Chap 17 Delivering ethics message

Heidi Spiegel
Caldwell College
Importance of communication skills
Know the Guidelines: Saying No, Buying Time
Deliver the Message to Clients with Target Behaviors: Ethical Challenges
Deliver the Message to Parents and Families: Do Not Accuse
Deliver the Message to Agencies , Supervisors, and Administrators: Practice Restraint
Deliver the Message to Nonbehavioral Professionals: Think Before You Speak
Deliver the Message to Other Behavior Analysts: Awkward
How to handle an ethics problem :
What to say, how to say it.
 Identifying ethics violation is easy…
 Saying “no” may be difficult
“Topping of the list of skills for the
behavior analyst who wants to make
a difference is the ability to be a good
communicator.” (Bailey & Burch, 2011)
Bailey & Burch, 2010: 25 Essential Skills and Strategies for the Professional
Behavior Analyst: Expert Tips for maximizing Consulting Effectiveness
Etiquette is #1 requirement for effective communication
What is “etiquette”?
conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in
any class or community or for any occasion (
Apply an old-fashioned concept to a new field
Let “conventional” business behavior and the “proprieties of conduct” as established by
the science-based helping professions offer credibility in all settings (Bailey & Burch, 2010)
Not all professional issues deal with ethics, but all ethics issues need a
professional approach.
Ethical Concerns
Ethical Standard
Right to Effective Treatment
Responsibility to Recommend Scientifically
Supported and Most Effective Treatments
Behavior Analysts Assessments are Sufficient to
Provide Appropriate Substantiation for their
Dual Relationships and Conflicts
Functional Assessment
(Carlile, K., 2012)
Text scenario regarding a gift of a hi-def TV: “We have a code of ethics, and
I’m not allowed to accept gifts.”
Bailey & Burch: Even though you may not be able to “cite the guideline
number”, you can refuse to participate in unethical practices.
This may work for many scenarios:
1.05d,e: Discrimination, Harassment
1.06: Dual Relationships, Conflicts of Interest
3.0: Assessment, Data-based Judgments, Consent/Records
5.02: Limitations on Training
10.0: Research, Influence, Credits, Plagiarism, Withholding Data
Can you think of a scenario where this WON’T work?
2.0: Know your client (parents who don’t want help from your agency; do you go to
case manager?)
4.01, 4.02: Environmental conditions (can environment be altered?)
6.01 Job Commitments (you can’t just leave)
…when you need to review the Guidelines or have questions about grey areas.
…when you might want to consult with a colleague.
 You may not have all the facts (time change, behavior plan change)
 You may be in a grey area (dual relationships with family, friends)
 You may need advice on how to give feedback in a sticky situation
Chapter scenario: Parent asks for time change, in-home BCBA has to
check facts with supervisors.
“Let me get back to you on that. I’ll call you on Friday.”
“I’ll have an answer for you at Monday’s meeting.”
#4 Ethical Concern
Code 1.07 Exploitative Relationships
Code 2.01: The client is the individual
Working with high-functioning disabled individuals can present challenges.
Text scenario: Adult male from group home asks consulting BCBA on a date.
I like you as
a friend…
It wouldn’t
It says…
I work here,
can’t date
I have a
Code of
***Do you become an
environmental confound?
Are you a reinforcer?
2.10: Right to effective treatment using reliable data (#1 Ethical concern)
3.0: Assessment based on data. (# 3 Ethical concern)
Do NOT accuse…
 “I know you’ve been making up data/reinforcing behaviors targeted
for extinction/using pull-ups as soon as I leave the house!”
Try an easier, softer approach. Use the Guidelines as your default.
 “I understand this is a difficult situation, and data collection may fall
to the wayside while you are trying to practice the behavior plan.”
 “Maybe if I watch you work with Lisa, I can see where we need to
work on getting reliable data.”
 “My professional ethics dictate that I use evidence-based decision
making; if we don’t have accurate data, we aren’t providing Lisa
with the best treatment.”
2.10: Responsibility to recommend
scientifically supported treatment
6.06: Workplace Conflicts
(#2 Ethical Concern)
Clarify Conflict
“Think before you
speak applies here”
Address Guidelines
Resolve Conflict
while adhering to
Is this easier
said than
You are part of a team using a DRO that does not show
significant effect on reducing behavior. The team leader
(BCBA) changes the operational definition, discarding half
the collected data while keeping original baseline data.
Original Operational Definition of Target Behavior:
Stereotypy as defined by non-contextual vocalizations AND
motor stereotypy, combined or occasioned separately.
Revised Op Def: ONLY vocal stereotypy
(For representation only)
Discussed the change of operational definition, graph
changes, and misleading results with the team (the
BCBA, the classroom teacher, and others who collected
data). The BCBA asserted that a phase change line
would suffice to address data discrepancy; in short,
baseline measures of vocal and physical stereotypy
remained on the graph as did 2 weeks of data collection.
The parents were not notified of change. No new
baseline or probes were taken. Stereotypy occurrences
instantly decreased by half. The graphs were presented
to supervisors and parents as containing a margin of
error due to measurement change that would not affect
the results.
The supervisor is not a BCBA nor trained in ABA and
found the ethical concerns meddlesome; she needed
promising results for the parents and had gotten what
she wanted.
The BCBA in charge received her training from an online provider.
Choose not to not pursue the situation further, and
successfully sought other employment.
(Spiegel, H. 2012, June 13 & 14. Private e-mail.)
“This misrepresentation is a violation of 1.04
“This is a violation of 3.03 Explaining
Assessment Results. ”
“That's sad; This is a violation of 1.4 as well.”
“Good move. But, was there any harm done to
the client? This is important to consider. If you
think that harm could come to the client (the
child) then further action may be required.”
Breakdown of Response to
Nonbehavioral Professionals
What you do
What you say
Listen to others
“What do you want me to
Be respectful and
“I agree that Joey’s speech is
hard to understand.”
Present your point of view
“I would like to discuss his
behavioral issues.”
State what you would like to
“I would like to add
appropriate greetings as a
target behavior.”
Refer to the Guidelines
“I have a code of ethics to
guide my assessments.”
Present a solution
“How about this? I can
schedule a functional
(Bailey &
Burch, 2011)
Another behavior analyst should know the Guidelines; this can make ethical dilemmas
difficult and awkward.
“I know
you care.”
“Can you
your plan?”
your point
of view:
“I don’t
want you to
get in
Refer to the
“Have you
looked at
“You might
consult a
(Bailey & Burch, 2011.)
Everyday ethics is hard
Shape behaviors…if nothing
bad happens, the behavior is
likely to continue.
Use the Guidelines to
identify and solve
Deliver the message
every chance you get!
“Knowing the
ethics code
forward and
backward does not
guarantee that you
will be effective in
helping others
understand it.”
(Bailey & Burch, 2011.)
Bailey, J.S., & Burch, M. R. (2011). Ethics for behavior analysts.
(2nd ed.) New York: Routledge Publishing
Bailey, J.S., & Burch, M. R. (2010). Twenty-five essential skills &
strategies for the professional behavior analyst. New York:
Routledge Publishing

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