ABA As A Way To Teach Executive Functions And Perspective Taking

By Suzanne Oshinsky

In November the annual conference for the Missouri Association for Behavior Analysis (MOABA) was held. This year Dr. Jonathon Tarbox, who is the Director of Research and Development for Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), was invited to give a speech. The focus of his speech was on the recent research and clinical practice conducted at CARD specifically within executive functions and perspective taking. In layman’s terms executive functions are the way in which the brain processes appropriate actions, plan, and filter through extraneous information. Perspective taking is being able to understand how another person feels or sees a situation.

Specifically Dr. Tarbox spoke how Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be used to teach children with autism executive function skills so they are able to for instance self monitor, sustain attention, have better memory, plan, and have inhibition. He also spoke how ABA teaches perspective taking skills such as understanding others internal thoughts like emotions, preferences, intentions, and desires.

Its interesting to think that its possible to use ABA to help children with autism do better with skills that seem abstract. I think even people who are neuro-typical have difficulty with these tasks especially with perspective taking.

Relating and perceiving one another relies on being able to read subtle cues in a persons body langue and facial expressions. With a world that is continually becoming more dependent on things like facebook, texting, and etc as a way to interface with one another the moments we have to practice these skills interpersonally diminish. If anything it seems like most people in the future will need these kinds of lessons to refresh our memory in how to relate with one another on a person to person level without the screen as a way to mediate our interactions with one another.

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