A taste of research: Why am I posting a “beyond ABA and autism” series of lists?

Each of my posts over the next few weeks will include a (purposely) short list of research articles devoted to a topic unrelated to interventions for individuals with autism and related disabilities.

[UPDATE: 2021]- When I originally wrote this post I said that all articles would come from peer-reviewed reputable journals that publish basic and applied behavior analysis research. I want to clarify this statement. Some of the papers will come from journals that do not include “behavior analysis” in the name of the journal, that does not mean the papers themselves are not important to the field. In fact, in some ways these papers are of greater importance as they will reach a wider range of professionals outside of the field of behavior analysis, futhering the mission to disseminate behavior analysis more widely and in an accessible way. Oddly, the side effect of this is those papers may not reach those within the field of behavior analysis, which is why it is important to include them in some of these lists.

Here is why-

Lots of people are deserving of the evidence-based assessments and interventions behavior scientists can provide. 

While I became interested in learning and behavior as a young teenager because I care about a person with Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD, I got my start in the field of applied behavior analysis working with children with autism when I was a junior in college in 1995. I am forever thankful and indebted to those who paved the way for me and for the rest of us to work effectively with individuals who have autism. Autism is my area of expertise, however that does not mean I have never been asked to work with other individuals who were equally deserving of the evidence-based assessments and interventions that behavior scientists* can provide. I strongly believe it is our responsibility as behavior scientists to enhance our continuing education beyond autism programming/intervention and at a minimum, dedicate three of our continuing education hours to applications with other populations. I have committed to do this. I hope you will too.

If you got your supervised hours working only in home or small community programs for young children with autism, you may not be prepared work in public schools.

Working for a public school district as an employee gives you many or all of the same benefits teachers get, health insurance, paid sick days, vacations, a regular pay check, and maybe even a pension, so it can be a great option for those of us with families or those of us who don’t like contract work. The job role of the public school “behaviorist,” “behavior specialist,” or “behavior analyst” may be very different than what you are used to.  Behavior scientists working in public schools are asked routinely to assess and address the behavior of students with a wide range of disabilities, work with general education teachers who have difficult students in their classes, do staff training seminars and more.  If all you know is 1:1 instruction with individuals with young kids with autism, you are not going to get anywhere fast in a 5th grade general education classroom with 25 kids, one teacher, and limited resources, and trust me, you will very likely be asked to do work in that type of situation. From the earliest issues of JABA there has been research on applied behavior analysis in general education settings so I hope the articles on the list we provide shed new light on how you can make a difference in that setting.**

There is unbelievably inspiring work being done in eldercare facilities but not enough of us are doing it.

As I have gotten older and become more aware of the aging process and neurocognitive disorders in elderly individuals, I have become interested in how behavior scientists can improve the quality of life of individuals living with dementia Alzheimer’s in skilled nursing facilities. We all should be. We will likely all be in the position one day (or perhaps some of us already are) when we find ourselves wishing there were enough behavior scientists specializing in geriatrics to support and help a loved one. Take the time to learn more about this vulnerable and under served population of people and the great work that behavior scientists like Dr. Jane Fisher and Dr. Guilio Lancioni are doing.  Who knows, maybe you will be inspired to try something new.**

Behavior scientists are thinking about ways to make the world a better place.

Many of us, regardless of who we work with, want to help make the world a cleaner, kinder, and safer place to live, love and work. There are many behavior scientists doing just that. From racial bias to the obesity epidemic, behavior scientists are writing about and researching behavior that impacts us and our communities. Take the time to read their work. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

There are just some really cool, thought provoking, or fun articles written by behavior scientists. 

Just sayin’ 🙂

Remember, the lists I post over the course of the next weeks are not all inclusive. They provide a sampling of the type of work one can do as a behavior scientist outside the field of autism intervention.**

I hope you like them-


Check out List 1 today!

*Why do I use the term behavior scientist instead of board certified behavior analyst?

I am proud to be a BCBA! That being said, many of the most brilliant, important, and ground-breaking scientists in field of ABA, then and now, are (or were)  psychologists, doctors of education, and more. Until relatively recently, none of them were “BCBAs,” and some still aren’t.  I find that the term “behavior scientist” is more inclusive of the range of professionals that research and practice applied behavior analysis but also use the term behavior analyst. Thank you to E. Scott Geller for making me think about this. If anyone has a good reason not to use “behavior scientist” I am open to hearing it!

**Disclaimer: It is not too late to work with other populations if your training is with individuals with autism. Quite the contrary, we need more behavior scientists in other settings. If you do go to work in a public school setting or a eldercare setting or any other setting for that matter, make sure you form a relationship with a mentor who has worked in that setting for a minimum of 5 years or is otherwise deemed competent in the area you would like to provide services in (for more on this see the BACB Professional and Ethical Compliance Code Section 1.02) ). There is so much to learn and reading journal articles alone won’t teach it to you! The articles that I will include in each week’s list are meant to pique your interest in other areas, not serve as substitute for intensive study and additional training, mentorship, or supervision.