The difference between great and poor behavior analysts.

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

In a recent video by Brett DiNovi & Associates, Matt Linder spoke about the differences between good and poor behavior analysts. As you begin to advance in the field you will want to keep in mind those skills that will differentiate you as a behavior analyst.

Good behavior analysts can sometimes be difficult to spot as the topography of our work varies significantly. Behavior analysts who work in Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) often speak in different terms than those that work in treatment of developmental disabilities, and those who work in psychotherapy may, similarly, be fluent in a different language entirely than the afore mentioned groups. Though we will focus on recognizing the behaviors most indicative of good and poor behavior analysts in the sense of master’s level board certified behavior analysts the key points we discuss can be used to identify good and poor behavior analysts across subspecialties.

We will first describe behaviors often indicative of poor mastery of Applied Behavior Analysis. Some of these include: a tendency to rely heavily on jargon, overuse of acronyms, and reliance on ‘cut-and-paste’ treatment plans with poor awareness of function and/or function-to-intervention fit. Most of these behaviors occur when there is a poor mastery of principles or poor ability/willingness or awareness of the need to perspective take with their clientele. Both use of field-related jargon and use acronyms can be functional within the context of professionals with similar backgrounds; however, these behaviors are poorly suited for speaking to those outside the field or with other professionals. They tend to come off as arrogant and obscure meaning with those unacquainted with our field’s specialized terminology.

The latter behaviors mentioned, including: reliance on ‘cut-and-paste’ treatment plans and poor awareness of function and/or function-to-intervention fit are often the result of poor awareness of principles and/or lack of motivation that may be driven by direct or indirect acting contingencies. That is, if the behavior analyst is relying on ‘cut-and-paste’ treatment they may be dealing with competing contingencies in their work environment (e.g., overload) or they may be unmotivated to provide good customized care (e.g., unethical). Neither is acceptable. As a behavior analyst, you should speak up and/or exit environments where you feel you cannot provide ethical, high-quality care for your clients.

Good behavior analysts demonstrate the opposing behaviors to those we have just described. They tend to make an effort to make their work and science understandable to their audience and appropriate to their context. They may use jargon and acronyms but they make an effort to stay mindful of their audience and define these appropriately. Though even good behavior analysts may use some template information occasionally, a good behavior analyst never puts out a treatment plan not catered to the specific client and functions of their behavior. A good behavior analyst keeps in mind that treatment plans that do not take into account function, and function-to-intervention fit are not ‘treatment.’ As you develop in your career or select supervisees we hope you’ll keep these brief guidelines are helpful to you in setting a professional standard for your own and other’s behavior.

Be sure to check out the full video, and to subscribe to Brett DiNovi’s YouTube channel and let him know what you would like to see in future videos.  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,  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 DinoviBrett 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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