Overcorrection In ABA Therapy

In the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, overcorrection is a technique used to address challenging behaviors and promote positive behavior change in individuals, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To understand the concept of overcorrection, it is important to first grasp the fundamentals of ABA therapy.

Understanding ABA Therapy

ABA therapy is an evidence-based approach that focuses on understanding and modifying behavior through the application of behavioral principles. It is widely recognized as an effective intervention for individuals with autism. ABA therapy aims to teach new skills, reduce challenging behaviors, and improve overall quality of life.

The therapy utilizes various techniques and strategies tailored to the individual's needs. These can include positive reinforcement, prompting and fading, shaping, and, in some cases, overcorrection.

What is Overcorrection in ABA Therapy?

Overcorrection is a behavior modification technique employed in ABA therapy to address undesirable behaviors and promote more appropriate ones. It involves providing corrective consequences that are directly related to the behavior being targeted. The goal of overcorrection is to teach the individual the correct behavior and motivate them to engage in it consistently.

Overcorrection typically consists of two main types: restitutional overcorrection and positive practice overcorrection. Restitutional overcorrection involves restoring the environment or situation to a better state than before the inappropriate behavior occurred. Positive practice overcorrection requires the individual to repeatedly practice the correct behavior to strengthen the desired response.

By employing overcorrection techniques, ABA therapists aim to increase the likelihood of the individual engaging in appropriate behaviors and decrease the occurrence of challenging behaviors. It is important to note that the use of overcorrection should always be carefully implemented, taking into consideration the unique needs and characteristics of each individual.

Understanding the concept and techniques of overcorrection is essential for parents and caregivers of individuals receiving ABA therapy. It allows them to actively participate in the therapy process and support the implementation of behavioral strategies that promote positive behavior change.

The Concept of Overcorrection

In the realm of ABA therapy, overcorrection is a technique used to address and modify challenging behaviors exhibited by individuals, particularly children, with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By understanding the definition of overcorrection and its goals and principles, parents can gain insight into this therapeutic approach.

Definition of Overcorrection

Overcorrection refers to a behavior modification technique employed in ABA therapy to decrease the occurrence of undesirable behaviors and increase the likelihood of more appropriate behaviors. It involves providing corrective consequences to an individual following the exhibition of an unwanted behavior. The aim is to reduce the occurrence of the undesired behavior by requiring the individual to engage in a more appropriate behavior or perform restitutional acts to rectify the consequences of their actions.

Goals and Principles of Overcorrection

The primary goal of overcorrection is to promote behavior change and ultimately replace maladaptive behaviors with more desirable ones. By implementing this technique, ABA therapists strive to:

  • Increase awareness: Overcorrection aims to enhance an individual's awareness of their inappropriate behavior by highlighting the discrepancy between the undesirable behavior and the desired behavior.
  • Promote learning: Overcorrection provides an opportunity for individuals to learn and practice appropriate behaviors and demonstrate accountability for their actions.

The principles underlying overcorrection include:

  • Restitution: This principle involves requiring the individual to correct or restore the environment or situation to its original or desired state. By engaging in restitutional acts, such as cleaning up a mess caused by their behavior, the individual learns the consequences of their actions and the importance of taking responsibility.
  • Positive practice: Positive practice involves repeatedly practicing the correct behavior to strengthen the desired response and reduce the occurrence of the unwanted behavior. By engaging in positive practice, individuals develop muscle memory and reinforce the desired behavior.

Understanding the concept, goals, and principles of overcorrection is essential for parents seeking to support their child's progress in ABA therapy. By working closely with trained professionals, parents can ensure that the implementation of overcorrection is appropriate and effective in addressing their child's challenging behaviors.

Techniques of Overcorrection

In the realm of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, overcorrection is a technique used to address and modify challenging behaviors in individuals with autism. There are two primary techniques employed in overcorrection: restitutional overcorrection and positive practice overcorrection.

Restitutional Overcorrection

Restitutional overcorrection involves a corrective action that not only corrects the behavior but also requires the individual to engage in an activity that is directly related to the negative behavior. This technique aims to teach the individual the appropriate behavior or skill that should have been demonstrated instead.

To illustrate, let's consider an example. If a child with autism throws a toy out of frustration, restitutional overcorrection would involve requiring the child to retrieve the toy, apologize, and then engage in an additional positive behavior, such as helping to clean up the play area. This process reinforces the replacement behavior while also emphasizing the consequences of the negative behavior.

Positive Practice Overcorrection

Positive practice overcorrection involves providing the individual with opportunities to practice the correct behavior repeatedly. This technique is particularly useful when addressing repetitive or compulsive behaviors. By engaging in the correct behavior repeatedly, the individual gains practice and reinforcement, increasing the likelihood of the desired behavior becoming more prevalent.

For instance, if a child with autism repeatedly taps objects, positive practice overcorrection would involve providing the child with controlled and structured practice opportunities to engage in a different, appropriate behavior, such as squeezing a stress ball or engaging in a calming activity. The repetition of the desired behavior helps to replace the repetitive behavior and reinforces the positive alternative.

Both restitutional overcorrection and positive practice overcorrection can be effective strategies within ABA therapy for addressing challenging behaviors. It is important to note that the application of these techniques should be individualized, taking into consideration the specific needs and goals of each person. A qualified behavior analyst will assess the behavior and determine the most appropriate technique to utilize.

ABA therapy offers a range of tools and techniques to help individuals with autism develop new skills, manage behaviors, and improve their overall quality of life.

When is Overcorrection Used?

In ABA therapy, overcorrection is a technique used to address and modify challenging behaviors. It is typically employed when other behavior interventions have not been successful or when the behavior poses significant risks or barriers to learning. Let's explore some examples of target behaviors and how the appropriate use of overcorrection is determined.

Examples of Target Behaviors

Overcorrection can be used to address a wide range of target behaviors in individuals receiving ABA therapy. These behaviors may include:

  • Aggression: Overcorrection can be used when a child exhibits aggressive behaviors, such as hitting, biting, or throwing objects. The goal is to teach the child appropriate alternative behaviors and reinforce positive social interactions.
  • Self-Injurious Behaviors: When a child engages in self-injurious behaviors like head-banging or self-biting, overcorrection can help redirect the behavior towards more appropriate alternatives. This may involve teaching the child to use a communication card or engage in a calming activity instead.
  • Disruptive Behaviors: Overcorrection can be used to address disruptive behaviors that interfere with learning or social interactions. These behaviors may include yelling, interrupting, or engaging in repetitive actions. The aim is to teach the child more appropriate ways to communicate or self-regulate.

It is important to note that the use of overcorrection is determined on an individual basis, taking into consideration the specific needs and goals of the child. A qualified behavior analyst or therapist will assess the behavior and determine if overcorrection is an appropriate intervention.

Determining the Appropriate Use of Overcorrection

The appropriate use of overcorrection in ABA therapy requires careful consideration and assessment. Behavior analysts and therapists consider several factors when determining if overcorrection is the right approach for a particular behavior:

  • Severity of the Behavior: Overcorrection is typically reserved for more severe behaviors that significantly impact the individual's functioning or safety. The behavior must warrant the additional level of intervention.
  • Response to Other Interventions: Prior interventions, such as positive reinforcement or behavior replacement strategies, should have been attempted and evaluated for their effectiveness. Overcorrection is considered when other approaches have not led to significant behavior change.
  • Individualized Assessment: A thorough assessment of the behavior is conducted, taking into account the antecedents, consequences, and maintaining factors of the behavior. This helps to identify the underlying causes and develop appropriate intervention strategies.
  • Ethical Considerations: The use of overcorrection should align with ethical guidelines and principles in ABA therapy. It should be evidence-based, consider the individual's well-being, and ensure that the potential benefits outweigh any potential risks.

By carefully considering these factors, behavior analysts and therapists can determine if overcorrection is the appropriate intervention for addressing the target behavior. It is crucial to remember that the goal of overcorrection is to teach more adaptive and appropriate behaviors while promoting the individual's overall well-being and progress in their ABA therapy journey.

Implementing Overcorrection in ABA Therapy

When it comes to implementing overcorrection in ABA therapy, there are specific steps to follow and considerations to keep in mind to ensure effective and successful outcomes.

Steps in Overcorrection Procedure

  • Identify target behaviors: The first step in implementing overcorrection is to identify the specific target behaviors that need to be addressed. These behaviors should be clearly defined and measurable.
  • Define the correct behavior: Once the target behaviors are identified, it's important to establish a clear definition of the correct behavior. This helps the individual understand the expectations and provides a basis for comparison.
  • Develop a restitutional overcorrection plan: Restitutional overcorrection involves having the individual engage in a corrective action that directly relates to the consequences of their inappropriate behavior. This can include actions such as repairing or restoring any damage caused by the behavior.
  • Implement positive practice overcorrection: Positive practice overcorrection involves having the individual repeatedly practice the correct behavior in a structured and controlled manner. This helps reinforce the desired behavior and build new habits.
  • Provide guidance and reinforcement: During the overcorrection procedure, it's essential to provide guidance and support to the individual. This can include verbal prompts, modeling the correct behavior, and providing positive reinforcement for engaging in the correct behavior.
  • Fade prompts and reinforcement: As the individual becomes more proficient in performing the correct behavior, it's important to gradually fade the prompts and reduce the frequency of reinforcement. This helps promote independence and generalization of the correct behavior to different contexts.

Considerations for Effective Implementation

While implementing overcorrection in ABA therapy, it's crucial to consider the following factors to ensure its effectiveness:

  • Individualized approach: Every individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's important to tailor the overcorrection procedure to the specific needs and abilities of the individual.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key when implementing overcorrection. It's important to consistently apply the overcorrection procedure across different settings and with different caregivers or therapists involved in the individual's treatment.
  • Communication and collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration between parents, caregivers, therapists, and other professionals involved in the individual's therapy are essential. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
  • Monitoring and data collection: Regular monitoring and data collection are crucial to evaluate the effectiveness of the overcorrection procedure. This helps track progress, make necessary adjustments, and determine if modifications to the intervention are needed.
  • Ethical considerations: Overcorrection should always be implemented in a respectful and ethical manner. It's important to prioritize the well-being of the individual and consider their emotional and physical safety throughout the procedure.

By following the necessary steps and considering these important factors, the implementation of overcorrection in ABA therapy can be a valuable tool in effectively addressing and modifying target behaviors. It's always recommended to work closely with a qualified professional who can provide guidance and support throughout the process.


Is overcorrection the same as punishment?

No, overcorrection is not the same as punishment. While both techniques involve correcting undesired behavior, punishment involves adding a negative consequence to decrease the likelihood of the behavior happening again. Overcorrection, on the other hand, involves teaching and reinforcing the desired behavior through repetition and feedback.

Can overcorrection be harmful to individuals with autism?

Yes, overcorrection can be harmful if it is used excessively or inappropriately. It can lead to burnout, frustration, and a lack of generalization. That's why it's essential to use overcorrection sparingly and monitor progress regularly.

Are there alternative techniques to overcorrection in ABA therapy?

Yes, there are many alternative techniques that can be used in ABA therapy besides overcorrection. Positive reinforcement, such as praise or rewards for desired behavior, is one effective technique. Another technique is shaping, which involves gradually guiding an individual towards a desired behavior by breaking it down into smaller steps.

How do I know if I'm using overcorrection appropriately?

The best way to know if you're using overcorrection appropriately is by monitoring progress regularly. If an individual is making progress towards their goals without experiencing burnout or frustration, then you're likely using it appropriately. However, if an individual is struggling or regressing in their progress, it may be time to re-evaluate your use of overcorrection and consider alternative techniques.


Overcorrection is a technique used in ABA therapy to teach individuals with autism the correct behavior. While it can be useful, it can also have negative consequences if not used appropriately. By using positive reinforcement, monitoring progress, and considering the individual's needs, overcorrection can be used more effectively in ABA therapy. Remember, ABA therapy is just one of the many tools available to help individuals with autism, and it should be used in conjunction with other interventions to promote the best possible outcomes.