Behavior Analysis: What Can It Do For My Child?
Stephen C. Luce, Ph.D. and George Linke, Psy.D.
last month’s article, “Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis,”
we reviewed some relevant elements of Applied Behavior Analysis
(ABA). Here we provide readers with information about how they
can find clinicians to help them use behavioral techniques with
their children, students, or clients.
Throughout the 1990s, many professionals became interested in
ABA and its use with young children with autism. The impressive
success reported in 1987 by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas, Professor of Psychology
at UCLA, showed that with intensive early intervention, ABA can
significantly impact most young children with autism. In fact,
a sizeable minority of children studied proceeded with their school
careers after pre-school without the need for additional
special education support. Today, many of these former students
lead normal professional and personal lives. In 1993, Catherine
Maurice provided a beautifully written, detailed account of an
ABA program from a parent’s perspective in Let Me Hear Your
Voice: A Family’s Triumph Over Autism.
Importantly, however, the procedures used by Dr. Lovaas and other
professionals originated from many rigorously studied techniques
that were extensively reported in professional journals these
last 40 years. And procedures shown to be so successful for young
children with autism can be adapted for virtually all special
education students, no matter what their age. In addition, do
not believe those who suggest ABA is a new fad, or useful only
for young children. ABA has been shown to be very useful for
typically developing children.
The confusion about ABA may stem from the fact that many professionals
have not been trained in its use. While physicians, teachers,
school administrators, psychologists, and social workers require
licenses to work in their fields, they may not be knowledgeable
about the use or benefits of ABA. Some states now certify Behavior
Analysts, but at this point, that process is just beginning. Organizations
like Behavior Analyst Certification Board (www.BACB.com) provide
guidelines for certification that help you choose professionals
qualified to use ABA.
We generally recommend that you inquire about a professional’s
level of expertise before selecting someone to provide
behavioral programming for a child. While much of the day-to-day
work in a behavioral program can be completed by individuals with
minimal credentials, their supervisors should 1) hold a master’s
or doctorate in a human service field, 2) have experience working
with individuals similar to the child—such experience should include
a practicum or internship under the supervision of an experienced
behavior analyst—and 3) maintain membership in the Association
of Behavior Analysis or one of its chapters.
In choosing a human service professional to help design behavioral
interventions, remember that certification and other forms of
professional credentials do not guarantee good service. Be selective
and seek the advice of pediatricians or other professionals you
trust. Also, ask questions whose answers provide assurance that
selected professionals are a good match for the individuals requiring
services. No professional should question a parent who examines
a professional’s level of experience with similar individuals
and their rate of success. Local universities and colleges can
be very helpful in unearthing skilled professionals. Since ABA
experts come from several different disciplines, consumers can
approach Psychology, Education, Special Education, or Social Work
Departments at local colleges and universities. For further assistance
feel free to contact us at www.melmark.org or call Melmark Inc.,
in Pennsylvania at 1-888-MELMARK.
C. Luce, Ph.D. is Vice President of Clinical Programming, Training
and Research for Melmark, Inc. George P. Linke, Psy.D. is the
Senior Executive Director of Programs and Operations for Melmark,
Inc. Melmark is a day and residential program for children and
adults with developmental disabilities in Berwyn, Pennsylvania
just outside of Philadelphia.#
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