Marlene is a student of Capella University, Master's in Psychology with a concentration in ABA. 

2019 Ambassador

Marlene Castillo

Do I use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in my everyday life? The answer is YES! and here is an explanation of what ABA is and who can benefit from it. ABA is a teaching approach that can be used with your pets, partner, children, coworkers and yourself. In simple terms, ABA is the science of behavior. In other words, it is used to understand variables controlling behavior and can therefore improve socially significant behaviors. It involves the application of research-based interventions, derived from the principles of behavior, that result in effective change.

I have been an RBT for about 6 years. I am currently enrolled in a master level program, to become a BCBA, at Capella University. Through my clinical experience in the field, I have been able to apply ABA to my everyday life and in particular, with my two-year-old son. My husband and I decided to work on having our son mand politely by adding “please” after requested items/actions. In order to shape this behavior, any time he asks for a cookie, for example, I would model, “cookie, please.” Immediately after he echoed the polite mand, that response was reinforced with a cookie and behavior specific praise. We also differentially reinforce mands in Spanish with Spanish speaking acquaintances. After several weeks of prompt fading, using multiple exemplars, and reinforcement, he was accurately and independently manding, using ‘please’ after each request. This response was generalized when I brought him to work and he wanted toys from novel people! He soon became the ‘teacher’ as well. One day my husband requested for our son to get a diaper. As he was walking towards to bedroom, he turned around and said, “daddy, diaper please?” He was prompting his father to use the word ‘please’ after his request. This was very rewarding for me. I was able to teach my son how to mand politely and incidentally he taught his father to be more consistently polite as well.


Not only have I been able to use ABA with my son, but I find myself identifying teachable moments with other people too. I have used antecedent and consequence interventions and other strategies derived from the principles of behavior to achieve my own goals as well. For example, I have been able to apply prompting hierarchies in getting my husband to put our son to sleep. At first, I would mand for him to put the baby to bed every night. I would prompt follow through with vocal-verbal prompts and gestures, paired with eye contact. After repeating this for a few days, I was able to mand for him to put him to bed with just an eye gaze towards our son and the clock. Currently, my husband puts him to bed independently, with an occasional eye gaze prompt from me. As a behavior analyst, one must find ways to be effective in behavior change; that includes finding effective reinforcers. For instance, my husband loves when I cook lasagna. If I need him to do something ‘big’ around the house, I offer to have lasagna ready for him when it’s completed, utilizing the Premack principle. My son hates to eat broccoli and loves iPad time, what kid doesn’t, so I use iPad time as a reinforcer after dinner, increasing his eating broccoli behavior. I use ABA on myself as well. As a full time, mom and student, reading has been a struggle every night. I have created a behavioral contract that states I will read 30 minutes every night and contingently earn a bubble bath when I complete it. I utilize behavior momentum at work when I return from days off or the weekend. I make a to-do list. I select easier things to accomplish first, such as reading emails, paired with a reinforcer, coffee, before I get to less probable responses, such as listening to my voicemails and calling everyone back. Crossing things off my list also functions as negative reinforcement, keeping me more productive and on-task throughout my day. As I have come to see, ABA can be used in various ways in my everyday life and I look forward to learning more and using new and novel techniques going forward.

Check out Marlene's and the other ABA Ambassadors' blog here!


The New York State Association for Behavior Analysis Inc. (NYSABA) is the state chapter of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), an international organization devoted to the study of the experimental analysis of behavior.


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The New York State Association for Behavior Analysis is proud to be an Affiliate Chapter of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts