What Is Overcorrection in ABA Therapy?

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Overcorrection is a term used in ABA therapy to describe an intervention that goes too far the other way. It’s when teachers or therapists make corrections that are stronger than what was actually needed, causing kids to be more frustrated and less motivated.

Overcorrection is a term that describes the opposite of what it sounds like. It means to do too much, or to be over-zealous in your actions. In ABA therapy, this is when parents go overboard with their child’s treatment plan.


Overcorrection is a type of punishment that is occasionally employed in behavior therapy to help people modify their bad habits.

Overcorrection was originally utilized as a form of negative punishment to make the person identify the maladaptive behavior with discomfort and disgust. Although this method was proved to be effective in reducing maladaptive behavior, it is no longer deemed ethical.

Overcorrection is rarely used by most current behavior therapists, such as those who practice applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. Punishment is perceived as being too harsh, drawing attention to poor actions and potentially reinforcing them. Instead, it is preferable to focus on and praise positive behaviour.

In some circumstances, positive overcorrection has been found to be useful. This technique requires the individual with autism to execute the adapted behavior in place of the maladaptive behavior on a regular basis, usually for a set amount of time. Short-term positive overcorrection training, lasting around 30 seconds at a time, has been demonstrated to assist the adaptive behavior become more habitual, with fewer stress and negative side effects for the autistic person.

While overcorrection is permissible, it should be used with caution. Many behavior therapists advise against it and instead advocate for rewards and positive reinforcement, along with some light reprimanding for maladaptive behaviors. This means that if your child has autism and is receiving behavior therapy, he or she is unlikely to face such harsh consequences. Instead, students work with their ABA therapist in a supportive atmosphere.

Overcorrection is an older tool that is occasionally used in ABA therapy.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is an evidence-based treatment that aids in the management of behavioral symptoms associated with a wide range of diseases. This method has been particularly effective in encouraging behavioral improvements in people with autism, a developmental disorder that affects socialization, communication, cognition, and even physical skills.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) certifies ABA therapists, which involves specific training in ABA techniques. Although there is a common way to accreditation, an ABA therapist might use a variety of specific practices in a treatment program for a person with autism.

Overcorrection is a contentious but often effective strategy. While overcorrection began as a punishment or a negative consequence of an action, it has evolved into a more positive method to promote adaptable rather than maladaptive behaviors. Overcorrection in modern forms is still regarded a disciplinary strategy, thus it should be used with caution when treating vulnerable groups like children with autism.

There are three forms of overcorrection currently in use.

  1. Positive practice is the most commonly utilized overcorrection strategy in ABA therapy. When a client, such as a child with autism, commits an offense such as a maladaptive behavior, the person must frequently practice the appropriate response to the event to reinforce the appropriate answer.
  2. Negative practice: The individual with autism would be told to repeatedly demonstrate the wrong or maladaptive behavior in an early type of overcorrection therapy. In principle, repeating the maladaptive behavior would raise the person’s dislike to it, and the action would become more of a punishment.
  3. Restitutional: The person would be obliged to return to the original location of the maladaptive conduct and perform the adaptive action instead.

Positive practice overcorrection has been the main focus of ABA therapy for children with autism. Positive reinforcement is most effective for those with developmental disabilities who require assistance learning to change their actions.

The History & Development of Overcorrection

Overcorrection was first proposed as a therapeutic therapy for people with autism in the 1970s, and its efficacy was investigated in the early 1980s. According to a research published in 1981, the strategy was used to “suppress” unsuitable or unwanted actions among treatment participants. Self-stimulating or self-harming activities were given special attention in the treatment.

According to that early article, using overcorrection — usually negative overcorrection at the time — resulted in a decrease in these behaviors. However, because that procedure was deemed harsh, positive overcorrection became the norm.

Positive and restitutional overcorrection were developed for the following reasons:

  1. Compensate for an inappropriate act’s environmental consequences.
  2. Overly accurate types of behavioral transformation should be practiced.

Positive overcorrection as a potential way of reinforcing behaviors in ABA therapy is supported by another early study published in 1983. The researchers observed the person’s activities during treatment sessions, whether they were right responses, approximate responses, or off-task behaviors. When a subject engaged in an off-task activity, they were given positive overcorrection in the form of a 30-second practice period or a 3-minute practice period. Both resulted in a rapid decrease in off-task behavior and acquisition of the correct response.

Positive overcorrection took less time to have an effect over time in the sessions. According to the research team, shorter practice sessions were connected with less unfavorable consequences, hence this was the favored technique.

Overcorrection is a form of punishment, so use it sparingly.

Because overcorrection is a kind of punishment for maladaptive behaviors, it’s critical to focus on positive overcorrection and reinforcement. ABA therapists prefer to focus on rewarding positive behaviors and avoiding involvement with maladaptive behaviors rather than using direct penalties.

Overcorrection is one of the less effective strategies of behavioral treatment management. If you have any reservations or questions about this method, ask your child’s ABA therapist what they think about overcorrection and whether they have ever used it in a treatment plan.

In a study of Positive Behavior Support (PBS) professionals, around 15% said they would advocate overcorrection as a treatment option. Mild reprimand and extinction were also favoured strategies among this group of specialists, with around three-quarters stating that this was their favourite method; 60 percent advised response cost.

Some children benefit from positive overcorrection.

In some cases, however, this approach may be beneficial to some people with autism. A study of three young men with autism indicated that when positive overcorrection was used in conjunction with adaptive behavior, the maladaptive behavior was minimized. Two of the three study participants demonstrated an increase in adaptive behavior engagement.

This method is unlikely to be employed as a tool during ABA therapy sessions because few behavior therapists recommend it. Other interventions work at least as well, if not better, and can provide a more caring and supportive atmosphere for children with autism, according to some study.


Behavior Analyst with Board Certification (BCBA). Board for Certification of Behavior Analysts

How Overcorrection Helps You Behave Better. (2012). Digital Commons at Western Kentucky University.

Excessive correction (December 2001). Behavior Consultant

A Review and Critical Analysis of Overcorrection (1981). The Behavior Analyst, Western Michigan University.

Overcorrection. Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Behavior Modification Encyclopedia

The Effects of Positive Practice Duration on Acquisition and Response Reduction in Positive Practice Overcorrection (1983). The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a publication dedicated to the study of human behavior.

Assessing Parental Involvement in ABA Treatment for Children with Autism. 2017 (January). Wayne State University’s Digital Commons

Should non-positive interventions be prohibited in special education? Under the IDEA, Positive Behavior Supports are being re-examined. (January 14, 2014) IdeaExchange at the University of Akron.

Positive Practice Overcorrection’s Indirect Effects September of 2013. The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a publication dedicated to the study of human behavior.

Overcorrection is a form of positive punishment, which means that it is used to prevent an undesired behavior from happening again. Reference: is overcorrection positive punishment.

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