ball gets rolling. From this moment we’re looking for babies to do the next behaviour we want to see more of; clapping their hands, waving, crawling, walking, using a spoon, eating new foods, and we’re always modelling these skills. We are ready and waiting to reinforce the behaviour with praise, clapping, attention, smiles, cuddles etc. We get so used to this being the way that it’s easy to think the children are acquiring new skills because of time – not realising that we are playing huge parts in our child’s learning by the modelling, prompting and reinforcement we provide!
My little man used to love the ‘5 little ducks’ song and it would always get a smile, but
after around 1000 times of me singing it (I might be exaggerating) he stopped smiling – why? Because the reinforcing effect of the song wore off – he got ‘bored’ of it, much like we would do if we listened to the same song so much (we call this satiation). It doesn’t mean ‘reinforcement doesn’t work’; it just means we need to find a new one (which was overly dramatic peek a boo – exhausting).
My little mate is 19 months old and he is copying more and more every day, and attempting to say more and more words each day, it’s really picking up momentum and I’m amazed that he only needs a few trials to learn most skills. How we learn is awesome, but it is governed by the rules of behaviour. For most kiddos I work with the social reinforcers I listed above aren’t effective as part of their special educational needs are social deficits, so it’s up to us to find something that does work as a reinforcer. The principles of learning remain the same, but we may need different reinforcers, more systematic prompting, more learning trials, more work on generalisation and more intensity etc, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!
Anyway, probably time for me to get back to him, he’ll be waking up from his nap soon and I need to get his lunch ready! If you want to read more about the principles mentioned in this blog you can check out Cooper, Heron, Heward (2013) ‘Applied Behaviour Analysis’ or for an intense read ‘A Behavior Analytic View of Child Development’ by Henry Schlinger.
I’m looking to build my case load again, so if anyone is looking for a BCBA – please free to contact me on my blog page or on firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading! Remember to spread the ABA love.