Applied Behavior Analysis: Current Myths in Public Education

Cheryl Fielding, Ph.D.

John Lowdermilk, Ph.D.
University of Texas Pan American

Lauren L. Lanier

Abigail G. Fannin

Jennifer L. Schkade

Chad A. Rose, Ph.D

Cynthia G. Simpson, Ph.D.
Sam Houston State University


The effective use of behavior management strategies and related policies continues to be a debated issue in public education. Despite overwhelming evidence espousing the benefits of the implementation of procedures derived from principles based on the science of applied behavior analysis (ABA), educators often indicate many common misconceptions in this area. These misconceptions contribute to a reluctance on the part of educators to implement strategies utilizing what we know to be true about the operation of behavioral law. Further, these misconceptions often impede educator effectiveness and student progress. This paper reviews 3 common misperceptions: 1) ABA is used exclusively for children who have autism; 2) ABA may only be implemented using a teacher/student ratio of 1:1, and; 3) negative connotations of terminology associated with ABA. Important legal issues, procedures, research, and philosophical issues related to the implementation of ABA is explored along with concluding recommendations for public school educators.

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