In Brief  |   May 2016
Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism, and Occupational Therapy: A Search for Understanding
Author Affiliations
  • Christie D. Welch, OT Reg. (Ont.), is PhD Student, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; christie.welch@mail.utoronto.ca
  • H. J. Polatajko, PhD, OT Reg. (Ont.), OT(C), FCAOT, FCAHS, is Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy; Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, Neuroscience Program, University of Toronto; and Program Affiliate, St. John’s Rehab Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Departments / The Issue Is …
In Brief   |   May 2016
Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism, and Occupational Therapy: A Search for Understanding
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May 2016, Vol. 70, 7004360020p1-7004360020p5. doi:10.5014/ajot.2016.018689
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May 2016, Vol. 70, 7004360020p1-7004360020p5. doi:10.5014/ajot.2016.018689
Abstract

Occupational therapists strive to be mindful, competent practitioners and continuously look for ways to improve practice. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) has strong evidence of effectiveness in helping people with autism achieve goals, yet it does not seem to be implemented in occupational therapy practice. To better understand whether ABA could be an evidence-based option to expand occupational therapy practice, the authors conducted an iterative, multiphase investigation of relevant literature. Findings suggest that occupational therapists apply developmental and sensory approaches to autism treatment. The occupational therapy literature does not reflect any use of ABA despite its strong evidence base. Occupational therapists may currently avoid using ABA principles because of a perception that ABA is not client centered. ABA principles and occupational therapy are compatible, and the two could work synergistically.