Four Ways ABA Doesn’t Apply to Autism

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

It is no secret that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been incredibly effective when working with children and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  So much so, that members of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board recently published an article in the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management acknowledging that, though the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential is strongly associated with ASD, there is nothing in the requirements that restrict it to any particular population.

By extension, there is nothing that restricts behavior analysis to any particular population, or species, either.  In fact, the grand vision of B.F. Skinner was a science that could change the world.  He envisioned a “technology of behavior” that could provide solutions for the worlds most pressing problems, such as nuclear war, pollution, overpopulation, and more.  Below are four such areas that are particularly relevant to behavior analysts today, along with additional resources for you to pursue if you want to learn more.

Animal Training

Animal training in behavior analysis has a long and storied past.  One of the earliest examples comes from B.F. Skinner himself, with Project Pigeon – a military-funded project to develop guided missiles steered by pigeons pecking a screen in the nose cone.  Today, ABA is used in a variety of animal applications, and the Animal Behavior Society has a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist credential for those who wish to seek a specialist certification. However, many also seek the BCBA credential.

Behavioral Gerontology

Gerontology is defined as “the comprehensive multidisciplinary study of aging and older adults.” Behavioral Gerontology examines aging from our analytic goals of the prediction and influence of behavior given factors that become more relevant with old age.  Interested readers will find the 1986 special section of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) of particular interest, covering topics such as building telephone skills, social interaction, and independent movement in nursing home residents.  More recently, JABA published a review of behavior analytic work with dementia patients.  The outcomes of interest will be familiar to most BCBAs, and include reduction of aggression and other maladaptive behavior, treating incontinence, building social interaction, and more.


Behavior analysis in the classroom dates as far back as animal training, and has been approached in a number of ways.  From an educational angle, Skinner was a pioneer in learning technologies with his Teaching Machines, decades before online learning became popular.  Moreover, his landmark book The Technology of Teaching was a pioneering application of behavioral principles to education.

Many behavior analysts today also work in schools to aid in classroom management, often in conjunction with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which mandates a free and appropriate education to students who need specialized accommodations.  Recent behavior analytic research in classroom management includes the use of group contingencies to manage classroom noise, increasing preschoolers’ ability to follow teacher instructions, and reducing inappropriate classroom behavior such as throwing objects.

Organizational Behavior Management

Organizational Behavior Management, or “OBM” for short, is the application of behavioral principles to the work place.  OBM is one of the most popular areas of behavior analysis, with the OBM Network and Journal of Organizational Behavior Management going back decades. OBM also has specialties such as Behavior Based Safety, Instructional Design, and Behavioral Systems Analysis.

At Verbal Beginnings, OBM is implemented in a number of ways to support the work of BCBAs and the families they serve.  For example, leaders utilize Behavioral Skills Training during the onboarding process to ensure proficiency in critical clinical, administrative, and supervisory skills necessary for a BCBA.  Additionally, overlapping systems of support are provided to their BCBAs to create ample opportunities for performance feedback, resources, and mentorship via senior Clinical Coordinators and Field Coordinators.

At Verbal Beginnings, you are given the necessary tools and supports to aid you in receiving your BCBA certificate. With this certificate you can unlock the potential of working in various fields of ABA and can achieve your dreams. Contact [email protected] to find out how you can begin your journey today.

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,  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]

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