Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

China: Land of Opportunity for Behavior Analysis

In China - the most populated country in the world - psychology has not yet flourished as an independent discipline from medicine and behavior analysis is practically unknown. The potential for behavior analysis to alleviate significant health and social problems in China inspired David Zhuo-Xi Peng to form the affiliated chapter of the Association for Behavior Analysis last November. (See Figure 1).



Figure 1. China Association for
Behavior Analysis Pioneer Members.

David, the father of an autistic child, has observed how behavior analysis can make a positive difference. As a result of the progress of his child through the use of behavioral technology, he felt indebted and committed to bring behavior analysis to China. There, millions of children are in great need of effective treatment and have no access to it. Researchers at the University of Beijing estimated that one out 1,000 children in China suffer from autism or a developmental disability.


David recommended that a delegation of behavior analysts travel to China to help educate researchers, practitioners, teachers, and administrators about behavior analysis and explore opportunities for future collaboration. His efforts led to assembling a group of volunteer behavior analysts who gave their time and resources to go to Changchun, Shenyang, and Beijing from March 23rd to 31st this year. (Figure 2 shows the delegates at the imperial palace in Changchun, JinLin in the northeastern corner of China. Here the last Emperor Pu Yi of the Qing Dynasty resided with his family.)


Figure 2. Linda Hayes, Joe Morrow, Joyce Tu,
and Jack Marr (back row, L to R);
David Peng, Naoko Sugiyama, Brenda Terzich,
and Maria Malott (front row, L to R).

Dr. Joseph Morrow and Brenda Terzich, co-owners of Applied Behavior Consultants (ABC) offered a description of autism and an overview of the challenges and methods of treatment. ABC brought Joyce Tu, a doctoral student in behavior analysis at West Virginia University, who has worked in the treatment of autism and is fluent in both Mandarin and English. ABC translated videos and behavior analysis materials into Chinese and captivated audiences by performing demonstrations of the principles of behavior analysis with children. A few parents traveled great distances with their children to learn more about behavior analysis from this group of delegates. Physicians, faculty, and researchers appeared to welcome behavior analysis technology with open arms.


All the delegates agreed on the importance of presenting a comprehensive view of the field of behavior analysis as a science and its applications across many domains, and not limit its presentation to applications to the treatment of autism. Dr. Jack Marr, then President of ABA, offered an introduction to basic and applied principles, conceptual issues, and organizations in behavior analysis.


Dr. Linda Hayes focused on developing training in behavior analysis and emphasized the importance of curriculum content to effective practice. She proposed concrete strategies to start training Chinese faculty. The University of Nevada, Reno and ABC will jointly sponsor two faculty members from universities in China for one year's training in the behavior analysis program at the University of Nevada, Reno. The requirements for potential candidates include an advanced degree from a Chinese university and that they direct a graduate program in behavior analysis at a Chinese university upon completion of training. The proposal was welcomed with overwhelming enthusiasm.


Naoko Sugiyama, a board member of Japanese ABA, an active organization in Japan for the past 30 years, offered strategies for the development and diffusion of behavior analysis in China. In addition, Naoko encouraged the formation of a regional association-the Asian Association for Behavior Analysis-so that neighboring countries, such as Japan, China, and South Korea may help each other to establish and strengthen behavior analysis throughout Asia. A symposium discussing the creation of an Asian ABA will be conducted this month in Tokyo, Japan. David Zhuo-Xi Peng, invited as a guest participant by Japanese ABA, will represent China at the meeting.



Figure 3. David Peng, Jia Peng,
and Zhuo Dong Peng.

Dr. Maria Malott emphasized the importance of systems analysis and organization behavior management in helping organizations of all types to be successful. In addition, jointly with David and Naoko, she made preliminary arrangements to conduct the second international conference of behavior analysis in Beijing, China. The ABA Council approved Beijing as the site for the conference, to be held in November of 2004.


David worked vigorously with members of China ABA and some of his family members, including Jia Hong Peng, David's father, and Zhuo Dong Peng, his brother (see Figure 3) to arrange opportunities for networking and exposure to behavior analysis.


Many activities occurred in Chinese health institutions, where there is an immediate demand for behavior analysis. Presentations and meetings were conducted at the Children's Hospital of Changchun City (sponsored by the President, Dr. Wang Guan, and Vice Director, Dr. Li Li Hong, shown in Figure 4); Changchun branch of the Chinese Medical Association (hosted by the Director of the Public Health Bureau of Changchun, Dr. Gao Song Bai); Shenyang Children's Hospital (sponsored by President, Dr. Ying Wu); Institute of Mental Health of Peking University, (hosted by Dr. Wang Yu Feng, Director of Child Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Yang Xialo Ling, and Executive Director of Geriatric Psychiatry, Dr. Yu-Xin,); and Beijing Anding Hospital (hosted by Dr. Tang Yiland and Dr. Cao Dahong).


Figure 4. Wang Guang and Dr. Li Li Hong.


The delegates also visited the University of Beijing, the American Embassy in Beijing, and various government institutions. Special meetings were conducted with the China Association for Mental Health (CAMH). Wang Haiyan, Secretary-General, and Dr. Cheng Qian Cao, Secretary of the Medical Behavior Branch, discussed possibilities for sanctioning the ABA chapter in China. CAMH is one of the most prestigious professional associations in China. It was established in 1915 and currently has over 430,000 members, 76 specialty societies (including the Chinese Society of Behavior Science and the Chinese Society of Education Methodology), 321 specialties groups, and 69 medical journals.


The delegation activities ended with a memorable event-a day of great dissemination of behavior analysis in the mass media. A public meeting was conducted with the Beijing Bureau of Health and Human Services, hosted by President, Dr. Da Peng Jin. Dr. Peng Jin introduced the event by addressing current social and health needs in China and an invitation to behavior analysts to help China develop solutions. Each delegate then presented a different aspect of behavior analysis. The event was open to the media and attended by about 300 people. (Figure 5 shows the audience at the Beijing Municipal Facility.) Twelve reporters interviewed the delegates and three articles were published in different newspapers about behavior analysis and the ABA delegation, with a distribution to over 12 million people in Beijing. Additionally, some of the delegates were interviewed on television that same day.


Figure 5. Beijing Audience at a public
event about behavior analysis in China.


Since the delegation's visit to China, David Zhuo Xi-Peng is working toward the government approval of ABA China, Applied Behavioral Consultants is sending three staff members to train faculty at the University of Beijing this summer. In addition, they plan to translate (with Andy Bondy's permission) the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) into Mandarin. The process of recruiting faculty for one-year training at the University of Nevada, Reno has begun. Plans for the 2004 International ABA conference in Beijing are underway. And the meeting with leaders in behavior analysis in Asia will occur this month in Japan. But establishing behavior analysis in China is a daunting task and will require major efforts. We ask you to join in us in this important effort: come to the International Conference in Beijing in 2004 and conduct lectures or training, encourage your university to attract Chinese scholars for training and dissemination, donate books or journals to China ABA (books can be sent to the ABA office). Any other ideas for support are welcome.



Members of the first ABA delegation to China.




Modifed by Eddie Soh