Quality, cost, and benefit of applied behavior analysis by providers of distinct credentials for persons with developmental disabilities

Andrew W Wood, Tennessee State University


The breadth of documented human applications of behavior analysis is highlighted in support of the relative limitlessness of potential applications. This potential expansion along with a growing demand for applied behavior analysis in the fields of developmental disabilities, education, and autism is suggested by proponents as having outgrown the supply of qualified practitioners. In the absence of State or Federal regulations to legally limit the practice of applied behavior analysis to one or more exclusive group of practitioners distinguished by credentials, anyone may market themselves as behavior analyst. A potential dilemma arises in seeking a balance between the undeserved demand and the need to ensure consumer access of competently, effectively, and equitably delivered applications of behavior analysis. Identified practitioners of applied behavior analysis include professional psychologists, certified behavior analysts, a heterogeneous group affiliating under the rubric positive behavior supports. While some claims of superiority have been made between affiliates of certain of these groups, no formal investigation has been reported. Records of applied behavior analysis services delivered to 141 developmentally disabled individuals supported within a State regulated service delivery system were examined. Three groups distinguished by credential type, licensed, certified, and neither licensed or certified provided services as behavior analysts under the authority of the State agency. Systemic performance expectations and conditions did not vary by credential type. Measures of service benefit, service quality, and service cost revealed minimal significance in differences between the credential types. Significance only occurred between licensed and unlicensed/uncertified providers on the dependent variable of cost, with higher costs occurring with the licensed provider group. Limitations are presented by representation of each practitioner type in the investigation. Additional limitations and applied and research implications are discussed.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences

Recommended Citation

Andrew W Wood, "Quality, cost, and benefit of applied behavior analysis by providers of distinct credentials for persons with developmental disabilities" (2008). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3320206.