What is "Assent"?
Assent is generally defined as a willingness to participate. In ABA, we think of this as the client's participation in therapy. Ethically, we are mandated to gain consent and often times this happens when a parent or guardian gives consent to treat the client. When we talk about assent, we are talking about the client themselves willingness to participate. Smith and Breaux analyzed multiple definitions of assent across disciplines and found common features within definitions. General theme is the agreement to participate. Other common features include voluntary and without coercion. This is critical in understanding the intricacies of contingencies in place between clinicians and their learners.
Why does it Matter?
Assent matters as honoring it is the only way to acknowledge, respect and promote client autonomy. it also promotes an increase in skill building related to decision making and choice that will benefit our client's in the long run while helping to keep them safe. Ethical guidelines require that behavior analysts respect the dignity and autionomy of the individuals we serve, and honoring client assent is the only way to do that.
What is Assent Based Treatment?
The Anti-ABA Movement
A group of autistic adults are speaking out about their lived experiences with ABA–experiences with coercive practices, unaffirming language, and unfair assumptions about behaviors and goals of intervention.
People implementing ABA have caused harm to these individuals.
It is time that we listen.
The science of learning and behavior change is powerful and can help people. And the anti-ABA movement reminds us that we must do better.
What is the Solution?
Not only does Assent Based Practice sit squarely in our capacity and scope, it sets the foundation for establishing early in client histories that their words should be heard and respected. When we listen to the voices and honor the preferences and values that our clients set out for us, we can help our clients build the skills to live as autonomously as we do in our own lives. The science of behavior is powerful, and can be harnessed to help clients live the lives that they want to live.
Your Call(s) to Action
...to the voices of your clients and those who have experienced ABA to be harmful.
...how those affected interpret the practices that you employ. Learn how to design, measure and respond to changing contingencies from a client values based standpoint.
Make changes today in how you practice. Seek out behavior analytic mentorship from experienced practitioners who have been doing this work. Seek out mentorship from autistic individuals who have experienced ABA and learn to do better.
Octave is committed to sharing resources to assist you with all of these important steps! Check back here for more resources as we update this page, or reach out to us with your specific needs and questions about this important topic!
Octave is planning to share everything we know about this topic in a series of trainings designed for practitioners like you. Check back here shortly for announcements!