Archive of ‘What is ABA?’ category

W2- Am I Bribing My Child by Using Positive Reinforcement?

Have you ever witnessed a situation where a parent and child are at the candy aisle, the child starts crying and yells “I want candy, I want candy, you never buy me candy.” The parent yells “no, you are eating too much junk food lately.” The child cries louder and drops to the ground. Shoppers at the supermarket start to pass their judgmental looks. The parent gives up and yells “okay. stop crying, I will buy you the candy.” The child stops crying and receives candy.

Maybe your child’s board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) has suggested you do something similar to this: before going into the supermarket, then you can tell the child “ if you will not cry or yell the whole time when we are in there, I will buy you candy after we are done shopping” The child behaves. The parent praises the child for what a wonderful job they have done and buys the child candy.

As a parent or someone new to applied behavior analysis (ABA) you might think, I am constantly bribing my kid! There has to be a better way. As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you might think positive reinforcement and bribery are the same because they both offer rewards to a child. It is important to know the difference between reinforcement and bribery because bribery tends to lead to more disruptive behaviors and reinforcement will help parents to see more desired behaviors.

Let us look at the definitions for reinforcement and bribery:

Reinforcement: The action of strengthening or encouraging a pattern of behavior typically by reward or encouragement.

Bribery: The offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions.

Timing is what distinguishes reinforcement from bribery. For example, together a BCBA and parent plan out a reinforcement plan before disruptive behavior happens. Parents may state the rule to the child, “Remember if you [blank], you can earn [blank]. However, bribery is reactive and often you might resort to this when challenging behaviors occur at the moment and sometimes a situation feels out of control.

As you can see, bribery usually happens during behavior in order to get a behavior to stop at that moment. It seems to work in the situation. It is a short-term effect, and unavoidably, it will not decrease challenging behaviors. The above example illustrates, reinforcement should be planned, and reinforcer should be delivered following the desired behavior. Therefore, desire behaviors will occur more often in the future.

I hope after reading this, you have a better understanding of the difference between reinforcement and bribery. Timing is the key. Reinforcement is proactive and planned out by the caregivers while bribery tends to be reactive.

Next week, we will discuss the type of praise that will change behavior since they are not all created equal! Be sure to keep an eye out for the newest blog post next Friday! Please like us and share our posts on Facebook. You can also explore our blog for more ABA related information.

W1-What Is Happening in the Next Ten Weeks?


Yes! Our weekly posts are back, and we plan to have a new post every Friday for the next ten weeks! This semester we will be focusing on how professionals (board-certified behavior analysts; BCBAs) in applied behavior analysis (ABA) use reinforcers and implement reinforcement-based interventions. We will review the type of praise that will change behavior, how to respond to “Nos” and the concerns of giving too much praise, and other tips, suggestions, and recommendations! If you are a parent with a child or at risk for Autism or behavioral challenges, these strategies will certainly come in handy when interacting with your child.

In our weekly posts, we also want to keep you updated on what is happening at the Husky ABA Clinic. This semester we are providing telehealth services to local families impacted by autism. If your family or someone you know could benefit from behavioral services, please contact Odessa Luna, Ph.D., BCBA-D (P: (320)308-4167|E: We will also introduce our incredible, new junior and senior graduate clinicians working in the Husky ABA Clinic.

Next week, we will begin our reinforcement series by discussing reinforcers and bribery. You may think providing reinforcers means you are bribing your child. Spoiler alert! This may not be what is happening! In our next post, we will define and discuss the differences between reinforcers and bribery. You do not want to miss what is coming up!

If you would like to know the topics for the coming weeks, please like us on Facebook. You can also explore our blog.


Embedded Teaching- Reinforcing

Over the last dew days you have learned about creating opportunities to teach, waiting for the correct response, and giving prompts if you child isn’t picking up on the sublet hints. In our final blog series of embedded teaching, we aim to teach you on how to use positive consequences or natural actions to encourage appropriate behavior. Often, we call this positive reinforcement. We don’t always have to use extrinsic or outside rewards like candy, screen time, or tokens. Instead, we can more natural reinforcers to encourage your children to appropriately communicate.

For example, maybe, you are trying to teach your child to use “please” when they ask for items they want. First, you create and wait, by pointing to a toy that is out of your child’s reach. You count in your head for at least 3 seconds, and then you remind or prompt your child what they need to do. This can be accomplished by saying “Remember to say please when you ask your mom or dad for toys.” Once your child states, “Can I have the toy, please?” Immediately acknowledge this communication and reinforce this by giving the child the toy quickly. Always try to associate this this natural, positive consequence with your affirmation, encouragement, and acknowledgement. Natural reinforcers may include verbal praise, such as, “Wow! I’m so proud you are using manners!” Always try to very specific when giving acknowledgement to your child. This allows your child to learn what they did correctly and be motivated to repeat the behavior again.

Some children may struggle communicating vocally, and that’s okay. We can still use embedded teaching for them to learn appropriate ways to meet their needs. If your child is nonverbal (that is, does not talk to communicate his/her needs), we may want to teach them to point to items they may need. If a toy is out of reach, you would still create and wait  and prompt(remind) the child to point to what they need. Once your child points or you help them point to what they want, you can reinforce their nonverbal communication with giving them the toy. Remember to always tell your child what they did correctly “Nice pointing to what you needed!” to encourage them to continue to point to items.

Embedded teaching (or sometimes called naturalistic or incidental teaching) is an excellent technique that our faculty and graduate clinicians use all the time at the Husky ABA clinic. We capitalize on learning opportunities in real-world contexts to teach your child to communicate appropriately. Embedded teaching is a fantastic way to teach new behaviors in your everyday life!

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Embedded Teaching- Prompts

In our last post, we outlined about the “create and wait” technique of embedded teaching.   This is when you create a situation that would require a specific response from your child and wait for them to engage in the correct behavior. What happens if your child does not respond (stares at you blankly) or responds incorrectly? It may be necessary to remind, model, or prompt your child what they need to do! For example, you may give hints to your child about what you are expecting them to do.

For example, when you are the grocery store, you allow your child to pick a snack they like for the week. Perhaps, the goldfish are on the top shelf and they cannot reach it. Rather then grabbing the item, create and wait.Count to three in your head to see if they will ask for your help. If they don’t ask, try to prompt or give hints to what your child needs to do to get the gold fish. First, you point at the goldfish. Second, you may say, “What do we say when we need help from mom or dad?” Finally, you may prompt or remind your child to say, “Say ‘I need help, please.”

By prompting or reminding,this gives your child to understand and figure out what you want them to do. Often, you may notice your child needs lots of prompts.Over time, you will start to notice the number of hints, reminders, or prompts will decrease.  You will notice your child is communicating more and relying less on your prompts. Remember with embedded teaching, the goal is to encourage more communication. At the Husky ABA clinic, graduate and faculty clinicians want to promote language by embedding earning opportunities at any given moment.

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Embedded Teaching- Create and Wait

Teaching your child new skills can be difficult. One way to teach your child new skills, without them even realizing it, is through embedded teaching (sometimes called naturalistic teaching or incidental teaching). The first step in embedded teaching iscreate and wait.” This is when you create opportunities for your child to practice a skill (like asking for something they need) and wait for your child to do what is needed.  

Embedded teaching can be done anywhere! Often embedded teaching is a fantastic way for your child to learn to request for their wants and needs. For example, your child may be at the table during breakfast with a dry bowl of cereal. This would be a terrific opportunity to for your child to request for some milk! Instead of just pouring the milk, wait for your child to ask for it! When you notice your child may need something (like milk or spoon), create and wait by counting in your head to three. This allows your child time to notice what they need. Those three seconds allows them some time to identify what is missing.  

Clinicians at the Husky ABA clinic use embedded teaching every time we work with your child, and we hope to teach you, as a parent, to create these small, meaningful opportunities for your child to practice communicating, requesting, and using manners in your home, at the park, or at the store!  

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Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism

Although behavior analysts can help anyone with behavioral challenges, we often work with children and adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) Interventions based in ABA can be very beneficial to people with autism. Not only is it backed by decades of research, it has become widespread in popular culture.  

Children and adults with ASD are very intelligent. Often, they may have a hard time communicating their feelings to others and why they may behave in way that is confusing. Since BCBAs based their interventions on what actions a client does, a child or adult who cannot communicate is not something BCBAs worry about. Instead, we outline actions we want to see the client do more, and we measure how well our interventions work on increasing the appropriate behavior. 

Interventions in ABA are effective for those with ASD because we know each person is a unique individual. No two children are the same. Clinicians in ABA prioritize getting to know the child and make their treatments fit their needs. We recognize that those with ASD may engage in actions that are confusing to teachers, parents, community members, and siblings. This can lead to frustration, and we, clinicians from the Husky ABA clinic, want to help!  

At the Husky ABA clinic, we are experts in producing meaningful behavior change. This may create an individualized plan to teaching a child to independently toilet. Or teaching a child to recognize their frustration and ask for help! In addition, we work with families, teachers, and other important people in the child’s life to create positive environments.  

For more information check out Autism Speaks

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What is a Preference Assessment? 

Photo by: Vanessa Bucceri

When a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) first meets their client, they prioritize in building a positive relationship with the child. They want to know what their client likes and is motivated for.  BCBAs are all about reinforcing good behaviorBCBAs often receive information from caregivers and people who have worked with children in the past on what they like. We know that preferences change frequentlyso a BCBA will take time to systematically assess the child’s preferences after receiving recommendations from a parent.  

The most common way a BCBA finds out what a child likes is through a preference assessment. Most preference assessments contain 5-10 items that may include toys, snacks, or activities. The first set of choices that are used are often picked based on information from caregivers and what is available to the BCBA at the time. Some common things that children work for are crackers, breaks (just having time to lay down or sit), electronic devices, toys, and time in the gym or on the playground.  

The preference assessment included at the top of this post is called a Multiple Stimulus Without Replacement (MSWO). In this assessment the child is presented with multiple items (7 were used in the example) and they are asked to pick on item at a time, after they pick an item they get to spend time playing with it or eating it, and then that choice is no long available to them. This process repeats until the child has picked each of the items once, and the order in which they chose is recorded. Then the order in which the items are lined up is changed and the process starts over. At the end of the assessment items that a child chose first most often are identified at the high preference items. 

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What is a BCBA?

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 Within the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), there are many titles a clinician can have. BCBA stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Clinicians who hold this title have received a master’s degree, completed at least 1,500 hours of supervised work with implementation of behavior-analytic work, and taken an international certification exam. At the Husky ABA clinic, we have four faculty advisors who are BCBA-Ds, meaning that they have a doctorate degree in ABA or related behavior.  

You may have noticed another title, the BCaBA, Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst. BCaBA have undergraduate degree, completed at least 1, 000 hours of supervised works, and have passed an international certification exam. BCaBA’s  

practice under the supervision of a BCBA, monitoring front-line clinicians that are implementing the individualized interventions the BCBA has created.  

Finally, front-line clinicians in ABA, are often Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT). RBTs hands-on with the clients, directly implementing structured programming to help the child to be successful. RBTs work with clients every day to implement the interventions written by the BCBAs. RBTs are heavily supervised by both the BCaBA and BCBA to ensure treatments are implemented with fidelity.  

Overall, in ABA, we aim to identify the changes we need to make in the environment to enhance the lives of clients AND the individuals around them like their parents, teachers, classmates, and siblings.  

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Using Choice Outside of the Clinic

Studies have shown that giving clients the opportunity to make choices in matters regarding their treatment can actually make treatment more effective! You might be asking yourself, “What does this look like outside of the clinic? How does choice align with me getting my child to do the things they need to do, but hate to do?” When a BCBA, like those found at our clinic, encourage caregivers to incorporate choice, we are not suggesting that the child gets to do anything and everything they want. Choice can be added naturally to your caregiving, without disrupting your ability to care for your child. You may find that adding choice may actually make it easier to get your child to do the things they don’t want to do, but are important…like tooth brushing!

Some children find toothbrushing to be a particularly aversive activity, but it’s important to their health and should be done. If your child hates brushing their teeth, choice can be incorporated to increase toothbrushing and/or decrease problem behavior during toothbrushing. One way to add choice to their tooth brushing time is to allow them to pick which toothbrush they would like to use each time they brush their teeth. Provide your child with two different toothbrushes that are theirs, and allow them to pick which one they would like to use each time they brush their teeth. As the caregiver, you probably know which toothbrush they will pick each time. However, still allowing the child to pick which brush they will use will give the child some autonomy and personal investment in the activity. If you can occupy the child with deciding on a toothbrush, you may find that they spend less time flat out refusing to do the activity. It’s also important to make sure there aren’t so many options that the client becomes overwhelmed. Choice could also be incorporated to this activity by allowing the child to pick between mint toothpaste, cinnamon, or bubblegum flavored toothpaste. If you are struggling to help the child brush for long enough, try asking the child, “Would you like to brush for two minutes or two-and-a-half minutes?” These are a few small steps that any caregiver can take to increase compliance for necessary tasks, without having to significantly disrupt your normal routine.

Another example of where choice can be used is with breaks. If you see that your child is getting upset and they need to take some time away from an activity, you should to give them a choice on whether or not they take a break. You can let them choose what they want to do during their break (draw vs nap), how long they want their break to be (three minutes vs five minutes), or where they take their break (at their desk vs on the floor). For example, you can ask them if they want to be away from their toys for four or five minutes. This will not only give them some control over their environment and themselves, but will also provide them with an opportunity to evaluate what they are feeling, how they are feeling, and what they need to feel better. Caretakers tend to be familiar with the cues that precede problem behavior, something that your child might not. Gently intervening when your child begins to exhibit signs of distress and offering them a choice about what you believe they might need to feel better is a great way to teach them to be aware of when they need to pay more attention to regulating their behaviors and how to do in a healthy way.

Our team is focused on providing assistance to caregivers and clients in a way that will foster independence, autonomy, and self-advocacy in clients. Providing small choices, throughout every day, is an excellent place to start teaching clients how to be more independent while continuing to pursue their therapeutic goals. Choice is not a cure-all and will not fix every problem behavior under the sun; however, choice is a powerful tool to foster independence in your loved one and help you and your child tackle those problem behaviors more effectively and efficiently.

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What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Maybyou are interested learning more about what ABA, have attended the applied behavior analysis (ABA) workshops this month, or maybe you want to attend ABA workshops at the Husky ABA Clinic in the future (check out our Facebook).  

ABA is the study of meaningful behavior change. In ABA, practitioners and clinicians, identify what causes behaviors (aggression, destruction, noncompliance) to happen and why they continue to occur and change over time. Behavior analysts focus on a client and what they’re doingthey also examine everything in the environment to create evidence-based interventions. For example, in a classroom, behavior analyst may help a child struggling in school. She might look at how the child interacts with their peers, their teachers, and their family. She also may look at environmental factors like what tasks they like or do not like or even where they sit in class!  

 In ABA, there is a large focus on data collection. Behavior analysts want to document what changes are happening and be sure that any changes they put in place are helping their clients be successful. In ABA, we aim to keep our clients safe and independent. With the application of our science, we hope our clients can have the opportunity to access the things they need and enjoy, like a quality education, a job, and a social lifeNot every child, can be the “the perfect kid,” and in ABA we recognize this. We want to help every child reach their full potential and set them up for success as they encounter new experiences.  

At the Husky ABA Clinic, you can be confident that undergraduate, graduate, and faculty clinicians care for each family we serve. We all have experience working with children with a range of diagnoses and behavioral challenges. Additionally, faculty advisors are experts in the field, all Ph.Ds. Drs. Schulze, Witts, Traub, and Luna carefully supervise our graduate and undergraduate clinicians when they work with your child.  



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