Affecting Behavior Change, LLC

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Ethics in ABA

Posted on August 18, 2017 at 8:55 AM


When engaging in single subject research, the ethical concerns that arise are the cognitive abilities of the client and ability to consent to treatment, that the behaviors that are of concern are observable and predictable, who and where the interventions will be implemented, who gives consent and upholds proper treatment intervention and ethical behavior and what outcomes are expected.


When working with children and applying the principles and procedures of behavior, it is essential that operational definitions and functions of behaviors are determined. Behaviors may or may not occur in various settings. Therefore, wherever the behavior is exhibited is where the intervention needs to take place (i.e.: if it happens at school, home and in the community, the intervention needs to take place in all 3 places).


Behavior change will only be effective if the behavior is dealt with and consequated on all occasions. Otherwise, there is the possibility that intermittent reinforcement will make extinguishing behavior more difficult. Making sure the integrity of the behavior intervention plan is upheld and ethical is essential in maintaining the efficacy of ABA.


Determining outcomes is pertinent in deciding when mastery has been met or when the behavior has changed to an acceptable level (i.e.: when to move on or fade the intervention). Exploring alternative interventions prior to selecting aversives is essential in upholding the social and empirical validity of treatment as they are punishment and may produce an extinction burst (i.e.: the behavior gets worse before it gets better) and the development of a more serious and intense behavior (i.e.: the original behavior is screaming and after using an aversive, biting oneself causing tissue damage).


Another essential ethical consideration is those implementing the intervention should be properly trained and comfortable with the procedures. Not only do the interventionists need to have an understanding of why the programs are in place, but they need to consistently implement the procedures effectively. If there are alterations or improper procedures being utilized, the behavior may not be changed effectively. The targeted behavior may actually be intermittently reinforced which will make it that much more difficult to modify.

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