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Posts Tagged ‘ethical issues’

graphHi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to a question from readers. Today’s question was posted on a list serve for parents and family members of individuals with autism. The mom wrote,

“As far as data collection, I hear about the BCBA doing it but I have never seen it nor heard specific results. I requested the data and the BCBA told me that as an outside consultant she is not allowed to provide it.

Having taught a course on Ethics and Professional Issues for behavior analysts, and in addition to offering on-going coursework related to ethical issues for Board Certified Behavior Analysts, hearing things like this really upsets me.

Guideline 2.0 Responsibility to Client

The Behavior Analyst Certifying Board (BACB) has developed a set of Guidelines that BCBAs and BCaBAs must follow. These guidelines are called the Guidelines for Responsible Conduct and they may be viewed here. One of the guidelines states that “the behavior analyst has the responsibility to operate in the best interest of the client“. When the client is a minor or incapacitated (i.e., unable to make decisions for him/her self), the client’s parents or guardians become the client.

In the case above, the BCBA is claiming that her responsibility lies with the school district who is paying her salary. Unfortunately, the school district is a third-party payer. While the BCBA has responsibilities to her employer, those responsibilities cannot override her primary responsibility to the client. In fact, the guidelines address this issues.

Guideline 2.05 Third Party Requests for Services

This guideline has two parts. First the guideline states that “When a behavior analyst agrees to provide services to a person or entity at the request of a third-party, the behavior analyst clarifies to the extent feasible, at the outset of the service, the nature of the relationship with each party. This clarification includes the role of the behavior analyst (such as therapist, organizational consultant, or expert witness), the probable uses of the services provided or the information obtained, and the fact that there may be limits to confidentiality.

The guidelines go on to state that “If there is a foreseeable risk of the behavior analyst being called upon to perform conflicting roles because of the involvement of a third party, the behavior analyst clarifies the nature and direction of his or her responsibilities, keeps all parties appropriately informed as matters develop, and resolves the situation in accordance with these Guidelines.

So, while the district is paying for the services, the client is the child and his/her guardian. When he client requests their data, the behavior analyst must make those data available.

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We know that ethics is not a laughing matter. However, today is Friday and we are always up for a little Friday humor! Thank you Clay Bennett for your brilliant work!

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Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. Today’s article is titled, “Replicating Milgrim”. The author, Jerry Burger, published the study in the journal, American Psychologist.

Study Purpose

The purpose of Dr. Burger’s study was to replicate the work of Milgram whose study series is known to many. (In case you are thinking–“who the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks” is Milgram, think back to the study where the supervisor told the participants to shock the “client” and the study participants did! Repeatedly!!). Psychologists now refer to those studies as the Obedience Studies.

Burger wondered, if after all these years of education, training, human compassion, and so forth, if, in fact, people today would engage in the same behavior. Burger took several steps to ensure the safety of participants in the study (yes, the ones who would be giving shock to the “learner”)

Study Methods

Participants included 29 men and 41 women with a mean age of 42 years. Participants were promised $50 for their time (two 45-minute sessions). Participants learned that they earned the money even if they withdrew from the study. Participants who were familiar with the experiment or who had extensive psychology training were excluded from the study. Experimenters then screened the remaining participants for any possible mental health condition or a reasons that may have resulted in a negative or harmful reaction from participating in the study. Researchers told participants they could quit at any time and that they could be videotaped at any time. Researchers assigned participants to one of two conditions.

The base condition consisted of the participant meeting the experimenter and the confederate (inside experimenter with knowledge of the study). The experimenter explained to the participant and the confederate that they would be in a study. He then paid both of them to give the impression that the study was randomized. Then he had them “draw” to determine who would be the teacher and who would be the learner. The “drawing” was rigged so that the participant always served as the teacher.

 

The experimenter then strapped the confederate in to the chair and attached the electrodes all the while explaining to the participant why he completed his step (e.g., to keep from burning him). Next, the experimenter told the confederate to learn the pairs of words. The experimenter told the confederate that the participant would be testing him and if he missed any answers, he would be administered a shock.

Next the experimenter taught the participant how to administer a shock. He provided a small one to the participant if he/she wanted one. The experimenter told the participant to administer a shock following each incorrect answer. He also instructed the participant to increase the intensity of the shock following each incorrect answer. Finally, the experimenter told the participant the importance of following study procedures .

The modeled refusal condition consisted of the participant meeting the experiment and 2 confederates. One confederate served as a teacher alongside the participant and the other confederate served as the learner. In this condition, the participant observed another “teacher” following the protocol. In this condition, the “teacher” (who happened to be the same gender as the participant) acted scared of the study after the first shock and then after the second shock decided that he/she would quit. The experimenter then allowed the participant to take over and continue as in the base condition.

In both conditions, the researchers enforced strict rules for ending the experiment and keeping the participant safe.

Results

In the base condition 12 out of 18 men and 16 out of 22 women (70% total) continued to administer shock treatments, despite the cries and yelps from the confederate. Meanwhile in the modeled refusal condition, 6 out of 11 men and 13 out of 19 women continued to administer shock treatments.

The researchers completed several personality assessments on the participants and used those results in additional analyses. Statistical analysis did not find any difference between scores on empathy. However statistical analysis revealed differences among participants with a strong desire for control in that they were more likely to stop the study.

Sadly, participants today responded very similarly to those participants in the 1960s.

Take Home Points

As behavior analysts, behavior analysts in training, teachers, and parents, use caution when you are instructed to implement a procedure that you may disagree with. As demonstrated in this study, humans are more likely to follow orders rather than stand up and refuse or question the treatment. When our children are being shocked (as those in Judge Rotenberg Center), restrained, and secluded, perhaps we should seek a 2nd opinion. Isn’t that what we do in medicine when we question a recommendation?

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I (Missy) have started teaching a course for the University of Saint Joseph in their approved BCBA coursework. I am super excited the opportunity. However, instead of teaching

Ethics for Behavior Analysts: 2nd Expanded Edition

instructional methodology like I usually do, I’m teaching the course on Ethical and Professional issues. This topic is not new to me because Rebecca and I have been conducting a number of workshops and webinars on Ethical Issues. But, prepping for and teaching a semester-long course on Ethical Issues is new to me.

I hope to use case studies to expose these professionals in training to many situations. What I would like from my readers is some assistance with case studies. I plan on using the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts and of course I have the best book by Bailey and Burch. But I would love add more case studies. So, take a few minutes and post about an ethical or professional issue regarding behavior analysis. This could be from a BCBA who has been placed in a difficult situation, this could be from a teacher or building principal who has seen a behavior analyst make an unethical decision, this could be from a parent who was placed in a difficult situation by a behavior analyst.

I want to thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide!

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about their child’s behavior. Today’s question comes from a participant in our workshop on Saturday. After reviewing Special Education Law and the associated ethical issues for practicing behavior analysts, the following question came up:

“How do we attend IEP meetings and participate without taking sides? We cannot be on the school’s side and we cannot be on the parents’ side.”

We have no choice but to turn to our “Ethics Bible” to help us answer this question. We use the Bailey and Burch (2011) “Ethics for Behavior Analysts“. We feel strongly that every behavior analyst should have this book and they should keep it out where they can easily access it (paperback is much cheaper). The book reviews the Guidelines for Responsible Conduct that were developed by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (and to which all behavior analysts agree to follow). The book also provides illustrative case examples to help behavior analysts avoid finding themselves in sticky situations.

Responsibility to Client

In this book, you will see that Guideline 2.0 states, “The behavior analyst has a responsibility to operate in the best interest of the client.” Thus, when you attend IEP, IFSP, and other relevant meetings, your first concern belongs to the client you serve. While you may be paid by one party, any contract you sign at the outset of services, should clearly state that you have a responsibility to the client, even if it means that your professional recommendations do not align with  the party who pays your salary.

Responsibility to Other Parties

If you go on to read, you will see that Guideline 2.03 states, “The behavior analyst’s responsibility is to all parties affected by behavioral services.” Now you will see that you also have a responsibility to the parents as they are directly affected by your behavioral services. However, if you serve your client in the school setting, now you have a responsibility to the school as well. If you find yourself caught in the middle of the parents and the school, your number one priority is your client so act on his/her behalf.

Client Rights Under the Law

Finally, Guideline 2.06 states, “the behavior analyst supports individual rights under the law.” As a behavior analyst who works in schools, you have the responsibility to become educated on the laws that affect your client. You have a duty to ensure that you follow those laws and that you support your clients rights under those laws. If you do not know special education law and want to learn more, consider enrolling in one of our workshops on this topic. We will be conducting a day-long workshop at the ABA International Conference in Seattle and we will offer our webinar again in the fall.

In summary, if you find yourself stuck in the middle between parents and the school, remember, your first responsibility is to the client and then you have equal responsibility to the parents and the school team.

How many of our fellow behavior analysts have been in this position? I have to also ask, how many fellow teachers have been put in this position? Teachers, too, have responsibilities to their students. They often find it difficult to advocate for the child when they know how expensive services can be. Readers, how have you handled these predicaments?

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