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Monday, January 15, 2024

Behavior Analysts and Policy Advocacy

The Politics of Autism includes a discussion of major interest groups.

Evanko, C.D., Moss-Lourenco, T., Kramer, R. et al. Why We All Need to Shape the Profession of Behavior Analysis through Advocacy and How to Get Started. Behav Analysis Practice (2024).


Many behavior analysts, like professionals in other health-related fields, are not trained to promote themselves, affect public policy, or disseminate information to individuals outside of their field, including to lawmakers. One of the reasons professionals can be experts in their own professions is because they devote their time to advancing their knowledge in their field; thus, they have limited time to spend becoming proficient in public relations, advocacy, and public policy. However, it is precisely these skills that behavior analysts need to hone and utilize effectively if the profession is to be sustainable. This article gives a brief history of the professionalization of behavior analysis, discusses the pitfalls of sometimes only being recognized as a single-disability industry (i.e. autism), explores the behavior of other professions that serve as models for advocacy, and provides recommendations for advocacy at different levels. The intent is to guide the profession and professionals of applied behavior analysis to a sustainable future based on the experiences of leaders of three U.S. state organizations.


 The salient point of this article is that every behavior analyst has an obligation to positively affect the profession through advocacy and dissemination. And all behavior analysts have an opportunity to do so with the effect being dependent upon their experiences and positions in the field. This task may seem daunting, although maybe less so if one is presented with some ideas to get started as we have endeavored to do. Through this article, the authors hope that leaders of national and state organizations, as well as individual practicing behavior analysts, will find inspiration and perform at least one of the advocacy activities listed herein.

Individuals can start by joining their national and state organizations. The membership process is generally easy to find and follow. If all behavior analysts were a member of at least one organization, the influx of cash to those groups would help leaders to address the issues that are most important to the field. With the extra funding, national and state organizations could focus on branding and public relations as well as advocacy using professionals who focus on those skills. Those professionals can create job aids or checklists, similar to what the World Health Organization created to help doctors better explain about vaccines (World Health Organization, 2017) for individual behavior analysts to use to advocate in their area, thus creating an army of advocates.

Working together is the only way to achieve better dissemination of our field to others, and a more robust understanding of what it is that behavior analysts actually do and how behavior analysts can be beneficial to society. Expecting others to do this work at best may lead to missing important aspects, and at worst may lead to the diminution of our field. It’s time for you to get involved!