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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #161
CE Offered: BACB
Behavior Analysts Behaving Badly?: Topography, Analysis, and Implications for Our Profession
Sunday, May 25, 2014
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
W185bc (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: PRA/AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Kimberly A. Schreck (Penn State Harrisburg)
Discussant: R. Wayne Fuqua (Western Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Kimberly A. Schreck, Ph.D.

Pop rocks mixed with soda will kill you. Flash your headlights and gang initiates will shoot you. Always observe the behavior of gas station attendants they may be warning you of a killer in your backseat. The perpetuation of urban legends indicates people will believe almost anything they hear or read. Autism treatment has its own urban legends Facilitated Communication reveals buried secrets; Son Rise transports to a different world; and animals intuit needs of kids with ASD. As scientists, BCBAs have an ethical responsibility to evaluate urban legends related to Autism treatment (i.e., alternative or fad treatments). Unfortunately, many BCBAs not only fail to evaluate these treatments according to science, but actually use or promote treatments that have no empirical evidence of effectiveness. This symposium describes the topography of individual BCBAs and companies bad choices; an analysis of the variables related to these choices; and the social, legal, and treatment implications of BCBAs behaving badly.

Keyword(s): alternative treatments, BCBA, ethical behavior, fads

They Should Know Better: A Description of The Drift from Our Ethical Code

THOMAS L. ZANE (Institute for Behavioral Studies, Endicott College), Nancy Ellis (Endicott College)

The Guidelines for Responsible Conduct for behavior analysts is very clear on the point that certified behavior analysts are responsible for recommending scientifically supported most effective treatment procedures. The behavior of behavior analysts must be ruled by science and evidence. Unfortunately, Schreck and Mazur (2008) discovered through their survey that many behavior analysts admit to using treatment strategies that are not evidenced based. This presentation will further identify the irresponsibility of some behavior analysts who use unproven treatments in direct violation of our ethical code. A search on the Internet using key phrases such as BCBA and (name of a fad treatment) resulted in identifying dozens of certified behavior analysts using, promoting, or writing positively about treatments that are not scientifically supported most effective treatments. This presentation will describe these treatments, highlight the lack of evidence, and show the number of behavior analysts who were found supporting such treatments.

Behavior Analyst Businesses Behaving Badly
JON S. BAILEY (Florida State University)
Abstract: The BACB Guidelines for Responsible Conduct are written to guide the behaviors of individual behavior analysts but in my recent experience it is companies providing ABA services that should be our focus. As we now know there is a lot of money to be made in providing behavioral services and this can influence the judgment of the owners of these organizations in deleterious ways. If the company, be it consulting firm, private school, in-home, or drop-in clinic puts undue pressure on young, relatively inexperienced BCaBAs or BCBAs the results are unbecoming of our field. Owners can increase revenue by taking more clients without increasing staff, by taking more difficult clients without hiring specialists (at a higher rate), and by passing on costs to their behavior analysts that should be part of their overhead (e.g. mileage to reach in-home clients). Paperwork to meet provider standards also is an impediment to some unethical owners and is met with suggestions to their behavior analysts to "use the cut-and-replace function" more often. Individual clients do not necessarily need "individual" behavior plans, if we can guess the functions rather than doing a proper functional analysis, a good plan for a previous client will do just as well. I will discuss these and other unethical behaviors on the part of businesses and suggest a solution.

The A-B-C's of Behaving Badly: An Assessment of the Variables that Maintain BCBAs' Use of Non-Scientific Treatments

KIMBERLY A. SCHRECK (Penn State Harrisburg), Lindsay M. Knapp (Penn State Harrisburg), Heather Wilford (Penn State Harrisburg)

As children we learn our A-B-Cs very early in the educational process. As beginning behavior analysts, we learn the alternative meaning of the A-B-Cs. Unfortunately, many behavior analysts fail to analyze their own behaviors according to the A-B-Cs. This failure becomes most evident relevant to some BCBAs use of non-scientifically supported treatments for ASD. BCBAs recommend and use non-science despite ethical dilemmas (Schreck & Mazur, 2008). These recommendations and implementations for non-scientific treatments for ASD require a behavioral assessment. A variety of environmental stimuli, such as pressure from parents or employers, media hype, and beliefs about treatments or autism may influence BCBAs to experiment with non-scientifically supported treatments. Contingencies (e.g., monetary gain, acceptance by co-workers, etc.) may maintain the use of these treatments, sometimes to the exclusion of ABA (Schreck & Mazur, 2008). This presentation will assess possible A-B-C factors that influence BCBAs to choose non-science and contingencies that maintain this behavior

The Long-Term Impact of Scientifically Risky Behavior
JAMES T. TODD (Eastern Michigan University)
Abstract: As explained in Epling and Woodward's seminal article, "How to Be a Successful Psychotherapist No Matter What the Effect on Behavior: The Corn Soup Principle," the natural contingencies clinical settings include high-probability reinforcement for behavior of low clinical quality. Many of these contingencies are structural. Reliable clients with simple problems are preferred to troublesome clients with serious problems. A clinician who has not designed countervailing contingencies could become what Epling and Woodward called a "Successful Non-Therapist," making a living without providing real service. A correlated set of scientific contingencies exist. Empirically vacuous therapeutic approaches--with easily understood conclusions, simple procedures, vague goals, and many buzz-words--will reinforce at a higher rate than scientifically sophisticated approaches with good but hard-won outcomes. Thus, a successful but careless behavior analyst can, over time and without realizing it, become a successful non-therapist whose former rigor and effectiveness has been replaced by copious verbal behavior about clinically irrelevant concepts, satisfaction about outcomes that might have been achieved by doing essentially anything, and clients pleased by something other than the actual effectiveness of the treatment.



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