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.


46th Annual Convention; Online; 2020

Event Details

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Paper Session #451
What Behavior Analysts Know About Abuse and Autism
Monday, May 25, 2020
5:30 PM–5:50 PM
Area: AUT
Chair: Susan Wilczynski (Ball State University)

What Behavior Analysts Know About Abuse and Autism

Domain: Applied Research
Brandon Miller (Ball State University), Maria Martino (University of Alabama), SUSAN WILCZYNSKI (Ball State University)

The vast majority of maltreatment cases in the US occur at the hands of mothers, acting alone or in concert with others. Individuals with ASD are seven times more likely to experience abuse than the general population. Adults with ASD report they have been physically (57.8%) or sexually (55.6%) abused. Given behavior analysts are likely to have clients on their current caseload who are being abused, it is surprising articles describing training on abuse is absent from our literature. The majority of 579 respondents to a survey sent via the BACB reported low rates of substantiated abuse (83% indicated less than 10% of their clients have been physically abused and 96% reported their clients have not been sexually abused). Slightly more respondents suspect physical abuse is occurring. More than a third (37%) report that their agency does not have a protocol, they are unfamiliar with their agency’s protocol, or that the agency protocol for reporting abuse is insufficient. Perhaps even more worrying is that only 36% report their agency has a protocol on addressing clients as abusers. This paper discusses additional survey results and recommends individual and systemic changes needed to address this substantial quality of life concern.




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