What You Need to Know to Be a Behavior Analyst (Standard)

James Todd


A presentation by Dr. James Todd delivered at the 2018 Michigan Autism Conference

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A couple generations ago a popular academic activity was to point out to behavior analysts their relative insularity. This was at a time when most behavior analysts came to the field from other areas. Even if some were island-bound, most had been to other places. They should see us now! With training and credentialing sequences aimed at everyone from high school camp counselors through the seasoned Ph.D.s, now expanding beyond the ability of some programs to contain them, we can keep our members’ attention so tightly focused inward that they don’t even notice there is a horizon, much consider that there might be interesting and useful things beyond it. Indeed, we have reached a point were many behavior analysts who treat children with autism have had a graduate sequence in child behavior. This cannot be good for us (or the kids), and as Edwin Willems predicted in 1974, there will be an inevitable narrowing of the field to practice in very specific areas. Of course, with a narrowing of our assessment and treatment choices, we will also find ourselves harboring the illusion of increased general effectiveness, including in areas where we don’t have a presence. This presentation will explore some of the variables that led us to this situation, including some of the actual disciplinary benefits of insularity, and how behavior analysts might nevertheless safely and politely travel to other traditions to find sound, evidence-based information and techniques that might be usefully incorporated into their own work.

About the Speaker

Dr. James Todd is a Professor of Psychology at Eastern Michigan University. Much of his recent work involves the analysis of ineffective and pseudoscientific interventions for autism and other developmental disabilities, especially “facilitated communication” and “rapid prompting.” He has served as an expert for the Defense in cases involving false accusations of abuse arising from these methods. Most recently he was an expert witness for the Prosecution in the Stubblefield assault case in New Jersey discussing the scientific evidence against the validity of facilitated communication.

Additional Information

Type of Module

Interactive Video


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