Behavior Therapist for Special Needs Kid – a misunderstood job

BySyamira Nazri

“Will you use electrical shock on my daughter?” “Are you going to cane my son when he is not behaving?”

I was shocked when I heard that question. The feeling quickly subsided after realizing how much awareness parents have regarding ABA/behaviour therapists in Malaysia. I proceeded to explain the ethical part of ABA therapy which is:

  1. to benefit others
  2. treat others with compassion, dignity, and respect
  3. behave with integrity
  4. ensure our competence

With those principles, we must exhaust positive reinforcement before opting for punishment. Even so, the punishment is not what you are thinking about. Most parents assume that we only work on challenging behaviour. This assumption is not wrong.  We do more than that. 

In the special needs industry, ABA therapy works with children to bridge the gap between biological and developmental age. WHY? – So that the individual can live meaningfully and functionally, in this case, the child will be able to partake in education and play with others 

Some of the skills that we tap into are language and communication ( functional communication), social skills, safety skills, and daily living skills. Equipping them with such skills may help with the challenging behaviours part. Some challenging behaviours may stem from the inability to communicate their needs appropriately. Those behaviors include:

  1. self-injurious – head banging and flopping;
  2. aggression – kicking others, biting parents
  3. destruction of property

In short, any behaviour that deters an individual from having a meaningful and functional life is considered challenging behaviour.

To sum up, a behaviour therapist helps children improve the skills I talked about above. While also reducing behaviour that can be detrimental to themselves and others. This job requires us to be in touch with our most human aspects. Specifically compassion, empathy, and of course, patience.

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