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Priming In ABA: Definition, Examples, More

Priming in ABA is a therapy concept where a single person, object, or idea is connected to another person, object, or idea.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 15, 2023
min read

What is priming in ABA?

Priming in ABA is a therapy concept where a single person, object, or idea is connected to another person, object, or idea.

Everyone experiences priming, sometimes without even knowing. Companies heavily rely on priming when marketing their products to consumers. 

They prime potential customers to associate specific info or a brand with different types of experiences or feelings that they have. They develop associations around experiences that were negative, such as being struck by a moving vehicle at a specific intersection on a road.

Therapists that use Applied Behavior Analysis techniques can use priming to assist them in preparing patients for an event that takes place at a future time.

This is shown to greatly lower their stress levels. After that, they will associate their lowered stress levels with that exact change, eventually changing their behavior in a general sense.

In the end, it helps them to transition more easily into new and preferred behavior. It's very helpful for kids that have autism, or others struggling with change, no matter how large or small the change may be.

Priming also assists transitions in ABA therapy. As a developmental disorder, autism symptoms can impact a child's ability to socialize, communicate with other people, learn, and develop motor skills.

As of right now, ABA therapy is the most recommended approach to treating the symptoms associated with autism, helping patients in the restoration of changes in their behavior. The types of therapy are based on lots of evidence and research done over many decades.

It tailors treatment schedules based on the individual, not the autistic as a group.

In the process, information is gathered to help therapists understand what is and isn't helping specific clients.

Children with autism have problems with small changes in their day-to-day lives. Any sort of break from their routines, such as instructions that aren't clear, time that isn't planned out, or a change of food served during meals can result in their exhibiting emotionally-charged stress.

Kids with autism often react in different ways to this kind of aberrations, leading them to disruptions that can intensify into tantrums.

One of the things that parents, teachers, and therapists do to manage these reactions is utilizing priming. It's a behavioral technique to help mitigate anxiety levels about changes that spring up that aren't expected to occur. It provides them some stability to help make transitions easier for everyone.

In cognitive psychology, priming is defined as the reaction of a stimulus during the process of another stimulus that's related. Words, concepts, and images can relate to the stimuli.

Types of Priming

Here are the types of priming techniques:

  • Repetition priming - when a stimulus is activated, it'll take a lower amount of energy to activate it later in the future. When done frequently, it becomes accessible to the point of activation lowering.
  • Associative priming - About word association, this priming involves the reading of words, such as dog, which may bring up the opposite word cat. Under this priming is semantic priming, where a stimulus is undertaken better after the introduction of a stimulus.
  • Negative priming - Priming can lower to activation of schemas related to it when inhibitions are triggered instead of being activated.

Examples of Priming

One example of priming is when the door's closed after someone uses the bathroom. Before the bathroom break occurs again, a teacher tells their student to remember to close the door and wash their hands before leaving the facility. 

They can be written on cue cars and given to the student, or communicated with a visual inside the bathroom.

Other examples of priming can take place when playing a board game, such as telling a child that they rolled the dice well during their turn.

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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