**Blog post by BACA Administrative Director Devon Sundberg
I began in the field of behavior analysis like most people I know — I enjoyed working with children with autism, and so I applied for a job providing therapy to them.
I had little to no knowledge of behavior analysis or how it was used to teach children with autism. Luckily, throughout my modest career I’ve been exposed to the teachings of many experts in the field. Through those experts, along with my first visit to the Association of Behavior Analysis’s national conference, it became abundantly clear that behavior analysis is so much more than teaching children with autism.
In Indiana, we are blessed to have the Indiana Autism Insurance Mandate that has allowed hundreds of children the opportunity to receive top-rate behavior analytical services. However, now we are faced with defending these clients’ rights to such service.
Big insurance companies are questioning the necessity of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment for all clients, but particularly those over the age of six. They have a variety of excuses to deny reimbursement for ABA therapy, including questioning its usefulness for certain populations, questioning diagnoses, and pushing the responsibility to provide this therapy to the public schools.
All of this is farcical (thank you, thesaurus) if you truly have a grasp on behavior analysis and its utility. ABA is a subset of the field of behavior analysis that applies the findings of the experimental analysis of behavior to improve everyday situations and problems. Many (if not most) behavior analysts work with children with autism.
However, there is a lesser-known area of behavior analysis called organizational behavior management (OBM). OBM utilizes the principles of behavior analysis to improve work systems and subsequently the productivity of their staff. OBM consultants are able to change behavior for the good of the company by studying the antecedents, behaviors, and consequences of employees, and then manipulating antecedents and consequences — exactly the way Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) working with children with autism analyze and change behavior.
Imagine my dismay after discovering that one of the companies reaping the benefits of ABA through using OBM is big insurance itself. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama is documented as having one of the longest-running Performance Management (based on OBM) systems in place*, and yet they say behavior analysis only works for certain types of people.
Behavior analysis is for everyone. It needs to be provided as a medically-necessary treatment. It needs to be in the schools as a tool to educate, and it needs to be in our public policy as a tool to foster independence and productivity. Please stay in touch with BACA and help us disseminate this message.
*From “Alabama Blues’ Don’t Sing the Blues Anymore” by Richard Dowis, 1983, Performance Management Magazine, 1-2, pp. 3-5.)