Monday, November 20, 2006

Verbatim: The Dr Lovaas diet

When you read Ivar Lovaas' work, you're always running into statements you can't forget, even though you might wish to.

This is from Lovaas et al. (1967):

Reinforcement was given in the form of small bites of the child's food, such as pieces of Sugar Flakes, a breakfast cereal. As learning progressed, evidenced by the fact that the child might occasionally emit an approximation to the current response without prompts, food reinforcement was withheld for prompted behavior and only delivered contingent upon unprompted behavior. This step is a rather important one in the training, since continual reinforcement for prompted behavior probably would prevent a shift into imitative responding.

The use of food as reinforcement apparently "forces" the child to behave correctly. We have observed that some children would not acquire new responses unless it was impossible for them to survive without the new learning, i.e., unless their sustenance was contingent upon the new learning. Stated differently, social rewards, such as attention and approval, which effectively control the behavior of most individuals were inadequate during these early stages of learning. The child not only did not learn, but became very uncooperative and tantrumous.


Lovaas, O.I., Freitas, L., Nelson, K., & Whalen, C. (1967). The establishment of imitation and its use for the development of complex behavior in schizophrenic children. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 5, 171-181.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, but you don't want to starve them for so long that they become too weak to emit a behavior. It's tricky this hunger thing.

Same thing with hitting. Hit them too hard in the wrong place and you might kill them. :-[

Of course, making them feel loved by treating them lovingly is out of the question.

Anonymous said...

Withholding food to get the proper behavior? Are you kidding me?

Sadly, I know you're not.

Larry Arnold PhD FRSA said...

Well for someone who claims not to be on a personal crusade against ABA you seem to blog about little else.

You don't have to justify what you say about Lovaas in any faux objectivity, keep on doing what you are doing, just drop the pretence.

Anonymous said...

Food! What is that exactly? We merely refuel occasionally at random intervals to recharge the batteries. Cheers

Michelle Dawson said...

Hi Mr Rex,

In my "Verbatim" series, I've posted quotes from Simon Baron-Cohen, Beate Hermelin and Neil O'Connor, and now Ivar Lovaas.

Those are three famous cognitive scientists outnumbering one famous behaviour analyst. Of course, one can't risk being seen as a rampaging cognitivist, so I'll have to try to pay more attention to the behaviour analysts.

Anonymous said...

And it's clear that you are completely in the dark regarding good ABA therapy. Thank god you don't live in the United States.

Michelle Dawson said...

Anonymous wrote:

"And it's clear that you are completely in the dark regarding good ABA therapy."

Back in 1967, that was considered "good ABA therapy". I think we should learn from that.

Anonymous said...

And I'm still confused about what certain people have actually learned from it. Even twenty years later when Lovaas did the 1987 study the standards didn't appear to have improved that much and it took a change in the law(in California at least, I don't know about elsewhere) before adversives miraculously became recognised as unethical, with Lovaas giving confusing statements about wether he believes they are effective or not(BF Skinner at some point admitted they weren't).

But then you have to ask those certain people why adversives became considered unethical but mass-denigration to promote the therapy is not? Will it take legislation in some places before it changes?

I don't think it should take a law to inform people of morality like this, it should be the other way round with morality determining the law or even better with such law being unneccessary to begin with. Depends on people recognising right and wrong to begin with though.

MothersVox said...

Yes, the grandfather program of what's currently used at the Rotenberg Center. Part and parcel of the feralization of autistics — treating autistics as though they're animals to be trained.

Your Verbatim Series is great. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

BF Skinner 'admitting' that aversives were not effective would be like Michelle Dawson 'reluctantly conceding' that ABA was not the most appropriate intervention for most children on the ASD spectrum.