A science of behavior vs a science of Autism.

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi and Associates

“One is a science and the other is a disability.”

                                                — Brett DiNovi

The quote above is from a recent YouTube video by Brett DiNovi, CEO of the largest Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) agency on the EastCoast of the U.S.  He was talking about the apparent confluence of ABA as a science of behavior, and Autism as a disability.  For many, it seems, ABA has become a science of Autism, or a collection of topographically-defined procedures designed for a specific population.

It’s funny, I can’t think of a time B.F. Skinner, the founder of the philosophy that underlies much of present-day ABA, actually discussed Autism in his writings.  Though it is possible I missed a passing reference somewhere, he focused the majority of his time talking about the world’s biggest problems.  Through the development of a “technology of behavior” we could devise solutions that would help prevent such pressing issues as nuclear war and global warming, and refining practices in education, business, and the like.

While Autism treatment is certainly in line with Skinner’s vision of the field as a pressing global issue, Brett’s point was that we seem to be losing sight of the thing that makes the science of behavior so powerful– the principles underlying everything we do. His point was that we shouldn’t get caught up in particular forms, techniques, and procedures.  The latter are topographical manifestations of something greater – basic principles of behavior guided by pragmatic analytic goals tied to socially significant behavior change.  

In other words, ABA can “look” like whatever it needs to look like.  The procedures used are only important if they are targeting behavioral processes serving our analytic goals.  If they aren’t, they should be discarded in favor of something new.  The beauty of a grounding in principles is its creative freedom to go out into the world and make a difference in people’s lives.

To hear more of Brett’s thoughts, be sure to check out the full video and subscribe to his YouTube channel.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org.  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]

Brett Dinovi

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at [email protected]

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