Nancy A. Neef
Ohio State University
This article provides a brief historical overview that outlines the temporal contiguity of developments in both behavior analysis and developmental disabilities, illustrating how each has contributed to the other. Consideration is then given to what the successes and failures suggest for the future. Behavior analysis has had a major impact in the field of development disabilities. This is readily apparent from an examination of the literature, where behaviorally-based interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities proliferate. This is also seen in the curricula of training programs in special education which typically contain course content and textbooks on behavioral approaches; in the number of advertisements for positions in developmental disabilities in which skill in behavior analysis is a qualification. More examples include the results of litigation mandating provision of services based on behaviorally-based practices, and from policy, regulatory standards, and legislation regarding use of behaviorally based assessment and treatment in various situations (e.g., Reid, 1991). That’s the good news. On the other hand, there have been, and continue to be, notable failures and sources of dissatisfaction. As will be discussed, that is also the good news. It can therefore be useful to examine the evolution, sources, and nature of this good news. This article, then, will (a) provide a brief historical account that outlines the temporal contiguity of developments in both behavioral analysis and developmental disabilities, and (b) consider what the successes and failures suggest for the future.
◊ An open access article from The Behavior Analyst Today 2: 325-335, viewed from Biology-Online.org.