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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Paper Session #443
CE Offered: BACB — 
Ethical Issues, Social Validity, and Compassion in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Monday, May 27, 2024
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 204 AB
Area: PCH
Instruction Level: Basic
Chair: Emily Varon (Ready Set Sleep, LLC)
CE Instructor: Emily Varon, M.S.

The Contingencies Behind Ethical and Unethical Behavior: Understanding Behavioral Ethics Through the Principles of Behaviorism

Domain: Theory
FRANK R. CICERO (Seton Hall University)

Disciplines establish and enforce professional codes of ethics in order to guide ethical and safe practice. Unfortunately, ethical breaches still occur. It is found that breaches are often perpetrated by professionals who are aware of their codes of ethics and state that they engage in ethical practice. The theory of behavioral ethics, which is most often discussed in business settings, attempts to explain why responsible professionals sometimes engage in unethical behavior. Although traditionally explained through theories of social psychology, the principles underlying behavioral ethics are behavior analytic. When conceptualized as operant behavior, ethical and unethical “decisions” are evoked and maintained by environmental variables. As with all forms of operant behavior, antecedents in the environment can trigger unethical responses and consequences in the environment can shape future unethical responses. In order to increase ethical practice amongst professionals, an assessment of the environmental variables needs to be conducted on a situation by situation basis. Knowledge of discipline-specific professional codes of ethics is not enough to prevent unethical practice. In the current presentation, extended from Cicero (2021), the constructs used in behavioral ethics are translated into underlying behavior analytic principles that are known to shape behavior. How these principles establish and maintain ethical as well as unethical practice is discussed.


Moving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Towards Greater Social Validity and Acceptance Within Minority Identities and Vulnerable Populations

Domain: Theory
MEGAN RITCHEY MAYO (Antioch University New England; Synchrosaic, LLC.), David Legaspi (Utah State University)

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is at a crucial point in its development as a field. The number of Master's level certificants has grown from 28 in 1999 to over 60,000 in 2023 (BACB , 2023). There are board certified behavior analysts in every state and most territories of the United States. ABA has become ubiquitous in this country's education system and is considered a standard of care for children with autism (Layden et. Al., 2023; Meyers et. Al., 2007)). At the same time, ABA has come under heavy criticism. Autism and neurodiversity rights groups have pointed to ethical concerns with behavior analysis, and stories of felt harm by former clients and practitioners of ABA services are present across social media ((Latimer, 2019; Ram, 2020; Wilkenfield & McCarthy, 2020). This paper explores this issue through the lens of social justice and how the field may be vulnerable to epistemic injustice by lacking systems and structures to adequately attend to the voices of the vulnerable populations it serves. The authors describe how the framework of cultural humility, the practice of attaining assent, and the science interbehaviorism could be beneficial in moving ABA forward towards greater social validity and decreased potential for harm.


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Has Found Its Heart: Where Science and Compassion Meet

Domain: Service Delivery
KEN WINN (Advanced Behavioral Resources)

Founded in compassionate care, ABA gives voice to the voiceless and hope to he hopeless. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been around for decades. It is considered the premier treatment for ASD, as well as other conditions in which behavioral symptoms can be disruptive to a person’s quality of life. Through this talk, we will explore ways that ABA, in its truest form, is deeply rooted in compassionate care, trauma informed therapies and can be key to helping those in need. Social validity and treating “socially significant” behaviors, as well as individualized treatments are at the core of Applied Behavior Analysis. As our field has transformed over the years and we have used our technology in many and varied ways, it can often be the case that this can be forgotten. Especially as technology, such as AI has become more commonplace. We will explore how ABA i, at its core, fundamentally compassionate an person-centered. Much of the discourse on the "abuse of ABA" can be mitigated by a true understanding of the true foundational nature of applied behavior analysis. This paper will seek to explore that in detail.


Ethical Considerations for Sleep Programming

Domain: Service Delivery
EMILY VARON (Ready Set Sleep, LLC)

With as many as 50% of children experiencing sleep problems at some point during childhood (Center for Disease Control, 2022) and up to 80% of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder experiencing sleep problems (e.g., Furfaro, 2020 and Reynolds, 2019), many Board Certified Behavior Analysts find themselves treating behavioral sleep problems within the scope of Applied Behavior Analysis programming. However, Behavior Analysts do not receive training in the variables impacting healthy sleep such as average sleep needs by age, setting events which delay sleep onset and manipulate the reinforcing value of sleep, or sleep dependencies which contribute to pervasive night awakenings. In the absence of formal training on sleep and sleep-related variables during behavior analytical coursework, ethical barriers may arise. This Continuing Education event aims to unveil the potential for questionable ethical behavior when developing sleep plans for families. Additionally, this event will provide preliminary information about sleep which attendees will be able to use immediately to better evaluate sleep problems and create sleep plans guided by the ethical considerations outlined in the content.




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