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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #200
CE Offered: BACB
Behaviorists Behaving Badly: Why Behavior Analysts Sometimes Use Fad or Pseudo-scientific Treatments, and How We Can Maintain Fealty to Our Science
Sunday, May 27, 2012
2:00 PM–3:20 PM
602 (Convention Center)
Area: CSE/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: James T. Chok (Melmark New England)
CE Instructor: Thomas L. Zane, Ph.D.

Behavior analysts historically been committed to science and the scientific procedure for studying human behavior. The major behavioral organizations, ABAI and BACB, have set forth standards of conduct that require behavior analysts to use effective treatment procedures. The BACB's Guidelines for Responsible Conduct specifically state that behavior analysts must use scientifically supported most effective treatments. However, there are a number of BCBAs who have been found using practices that are pseudoscientific or fads. This symposium will address this growing concern by reviewing criteria for evidence to which behavior analysts should adhere, providing examples of behaviorists behaving badly this way, and offering strategies to convince these behavior analysts to once again behave according to our scientific principles, or how to deal with such transgressions.

What the Code of Conduct Tells Us About Using Evidenced-Based Practices
MARY JANE WEISS (Endicott College)
Abstract: Like most professions, behavior analysts have codes of ethical conduct to guide their professional behavior. Board Certified Behavior Analysts adhere to the BACB Guidelines for Responsible Conduct. In this code, there are several references to the necessity of behavior analysts using scientifically supported and most effective treatments. These codes emphasize our devotion to science, to a science-based analysis of behavior, and to evidence-based practices. This presentation will review the overall Guidelines of Responsible Conduct, with particular emphasis on the sections of the guidelines that reference adherence to evidenced-based practice and the use of scientifically supported and effective treatments.
What "Evidenced-Based" Means to Me: High Standards for Proof, Effect Size, and Social Validation
JON S. BAILEY (Florida State University)
Abstract: In a rush to encourage the growth of ABA it appears that training in the basics of behavior analysis principles has become watered down to the point that we now have a new functional category of professional: BCBA-INO. These "In Name Only" behavior analysts have somehow met the minimum requirements for certification but missed the fundamental message of ABA about critical thinking and skepticism of the avalanche of approaches now available for sale on the autism treatment market. These INO professionals represent a threat to the image most of us have of our field. I will present examples where these individuals propose to implement ABA along side DIR/Floortime, Reiki, CFGF diets, and more and suggest some remedies for consideration.
The Ethical Challenges of Insuring Quality Behavioral Work in Complex Applied Settings
PAUL A. DORES (Psychologist in Private Practice), Frank L. Bird (Melmark New England), Rita M. Gardner (Melmark New England)
Abstract: The value of applied behavior analysis as the most demonstrable evidence-based intervention for a variety of behavioral challenges remains its’ unwavering adherence to long-standing scientific principles and the seven dimensions outlined by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968). As we grow as a field , take on larger and larger groups of providers, and strive to become the standard of intervention for disorders, such as autism, our credibility as a field relies upon the day-to-day work that individual behavior analysts conduct in complex and multi-faceted applied settings. Two of the most significant ethical challenges that behavior analysts face in complex applied settings are those behavior analysts who, despite their behavioral certification, continue to endorse and implement interventions that are not evidence-based, and those behavior analysts who provide behavioral services which, while continuing to have their basis in the literature are, for a variety of reasons, developed and implemented inadequately or incorrectly. Both of these scenarios create ethical challenges for the field and lead potentially to an unclear message as to what applied behavior analysis should be and to poor outcomes which both serve to weaken the credibility of the field at a time when that credibility is most essential. This presentation focuses of the types of non-behavioral, “fad” interventions which continue to be supported by certified behavior analysts, in violation of the ethical guidelines of their certification, including facilitated communication, rapid prompting, sensory integration, auditory integration and biomedical and nutrition interventions. The presentation also focuses upon the complex influences in applied settings today that make it more and more difficult for behavior analysts to implement even those interventions which are evidence-based in an adequate and appropriate manner. These influences include the impact of financial/business factors on behavioral decision making; the difficulty in managing parental expectations and demands regarding desired outcomes; the integration of non-data based voices in a functional assessment process which should lead to the behavioral goals, services and treatment durations; and the misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the behavioral literature in justifying the quality or quantity of ABA services. It is not just the issue of behavioral people acting badly by acting non-behaviorally; it is the issue of maintaining

What Should Be Done When Behaviorists Behave Badly By Using Treatments That Are Not Scientifically Supported?

THOMAS L. ZANE (Institute for Behavioral Studies)

The BACB Guidelines for Responsible Conduct require that Board Certified Behavior Analysts use only scientifically supported effective treatment procedures that have been validated as having short- and long-term benefits to clients and society. However, over the past several years, some BCBAs have been found to be using treatment procedures that do not meet this ethical code. The question then becomes, what is done to have them adhere to our commitment to science and evidenced-based practice, as well as to minimize the likelihood of behaviorists in the future failing to adhere to this important requirement? This presentation will discuss various antecedent and consequent procedures towards this end. Our field to specify the exact criteria for what constitutes quality evidence. The BACB could incorporate such criteria into its ethical standards. Continuing education credits on this exact topic could be provided as opportunities for behavior analysts to gain further training. A final possibility would be to file ethical complaints to the BACB regarding behavior analysts who violate this codified requirement.




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