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What is ABA?

ABA is the study of socially-relevant behavior in the natural environment. Professionals use ABA techniques to increase desirable behavior and decrease undesirable behavior in the home, school, workplace, and in other social environments. Behavioral techniques are used with children and adults who are typically developing or developmentally disabled. These techniques are based on the basic principles of behavior science and behavior analysts examine the environment to enable the desired behavior change. These techniques are among the relatively few supported by research and sound scientific study. Applied behavior analysts work with a client’s natural support systems to provide training and feedback to allow for positive behavior change (increasing appropriate behaviors and decreasing inappropriate behaviors) and help clients reach their fullest potential.

Nationally board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) are people with advanced degrees (Master’s or Ph.D.) in psychology or a related field who also have taken certain specialized courses and have supervised clinical experiences to be able to sit for and pass the certification exam by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. A BCBA-D (“Doctorate”) specifies a certain amount of experience and a Ph.D. It is the highest level of board certification. BCBAs have Bachelor’s degrees, have passed an exam, and have fewer experience requirements. To her knowledge, Dr. Doughty is the only BCBA in coastal South Carolina providing ABA services with a PhD in psychology (behavior analysis).

In July of 2008, Ryan’s law went into effect in South Carolina, requiring some private insurance companies to cover the costs associated with ABA. Dr. Doughty is an in-network provider for some of these insurance companies. You should contact your insurance company and she may already be or may be able to become an approved provider. Services may be fully funded through BabyNet until age 3. Additional funding may be available through Carolina Children’s Charity and Walk for Autism. Some insurance companies still do not cover ABA. If all other sources are exhausted, Dr. Doughty offers reasonable private pay contracts.

ABA Myths
ABA Myths 

My child is too low/high functioning for ABA. 

Impossible! ABA is individualized and based on who YOUR child is and his/her current skill level and needs! So his/her program will reflect individual strengths and weaknesses and thus any program should not be "cookie cutter" and should be modified to fit what will help him/her grow!  

ABA is just boring table time. 

Some parents think ABA is boring because of the amount of repetition.  But repetition is so often needed for learning for children with learning challenges and what is boring to us is not boring to them. As far as whether it is *just* table time, again, it should be whatever the child needs! Often we start out learning at a table to delineate the "work" environment. But we do school therapy, therapy in the kitchen, bedroom, backyard, on playdates, we have summer camp, we go to church services...basically whatever the child needs, that's where we generalize the skills. Some kids take longer at the table, some move to the community sooner! We just do what your child needs!

ABA is experimental.

This one's easy, and just something your insurance company might say to get  out of paying. Thera re 50+ years of research supporting ABA and in 2019 the AMA adopted permanent CPT codes, indicating their support for ABA as a medically necessary intervention! 

I've heard ABA uses a lot of punishment. 

Every field has some bad aspects, unfortunately. You may have found ours. You might have heard about some very old or unapproved practices. Or you may have heard about children who were self-injuring so badly that they were risking their lives. The majority of us focus on positive behavior supports. When any consequences are incorporated, they are designed to be natural and reminiscent of what might occur naturally, such as: you broke this during your tantrum, you will pay for it, or you threw your sister's toys, you will clean them up. 

Autistic adults report not liking ABA. 

Some do. Others do not. Some were children during those outdated procedures when more punishment was used. Advocates are outspoken. Opponents are outspoken.  Until the child is old enough and cognitively advanced enough to self-advocate, we as adults do what we think is best for our children. We do try to incorporate our patients' wishes into our programming when possible and appropriate to do so. 

ABA is just for kids with autism. 

Just, nope! It didn't even start there. It's just that 1 in 59 children have ASD and their parents started a grassroots movement to have ABA covered by insurance. However it will also work with ADHD, ODD, conduct disorder, selective mutism, speech delay, Down Syndrome, etc.! "None of the A's in ABA stand for Autism!" 

We had ABA and it didn't work, so it doesn't work for my son/daughter. 

Again, if the program is individualized, and program fidelity is monitored, and data are collected, and the program is changed if the evidence indicates it isn't working, almost everyone has to make some progress. It's possible that all BCBA's are not created equal, and unfortunately, it wasn't a good match, or it wasn't run out long enough, or therapists weren't supervised closely enough. Give it another shot with a highly recommended provider! 

Anyone can do ABA!

So untrue. Please verify your provider. Unfortunately, some people are trying to help, but are not qualified to, or others are trying to take advantage. They may use the term "behavior specialist" or "behavior therapist" or "autism specialist." Look for "Board Certified Behavior Analyst" (BCBA) or "Registered Behavior Technician" (RBT). There are also BCBA-Ds and BCaBAs. Once you find someone who claims to be one, verify at:   

The more therapy, the better, so i do ABA, but with a lot of other therapies, like FloorTime, and biomedical approaches, and sensory integration therapy. 

More is NOT always better. It is more important to use your resources wisely, like getting high-quality, intensive ABA. Not only are some therapies a waste of time and money, but some have been proven to be harmful. For objective information on evidence-based practices, go to:

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