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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #191
CE Offered: BACB

ABA and Autism: An Unfinished Agenda

Sunday, May 29, 2005
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
Continental B (1st floor)
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
CE Instructor: Jack Scott, Ph.D.
Chair: Jack Scott (Florida Atlantic University)
WILLIAM H. AHEARN (New England Center for Children), Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (New England Center for Children)
William H. Ahearn is Board Certified Behavior Analyst who serves as the Director of Research at the New England Center for Children and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis (MABA) Program at Northeastern University. He is also Past-President of the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BABAT). Bill received his doctorate at Temple University in 1992 and subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Behavioral Psychology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Ahearn then served as Program Manager for the Inpatient Pediatric Feeding Program at the Children’s Seashore House in Philadelphia before moving to the New England Center for Children in 1996. Bill has published studies that have appeared in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Behavior Modification, Animal Learning and Behavior, The Lancet, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, The Behavior Analyst, and Behavioral Interventions. Dr. Ahearn currently serves on the Board of Editors for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavioral Interventions and provides service to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.

The success behavior analysts have had in treating individuals with autism has had a substantial impact on our membership and has led to a much wider profile for our discipline. However, many challenges and obstacles face us that we have either not met or that we choose to ignore. Though agencies, such as the National Institute of Mental Health, acknowledge ABA as an empirically based effective intervention, they also state that there is no single best treatment option for children with autism. Prominent members of the autism community often criticize ABA as; not addressing social functioning, failing to establish dramatic play skills, incapable of establishing a theory of mind, and of creating children with robotic responding that lacks spontaneity. Other more practical critiques state that it is unclear what the effective components of ABA are, how many hours of service delivery are necessary to achieve gains, and what setting ABA services should be delivered in. The main purpose of this presentation is to describe what is necessary for ABA to address these criticisms. Among the recommended courses of action we will describe the importance of local, regional, and national advocacy and public relations.




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