About Behavior Analysis

Behavior analysis is a scientific discipline whose subject matter is individual behavior interacting with environmental events. It has theoretical, experimental, and applied branches; distinct research methods, scientific journals, textbooks, scholarly and professional organizations, and university training programs; and professional and paraprofessional practitioner standards and credentials. The applied branch of the discipline (applied behavior analysis; ABA) involves using scientific principles and procedures discovered through basic and applied research to improve socially significant behavior to a meaningful degree. Thousands of studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals have demonstrated the efficacy of many ABA procedures – singly and in various combinations -- for building skills and reducing problem behaviors in many clinical and non-clinical populations in a wide range of settings.

The practice of behavior analysis is a profession and requires specialized training. For regulatory purposes, that practice is defined as the design, implementation, and evaluation of instructional and environmental modifications by a behavior analyst to produce socially significant improvements in human behavior. It includes the empirical identification of functional relations between behavior and environmental factors, known as functional assessment and analysis. Applied behavior analysis interventions are based on scientific research and the direct observation and measurement of behavior and environment. They utilize contextual factors, establishing operations, antecedent stimuli, positive reinforcement, and other consequences to help people develop new behaviors, increase or decrease existing behaviors, and emit behaviors under specific environmental conditions.

Well-established, accredited credentialing programs for practitioners of ABA are managed by the nonprofit Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB; www.bacb.com). Results of extensive job analysis studies conducted by the BACB, together with case law and best practices in professional credentialing, have served as the basis for the competencies, degrees, coursework, supervised experience, and professional examinations required to obtain BACB credentials. The requirements parallel those of many other professions. The BACB credentials are recognized in many laws and regulations as qualifications for practicing ABA.

Areas in which ABA interventions have proved effective include general and special education (all levels); autism spectrum disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities, attention deficit disorder, movement disorders, brain injuries and diseases, behavior disorders, substance abuse disorders, dementia, and feeding disorders; home and workplace safety; vehicular and pedestrian safety; organizational behavior management; animal welfare and training; conservation; parenting; child welfare; sports; and health and fitness. ABA services are delivered in a variety of settings, including private and public clinics, private homes, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, group homes, universities, and workplaces.

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