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The 7 Must Read Books that Every Applied Behavior Analyst Should Know

For more than 40 years, applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy has been studied, refined, and successfully used to improve specific behaviors and adaptive skills, largely on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders.

Social skills, communication skills, personal hygiene, fine motor skills, academics… ABA therapy is used to decrease problem behaviors and improve skills in many different areas, so its applications are far-reaching and valuable to children, adults, parents, educators, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and many other professionals.

The theme of ABA therapy is simply that behavior that is rewarded will be repeated. Seems pretty simple, right? But anyone who’s studied and used it knows that this form of therapy requires a deep understanding of learning and behavior – how behavior works, how it’s affected by the environment and, of course, how behavior affects learning. The basic concept is simple, but there’s nothing simplistic about delivering the therapy effectively.

Plus, the field is still evolving and growing, so even current practitioners of ABA therapy may not be in the know about the latest methods, techniques, and concepts. Some ABA therapies utilized even a handful of years ago have been replaced with the newest generation of methods. Today’s ABA therapy functions more as an umbrella therapy under which many different ABA techniques are housed, making it a highly complex and dynamic form of therapy.

Because of ABA’s long history, its widespread applications, and its progression throughout the years, countless books have been written on this unique form of therapy. A handful among them have proven to be groundbreaking and timeless enough that they’re still recommended reading even today.

We’ve waded through the full cannon of ABA books and cherry picked our favorites that we bet you’ll refer to, consult, discuss with colleagues, examine, highlight, read, read again, and make a permanent spot for on your desktop or bookcase.

Here is a list of our top applied behavior analysis books to add to your reading list:

Check out our other top lists and helpful tips.

1. Top Pick Among ABA Books – Ethics for Behavior Analysts, by Jon Bailey and Mary Burch

Ethics for Behavior Analysts has always been one of the biggest selling applied behavior analysis books among ABA professionals, largely because it continues to publish new editions to reflect changes to the BACB Professional and Ethical Compliance Code. But it also provides outstanding guidance for applying ABA principles in practice. You’ll find this book to be a highly practical tool, whether you’re still a student, fresh out of school and embarking upon your career in ABA, or an established ABA pro. ABA therapy comes with its share of ethical conundrums, and Bailey and Burch do a great job at providing relevant, real-world examples for addressing them.

2. Top Pick Among ABA Books – Science and Human Behavior, by B.F. Skinner

Chances are, if you’re a student of ABA, Skinner’s Science and Human Behavior is on your recommended or required reading list of behavioral analysis books. Skinner’s work in behavior analysis has served as the springboard for nearly all work in ABA, so if you want a solid foundation of knowledge on which to build your understanding and approach to ABA, this is your book.

Despite being published in 1953, his study of the science of human nature and behavior is as relevant today as it was nearly 70 years ago. While theories of behaviorism and the field of ABA have seen a dramatic evolution in the years following this Skinner publication, the fundamental questions he poses regarding the natural science of human behavior should be explored by anyone in the field. As one reviewer of this publication wrote: “If you don’t know Skinner, you don’t know behavior analysis.”

3. Top Pick Among ABA Books – No More Meltdowns by Jed Baker, PhD

No More Meltdowns is one of the those great positive-parenting reads that also happens to be a terrific guide for the ABA professional. We count this among the best behavioral analysis books book because it examines parent-child interactions – an important aspect of ABA therapy – among children with behavioral disorders and provides strategies for implementing ABA plans that take into account parental expectations and emotions.

Like any other form of therapy, ABA therapy must be reinforced by families to experience the best outcome, so this book serves as a great tool for ensuring that families are prepared and primed to support ABA therapies designed to stop the challenging behavior often associated with children with developmental disabilities… including those dreaded meltdowns.

As an ABA professional, No More Meltdowns also provides you with a practical how-to guide for teaching effective strategies to families of your patients while also allowing you to gain better insight into the unique relationship between children with behavioral disorders and their families.

Because this is counted among the behavioral analysis books that do such a great job of breaking down the components of ABA therapy and providing an easy-to-follow, four-step model for readers outside of the mental health field, it may very well be one of those behavioral analysis books you’ll buy in bulk and pass out to families as recommended reading. Dr. Jed Baker uses his twenty-plus years working in the autism field to work by giving readers proven strategies for calming tantrums.

4. Top Pick Among ABA Books – Handbook of Applied Behavior Analysis

Consider the Handbook of Applied Behavior Analysis your go-to reference guide and one of the best ABA books you’ll ever read. Heavy on theory, research, and intervention techniques, this book provides ABA grad students, behavior analysts, special education teachers, school and clinical psychologists, autism specialists and other professionals with plenty of evidence-based techniques for encouraging positive behavior responses and reducing/eliminating undesirable ones. We also like this reference tool because it touches on practical solutions to the ethical issues that often arise in this field.

Insight and opinions from some of the field’s most respected practitioners, along with reading objectives that encourage further study and discussion make this a highly valuable tool for students and practitioners alike. There’s nothing left out here – from the history of ABA to a rundown of the building blocks of ABA to an examination of specialized clinical techniques, you’ll find this book to be comprehensive and complete.

And bonus! — the revised, expanded second edition (published in 2021) also includes key advances in research, theory, and clinical practice and additional chapters on pediatric feeding disorders, school consultation, telehealth services, behavioral economics, and more.

5. Top Pick Among ABA Books – Applied Behavior Analysis: 50 Case Studies in Home, School, and Community Settings by Kimberly Maich, PhD, Darren Levine, EdD, and Carmen Hall, BCBA

Real-life case studies make Applied Behavior Analysis: 50 Case Studies a practical and valuable addition to your library of ABA books. You’ll love this book for its equal parts explanation and inspiration. Clear, concise examples of ABA therapy in action, along with plenty of attention given to best practices, professional standards, and ethical considerations make this a how-to guide worthy of your bookshelf, whether you’re a grad student, counselor, educator, or behavior analyst.

Clearly organized and easy to read, this is one of those ABA books that has a straightforward layout and that’s aimed to designing interventions that work. All components of ABA therapy— assessment, planning, evaluation— are discussed and illustrated, which provide ABA practitioners with clear and concise direction for implementing ABA strategies with a variety of clients in different settings, situations, social contexts, life stages, and more.

In addition to the book’s 50 case studies, the authors have provided guided questions that are ideal for teamwork and further study and practical additions like charts, forms, and templates. If you want an authoritative guide on implementing ABA strategies while keeping with best practices and professional standards, this is it!

6. Top Pick Among ABA Books – Ethics for Behavior Analysts by Jon S. Bailey and Mary R. Burch

Ethics for Behavior Analysts is a reliable companion to any BCBA’s practice. Built on BCBA guidelines, this how-to guide uses real-life case scenarios to clearly illustrate the ethical dilemmas faced by today’s behavior analysts.

Now in its second edition (2022 publish date), Ethics for Behavior Analysts remains one of the all-time favorite ABA books. It’s a powerful resource for providing quality services with ethical considerations in mind. The case scenarios highlighted in this book include valuable tips that encourage practitioners to consider a variety of issues that may arise during ABA therapy. You’ll love this book’s clear, concise take on the BACB Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts. The new edition includes descriptions of each standard code, along with relevant case studies and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and flow charts to guide your ethical decision-making.

7. Top Pick Among ABA Books – The Sage Handbook of Autism and Education by Rita Jordan (Editor), Jacqueline M Roberts (Editor), and Kara Hume (Editor)

ABA therapy remains largely focused on children with autism and other developmental disorders, which makes The Sage Handbook of Autism and Education a must read for any practitioner of ABA.

Because the right education can have a positive outcome for children with autism spectrum disorder, an examination of best practices should always be in order. ABA therapy and other research areas are discussed in The Sage Handbook to give counselors, educators, and behavior analysts a clear, comprehensive look at different strategies aimed at addressing the needs of children with autism and ensuring they have the proper supports. Some of the main issues discussed include the value of collaboration in education, barriers to education, and the importance of family support.

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