Home » Pro » Reflections on Applied Behavior Analysis » Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 4)

with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 4)

Using the natural environment as a context to teach children with autism spectrum disorder new skills is a valuable approach. ABA providers who provide ABA parent training can recommend that parents incorporate concepts of applied behavior analysis into their everyday routines and activities to maximize their child’s learning.

So far in the “Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents” article series, we have covered the following topics:

  • Tips for ensuring that ABA parent training includes a focus on the 7 dimensions of applied behavior analysis (Part 1)
  • Ideas for incorporating ABA measurement concepts in parent training (Part 2)
  • Ideas for incorporating ABA experimental design in parent training (Part 3)

In this article, we will cover the Behavior Change Considerations category of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Fourth Edition Task List and how these ABA concepts can be utilized in ABA parent training.

For more guidance on ABA parent training, go to


C-01: State and plan for the possible unwanted effects of reinforcement

Reinforcement may have unwanted side effects. This is important to consider when working with parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Even positive reinforcement strategies may have aspects of negative reinforcement or punishment embedded within them (Perone, 2003).

When a child participates in reinforcing activities too much it could lead to satiation or fatigue. Another example of an unwanted effect of reinforcement is that the child may have a difficult time transitioning to a less desired activity.

Reinforcement may also prevent a person from engaging in activities that could lead to an improved quality of life in the future since people are often more apt to be motivated by short term rather than long term gains.

Reinforcement could lead to negative health outcome as a result of the reinforcing activity. This is seen in how the reinforcement of eating junk food may prevent a healthy diet. Using electronic devices, such as watching television or playing video games, can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which is bad for one’s health.  (Perone, 2003).

In ABA parent training, going over these possibilities with parents can help with preparing them to be attentive to the unwanted effects of a reinforcement strategy. Also, you can collaborate with the parents on how to avoid some of these possible outcomes.

C-02: State and plan for the possible unwanted effects of punishment

As stated by Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D and Brett DiNovi, MA, BCBA on

“The decision to use punishment procedures should not be made lightly, and should only be made after exhausting alternative, reinforcement-based, procedures.  Among the many potential side effects of using punishment are: higher rates of client aggression, the possibility that the punishment procedure itself could act as a model for inappropriate behavior for the client, and the possibiliity of punishment effects creating a contingency of negative reinforcement for the person delivering the punishment.”

In ABA parent training, ABA providers should go over the possible unwanted effects of punishment with parents. And, as mentioned in the quote above, reinforcement strategies should first be tried before punishment procedures are suggested unless there is a safety concern or other pressing reason to use punishment procedures immediately.

C-03: State and plan for the possible unwanted effects of extinction

The most common side effect of extinction is the extinction burst. ABA providers should communicate this to parents. ABA providers should also give parents strategies to use in response to an extinction burst especially if the behaviors that may increase are aggressive or harmful in nature. An extinction burst can be more complicated to deal with in the home or natural environment as compared to an office setting due to the multiple other stimuli in the environment and responsibilities that a parent has to attend to.

ABA parent training can be a great way to help children with autism. Using ABA concepts and helping parents apply them in their natural home environment is essential to helping their child continue to learn and grow. Giving parents training ahead of time about the possible unwanted effects of reinforcement, punishment, and extinction will ultimately help them in their implementation of a treatment plan.


Perone M. (2003). Negative effects of positive reinforcement. The Behavior analyst, 26(1), 1–14. doi:10.1007/bf03392064

Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 4)

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment

APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2019). Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 4). Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from