“I tutored 40 kids when I was 9-12 years old. In college, I became passionate about…catering to children who could do better if we taught them better. Behavior analysis was the vehicle for me to make gains in education.”
“I’ve worked in a variety of industries including automotive, human services, non-profit, print, retail, and oil and gas across a range of companies, from global Fortune 500s, creative start-ups, to local small businesses.”
“We began an instructional program in 1990 with three students. Now there are over a hundred students and more than 10 staff in that program, plus a few other programs in Israel.”
“Getting a child with Autism to communicate with signs, symbols or words when they previously used ‘meltdowns.’…I am happy that the company I created gives opportunities to these kids (and also lots of jobs to talented ABA professionals).”
“I am most proud of the 43 doctoral students I have trained, and the numerous sabbatical visitors who have spent time working with me. These people are the future of our field…”
“Behavior analysts should work on speaking to a broader audience in ways that the audience is receptive to and finding ways to disseminate and tell our story more effectively.”
“I’m proud of my students and their work, and how we developed a line of research related to communication/verbal behavior and RFT/rule governance in organizations. Developing your niche is hard to do and takes courage.”
…my approach is the same: make sure the behavior is doable; ensure there’s motivation and environmental support; reduce or eliminate coercion; always look to the contingencies.
How were you drawn to the field of behavior analysis?
Ronnie “came of age in the 60s and was very active in social activism. I was exploring utopian literatures in college and came across Walden Two, which really got me excited about the organized community laid out in the book. I went back and started reading more Skinner.” There were “no behaviorists in my department at El Paso though; everyone was very Freudian. So I transferred to North Texas and I wrote the first behavior modification thesis at North Texas. My mentor was Don Whaley, and he was very influential in my life. Now behavior analysis has informed every aspect of my life, my worldview. It governs everything that I do.”
What do you feel is your most important accomplishment and why?
Ronnie’s internship after North Texas involved working for a social worker who was looking for a behavior therapist in Michigan. It was an “amazing experience.” The internship involved “school based intervention and parent training, primarily. It was amazing to find a social worker familiar with and looking for behavior analytic techniques during a time when behavior analysis was not widely accepted and often condemned.” Ronnie later went on to be Clinical Director at Spectrum Center Schools in California, grounded in data based decision making and behavior analysis. Ronnie considers these schools to be his greatest achievement.
What do you think behavior analysts should be doing more of?
Behavior analysts should work on “speaking to a broader audience in ways that the audience is receptive to and finding ways to disseminate and tell our story more effectively.”
What advice do you have for people just entering the field of behavior analysis?
“Be a generalist. Don’t just specialize in one area.” Applied behavior analysts should keep up with the experimental literature, even if it doesn’t seem immediately relevant. Similarly, experimental behavior analysts should be aware of applied research. Only by maintaining a dialogue can behavior analysts become aware of basic phenomena that could be applied in clinical situations or phenomena that are not replicated in applied settings and must be reexamined in the laboratory. “Read widely, even outside of behavior analysis.”