As behavior analysts well known, applied behavior analysis can be used for countless purposes. From education to healthcare to organizational development to autism, ABA can be used for so many areas in life.
ABA can help to improve the quality of life for both humans and animals. This is true yet sometimes it may be difficult to identify exactly why a particular intervention or strategy is truly considered applied behavior analysis.
Using behavioral concepts alone does not make something ABA. There are many fields and services that use behavior-based strategies. For instance, teachers might use sticker charts to reward kindergartners for following classroom rules. This is a behavior-based technique but does not necessarily mean that the teacher is completely using applied behavior analysis on her students.
One criterion for evaluating whether something is ABA in nature is to consider the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Let’s take a look at the seven dimensions as they relate to ABA parent training so that professionals who provide this service can ensure that their parent training services are, in fact, truly ABA.
7 Dimensions of ABA
This article will not go into great depth about the meaning of each one of the seven dimensions as this information can be gathered in other sources, such as at this article about the 7 dimensions here on Psych Central.
What you will find below is information on how each one of the seven dimensions of ABA is relevant to ABA parent training services to help you keep in mind the true nature of ABA while providing parent training services.
*Note. This is not to say that ABA is ONLY about the 7 dimensions, but this gives us a place to start when exploring whether we are providing applied behavior analysis within the context of parent training services.
Parent training services can be ‘applied’ by addressing issues that are important to the client and/or to society. Behaviors or skills identified to be targeted with intervention should be important to the client.
Additionally, stimuli and recommendations made to parents in parent training should be important and beneficial to the parent and/or their child.
For instance, recommending a research study be read by a parent is likely not going to provide them with optimal value as most parents probably do not tend to read research studies. However, if you recommend a book that is much easier to comprehend to a parent who enjoys or requests reading material, this may in fact be valuable and ‘applied.’
Another example of ensuring that ABA parent training services are applied is by selecting goals and specific target skills that will help improve the child’s daily life rather than by selecting them based upon the professional’s preference or based upon the next step up in an assessment (unless, of course, those selections also improve the child’s life in a significant way).
ABA parent training can be ‘behavioral’ by focusing on how to support a person’s ability to do something in the most realistic manner. The person of interest could be the parent that is receiving parent training services and/or the child who is the focus of the service.
ABA parent training may also be more ‘behavioral’ when the service provider incorporates observation and measurement of the parent’s behaviors in the services. It is important to consider the changes that occur within the child but also to assess changes or consistencies in behaviors of the parent.
ABA parent training services can be ‘analytic’ when they address the issue of whether interventions actually create the change that is being observed.
For instance, parametric analysis may be completed to evaluate how much of a variable is actually needed to be effective. Another example is the use of component analysis to evaluate which parts of an intervention are effective.
In ABA parent training, parents could be instructed to try out a reversal or multiple baseline design to evaluate the reliability of a particular strategy.
The use of the analytic dimension of ABA (as with the other dimensions) will vary based upon the needs and goals for the client and family receiving services.
ABA parent training can become more ‘technological’ by providing parents with more precise descriptions of behavioral concepts and strategies used or recommended.
Ensuring that services are technological can be very beneficial to all people involved. It can help parents understand procedures. It can help them to consistently apply the procedures. It can help professionals be clear about their recommendations, follow up on them, and modify them as needed.
ABA parent training can be ‘conceptually systematic’ by incorporating behavioral terminology into the services. Service providers can explain strategies and behavioral concepts to parents but also use the technical term within the discussion.
Being conceptually systematic in ABA parent training helps to define the service as truly ABA in nature.
ABA parent training can address the dimension of being ‘effective.’ To do this, service providers should collaborate with parents on how much change the parents would identify as necessary to consider a change significant and to classify treatment as effective.
To identify ABA parent training as having ‘generality,’ the service provider can have regular discussions with parents about the child’s and the parent’s behaviors to assess generalization of skills.
For instance, service providers may want to check in with parents and even provide recommendations for how to support the expansion of behaviors to new environments and to new behaviors.
Additionally, parents can be provided with guidance on ensuring that behavior gains last over time. Service providers could also follow up with parents to assess whether improvements have lasted over time even after the parent training services no longer focus on the particular issue within teaching sessions.
One way of identifying ABA parent training as being truly ABA in nature is by taking a closer look at the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis and how each dimension is incorporated into parent training services.
Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 1(1), 91–97. doi:10.1901/jaba.1968.1-91