Conducted by David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D
President, Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this two-part interview. I am grateful for this opportunity to share some of your experiences and perspectives with SIAT readers in Part 1 of this interview.
Our readers should know that you have previously served on ASAT‘s Board of Directors. Please tell us a bit about your background and how this prepared you in assuming the role of a staunch advocate for science.
A: I was always interested in science, so much so that one of my grade school librarians actually tried to ration my science consumption by forcing me to check out at least one fiction book per week in addition to the math and nature books I was addicted to. Once I hit high school, that reading shifted to Isaac Asimov, George Gamow, and the other classic scientist-popularizers. Asimov, in particular, showed a healthy disdain for charlatans and cranks, and I enjoyed his skillful dismembering of their often bizarre and scientifically vacuous claims. I also had a collection of magic books, including Joseph Dunninger‘s Complete Encyclopedia of Magic, Milbourn Christopher‘s Panorama of Magic, and a biography of Harry Houdini. I hoped to be able to do magic, but never became very good at it. However, because of those three books, it became clear to me that people interested in magic were often interested in exposing frauds, and that frauds often employed the same types of deception, misdirection, and secret cues from confederates that conjurers used.
Dunninger was a “mentalist,” a “mind reader,” so in reading about mentalism I also came to know about the trick of looking for “anticipatory tension” in those being “read.” It is not a big leap from that to understanding that your subjects can, and will, unconsciously tell you almost anything you need to know if, as a result, you tell them what they want to hear. I also knew from my magic reading that if you want to know how the trick works, it is better to watch what the magician does in relation to the trick rather than the effect itself. As Yogi Berra is said to have said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”What all this amounted to was an education in the basics of experimental methodology, and ultimately led to appreciating behavior analysis as an authentic science of behavior and an incredible tool in tackling the vast array of pseudoscience facing families of children with autism.
Q: Please share with our readers how you became involved in challenging proponents of facilitated communication.
A: When I first heard about facilitated communication (FC) in 1990 or 1991, it was instantly clear that I was seeing a version of a trick already well-established by mentalists over 300 years ago, and described in magic books as early as 1805—except that the facilitators unconsciously did the trick on themselves! (I will speak more about that at the ABAI convention in San Antonio.) It was also clear what had to be done methodologically in order to show that the facilitator was the source of the output. A lot of the FC that I saw was so incompetently done, with the child‘s hand being clearly pushed around by facilitators. I was astounded that anyone believed it, or would tolerate such a thing being done to helpless children and their loved ones; much less endorse, encourage, and teach it. Believe they did, however. And, like drug dealers, only with PhDs and academic appointments, they pushed it on desperate parents. Back then, in the early 1990s, Peter Holmes took the lead on FC with the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM). He showed how to engage the FC advocates directly, inviting them to debate at the BAAM conference. I joined in this, doing things like debating proponents publicly for the Eastern Michigan Psychology Club, and then incorporating information about FC into most of my classes.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the debate? How did the proponents counter concerns about FC and how was this received by the audience?
A: I debated Sandra McClennen, who was then a Professor in the Department of Special Education here at Eastern Michigan University and a licensed psychologist. That was December 1, 1994. She is now Emeritus and still a licensed psychologist. She was an early believer in FC, and has promoted it heavily since then. She continues to spread its word, and in fact, is scheduled to do a workshop on FC in Plymouth, Michigan this spring. She was involved with the Syracuse University Facilitated Communication Institute (FCI), and is credited for helping the FCI formulate the “Facilitated Communication Training Standards.”
We did one of those show debates, very civilized and polite, with both of us taking turns as academics do. It was not a debate McClennen could win. It occurred a little more than a year after the first broadcast of the PBS/Frontline exposé of FC, “Prisoners of Silence” in October, 1993. Nearly everyone in the standing-room-only audience of about 50 had seen it. There were by then a fair number of methodologically reasonable studies of FC available showing that FC did not work. I also knew all the FC arguments because I had a large collection of background materials supplied by Gina Green, Pat Meinhold, and Bernie Rimland. McLennan, for her part, led with neurological research by Eric Corchesne that supposedly implicated the cerebellum in autism; buttressing, she claimed, the FC advocates‘ theory that autism is really a disorder of motor planning and control. She made a lot of a small study by Calculator and Singer (1992), published as a letter-to-the-editor, which FC advocates continue to claim shows the successful use of FC with non-verbal people on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT). In that study, the facilitators wore headphones during the presentation of PPVT items.
Unfortunately for McClennan, the brain information to which she referred was so non-specific that it did not help her case; nor did the fact that it is very easy to find people with severe autism who have excellent fine-motor control. The Calculator PPVT study was fatally flawed because (1) its baseline consisted of giving the PPVT to subjects without using FC rather than doing FC with facilitators hearing the questions to show the contrast between facilitator awareness and lack of awareness of the questions (this is what I have started calling the “Erroneous Baseline Design”) and (2) the researchers admitted that the headphones did not fully mask the speech of the questioners. I also was able to quote silly statements from FC advocates, creating skepticism in their collective credibility. They were already arguing, for instance, that double-blind tests for FC were methodologically invalid because people with autism possess psychic abilities and can directly read the thoughts of the facilitators (Haske & Donnellan, 1993, pp. 13-14, 2223). Here is an example of what I am talking about from a 1993 book on FC by Paul Haskew and Anne Donnellan:
A special education teacher told us she found that having students apparently conspire telepathically was the most troubling aspect of their mind reading abilities. However, once she recognized what was happening she dealt with it as any competent teacher handles an unruly classroom; her students quieted down, and stopped abusing their telepathic skills. (Haskew & Donnellan, 1993, pp. 22-23.)
The cool thing about quoting stuff like that is that your opponent has to either discredit herself by agreeing with absolute nonsense, or distance herself from her own sources.
The real problem for McClennen, however, was in launching a technically naive and poorly conceived response to a clip from the Frontline exposé. Frontline showed Rosemary Crossley, credited with establishing FC in Australia, facilitating with a man who was in a coma. He was supposed to be selecting words on a card with a head pointer. By drawing a line on the screen across the top edge of the card, Frontline revealed that Crossley was moving the card behind the man‘s nearly stationary head pointer. McClennen argued that the two-dimensional TVpicture could not show that the card was actually tilting back beneath the pressure of the head pointer. She promised that if there was a line at the bottom of the card, and one around Crossley‘s thumb, we would see that the card was being pushed back by the man, creating the illusion that Crossley was moving the card. I anticipated this argument, and came prepared with a set of dry-erase markers. I actually drew the exact lines McClennen suggested right on the television screen to prove that the card was moved by Crossley exactly as Frontline said.
Q: Despite ample data disputing these claims, FC does not go away. How are proponents of FC able to appeal to parents so successfully on an emotional level?
A: Data-shmata. There is more crying in baseball than data in most autism treatments. FC is just the tail end of a data-free treatment spectrum. It‘s all about motivation and impulsivity.
Miguel Cervantes, who knew all about establishing operations, hit the nail on the head when he wrote in 1615, “La mejor salsa del mundo es la hambre; y como ésta no falta a los pobres, siempre comen con gusto;” ”Hunger is the best sauce in the world; and since the poor are never without it, they always eat with gusto” (Don Quixote, 1615, Parte 2, Capitulo V). Facilitated communication advocates promise desperate parents that FC, which is easy to do and costs virtually nothing, can release their children from the prison of autism.
The advocates of FC layer on a patina of sciencey-sounding flummery to the effect that autism is actually a motor planning defect that blocks expression rather than involving cognitive deficits that prevent normal expression in the first place. What is really being sold, however, is the “miracle.” That is why you can go to FC events and workshops, including those sponsored by the Syracuse University Facilitated Communication Institute, and see weeping parents report that their child; who has never before spoken, read, or written anything meaningful; has just typed “Mommy I love you” with the help of a hero-facilitator. Who wouldn‘t want something like that for their child or themselves?
As for impulsivity, we are confronted with a real-life Rachlin and Green (1972) experiment when we see FC advocacy in operation. Behavior analysis offers a much better, genuine reward backed up by bona fide science. The trouble is, that this big reward can be delayed and involve a high response cost.
FC is proffered as virtually certain reward that comes sometimes instantly, but at least as soon as the kid seems to type anything that can be interpreted as something. We saw this in the PBS/Frontline documentary “Prisoners of Silence.” A desperate mother, another victim of the “I love you mommy scam” at the hands of a Syracuse-trained facilitator, facilitated “IMSNOS” with her daughter. That typing was then interpreted as the child saying, “I miss father;” with “father” being expressed as “NOS” because the father would sometimes touch his nose in an entertaining way.
Q: You raise an excellent point about impulsivity. Autism has a significant impact on a child‘s social relatedness, communication skills, and ability to learn across all domains. It would be naive to think that a simple intervention such as a swim with a dolphin or a session with a facilitator could eradicate such profound deficits.
The media continues to keep FC on the radar for new generations of parents. Why do you believe FC keeps garnering such widespread media attention?
A: The media attention is no surprise, of course. FC is a medical miracle. Aside from a political sex scandal or whatever Lindsay Lohan might be doing, nothing attracts a reporter‘s attention more effectively than a medical miracle. We saw this late last November with the Rom Houben debacle. Houben, a man in Belgium, has been in a deep coma (or worse) for over 20 years, saying and doing nothing purposeful as far as anyone can determine. Suddenly, with the involvement of the up-and-coming brain scientist, Steven Laureys, Houben was not only designated “fully conscious,” he was said to be capable of expressing himself verbally through “new technology.” The result was a worldwide, multilingual media circus with Dr. Laureys as ringleader. (I use the term “circus” loosely here as I have noted circuses to be models of understatement and nuance relative to the coverage of Mr. Houben‘s apparent awakening.) The “new technology” was FC.
The problem was that some of the videos accompanying the story showed Mr. Houben slumped in his wheelchair, his eyes closed and facing away from the keyboard, while an aide used his finger to type. Seeing these things on MSNBC, Hank Schlinger and I immediately contacted various media-connected people. Hank was even booked for a TV interview which, as often happens in TV, didn‘t happen. I emailed University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who, to his immense credit, looked into the matter and within a day injected the FC angle into the mainstream news stories. That‘s when the questions began. The public realized it had been bamboozled, and Dr. Laureys‘ ability to backpedal was severely tested. In fact, the facilitator control in the Houben‘s videos was so clumsy and glaringly obvious that even the usual FC advocates did not rise up to defend it. We really have to wonder why no one in the media, from Al-Jazeera to MSNBC, initially questioned the validity of the obviously bogus typing, or why no one seriously challenged Laureys‘ use of FC as evidence of Mr. Houben‘s allegedly intact consciousness.
Of course, the media often do not ask the right questions or challenge the claims. This is nothing new—although it might be worse now. And there seems to be something about autism that amplifies this effect. Why else would we see stories about kids being pressurized, drugged, weighted down, selectively malnourished, and otherwise experimented upon with so few reporters freaking out and asking, “You actually do that to little kids?”For a historical perspective, I‘d suggest reading Pope Brock’s book Charlatan, which is about “Doc” Brinkley‘s infamous and sometimes fatal “goat gland” operations to restore male virility. Media pressure and official investigations drove Brinkley underground and eventually out of business. We see little of this in autism, where almost every claim seems to get the instant credibility of a fawning feature report and, unless it involves restraint or seclusion, zero official or public concern about safety or proven effectiveness. For instance, I have found only a few isolated mainstream media objections to extravagant claims in the 2005 CNN-produced, Oscar-nominated FC-promoting movie, “Autism is a World.”
But, other than what I found in the Jerusalem Post, Pasadena Weekly, and Washington Post (which then, as we see in the link, undercut its own writer by issuing a “correction” to her doubts about the validity of FC), the general reporting on that movie, like almost all FC coverage, was credulous and gushing. And I think “credulous” is the right word. CNN‘s Chief Medical Correspondent, Sanjay Gupta bought it–accepting, with no empirical proof at all, that the barely verbal Sue Rubin wrote “Autism is a World” using FC. We really must demand better from a brain surgeon and member of the Emory University Medical School faculty. Bringing things closer to today, NBC technology reporter Scott Budman didn‘t seem to care last year when he observed the staff at the Hope Technology School in Palo Alto, California guiding kids‘ typing with sticks, just as is recommended in the FC books, very literally turning the children into rod-puppets. Didn‘t anyone involved in that story wonder what the adults were doing at the other end of those sticks? In August 2009, the Boston Globe attached a video of FC to an online story about a $29 million gift from the FC-loving Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation to Margaret Bauman‘s Ladders Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. The video showed typing attributed to David Surett, for whom Bauman serves as advocate, controlled by his mother moving his forearm around with two hands. Bauman is a well-known neuroscientist, but has an alternate identity as a FC advocate who appeared in “Autism is a World,” and co-authored a 1996 article of astonishing badness in Mental Retardation “validating” FC (Weiss, Wagner, & Bauman, 1996). (The correct answers were given, Clever Hans style, only when someone who knew the answers attended the test sessions. It is the kind of journal article that a functional peer-review process would have never let see ink, and from which a genuine scientist would withdraw support.) But, I‘m getting far afield. The point is that we should have been able to expect a Boston Globe reporter to ask why Mr. Surett needed his mother to type for him, or, better, why someone associated with Ladders apparently continues to advocate a dangerous, long-discredited, and scientifically repudiated intervention. See:
Why is it like this? How have we arrived at a situation where almost no one is pulling back the curtain on these things, where we are more likely to see a serious interview with a real scientist on Comedy Central‘s “The Daily Show” than anywhere else on TV? I think the answer lies in John Burnham‘s excellent and underappreciated book, How Superstition Won and Science Lost. Burnham, a historian at Ohio State, acknowledges that all was not perfect in the past, but argues that things really have changed for the worst. Magical thinking has become pervasive in the reporters’ analyses along with a significantly decreased willingness to directly challenge claims even from a “common sense” perspective. His technical argument is that science reporting has shifted from discussions of process to discussions of outcome. Everything becomes, in essence, a gee-whiz miracle, and one whiz is as good as another. Couple that with the near extinction in the mainstream media of scientist-popularizers like Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan; who were accessible models of good scientific thinking; and the result has been a tsunami of credulous feature reporting displacing bona fide science journalism.
Q: What lessons should advocates of scientifically-validated treatments learn from the resilience of so many pseudoscientific treatments?
A: That pseudo-science is like the yellow cat in the old song. You can‘t get rid of it by any ordinary means, and it just keeps coming back. If the usual methods worked, we wouldn‘t be here talking. Bogus and ineffective treatments proliferate in any environment that does not have an obviously effective treatment. Until then, you‘ll be playing whack-a-mole with them. And, we have to accept that we have not yet figured out how to reliably teach those much-vaunted “critical thinking skills” that supposedly immunize people against magical thinking and pseudoscientific beliefs. Even when we occasionally succeed, the skills are often domain-specific—critical thinking in chemistry; critical thinking in geology. We have not figured out how to get good scientific thinking to reliably generalize across any individual‘s behavior. That means that pseudoscience will pop up in the most unexpected places—like in your otherwise clever colleagues’ verbal behavior. History is full of famous examples. William James, who wrote some of the major founding documents of psychology in America, was a believer in psychic phenomena. Lightner Witmer, considered by many to be the founder of modern clinical psychology, was taken in by a trained circus chimp named Peter, thinking it perhaps a kind of missing link, and doing all manner of tests of its supposed abilities. It‘s no different now. Just in the last few months we have seen Steven Laureys, who is by most accounts a top-notch neuroscientist, falling for some of the most incompetently done FC I have ever seen. And he‘s not alone. Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor is not only a PhD in Psychology from Stanford University, she is perhaps the nation‘s highest-ranking academic advocate of FC. In a 2007 speech entitled, “Imagining America; Imagining Universities: Who and What?” Cantor left no doubt about her impatience with science for generating controversy about something she says has proven by anecdote and testimonial:
And while the controversy about facilitated communication in the research literature in psychology and education never seems to tire, the compelling testimony to its power is written and rewritten in the stories of autistic individuals, turned public scholars, college students (including Jamie at Syracuse), actors and film-makers and writers, whose lives it has turned around – and freed.
When you read Cantor‘s whole speech, try not to be too taken aback by her apparent comparison of FC with freeing the slaves and achievements in women‘s rights.
Q: You nailed it, as did Albert Einstein, when he said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You have been at this for many years. How has your approach to challenging pseudoscience evolved over time?
A: Well, you do have to hone your whack-a-mole skills. And you can be driven crazy by having to do the same thing over and over. You are right, though. Different things come up at different times requiring different kinds of responses. You have to know when to attack it head on, when to be subtle, when a strategic retreat is prudent, and when to pick another battle. We have written letters, made personal contacts, worked through the courts, consulted with the media, posted on blogs, pulled rank, been charming, been indignant, and even issued genuine offers to do independent validation tests on claims of successful FC. If I ever get a free moment, I am going to finish the three or four FC manuscripts scattered across my desk.
No matter what, preparation is key. I have tried to know all there is to know about FC. If called upon to do so, I‘d like to be able to make a better argument for FC than the FC advocates can. This means buying and reading all the FC books I can get — some of which are truly weird; invoking angels, ESP, and math with totals far beyond 100%. It means attending FC training workshops, and speaking to FC advocates. It means finding and reading all the academic literature on FC, including theses and dissertations, including the growing non-English literature, and essentially memorizing the published empirical studies. It is especially important to know those few studies that the FC advocates claim to demonstrate successful FC. They do not. They are true methodological nightmares. These disasters come up in court and are cited in textbooks, and must be rebutted. Of course, it‘s the Internet age. That means having Google alerts to “facilitated communication” and related terms, reading the blogs of FC advocates, and studying the sites of treatment providers who use FC. We also have to keep up with those academics who endorse FC and other forms of autism pseudoscience.
If anything has changed, I think my personal approach has become more direct. I don‘t hesitate to say certain things that are true: That FC has failed every test of science; that it has never once worked under properly controlled conditions; and that facilitator control has been repeatedly shown to be its primary mechanism of operation. These things are the baseline. I believe it is a moral obligation to say that FC is a fundamental human rights violation. Its use not only prevents the person with autism from learning real, functional independent living skills, but it replaces the real person with a fantasy identity of someone else’s making. All that said, we must be exceedingly careful in dealing with the parents and caretakers who have been taken in by these cruel frauds. Smart people can be fooled, and once it happens they are in a trap. They have multiple investments that simply cannot be divested without significant psychological cost. No one wants to admit being taken in by a fraud. No one wants to discover he or she could have done something better for a child. If it‘s FC, they will not want to admit they have been talking to themselves and not the child for months or years. They will do pretty much all the things that the social psychologists and Freudians say they will in these conflicted situations: Discount, Deny, Rationalize, Project, Displace, and Avoid. None of it will help them come to the correct conclusion.
Q: Tell us about how you address this matter on the BAAM website.
A: The most visible thing we have done has been adding a list of signatories to the BAAM resolution repudiating facilitated communication. The resolution itself was created in 1998 in response to the very heavy promotion of FC in Michigan by a member of Eastern Michigan University’s Special Education Department. Something had to be said, especially to help back up those Michigan behavior analysts who were finding FC pushed on them in the workplace. We essentially reworked and combined ideas from some of the existing resolutions, and made what we believe is the strongest of all of them.
The signatory list was added in 2005 in response to the airing of the FC movie, “Autism is a World,” on CNN. Again, something had to be done. CNN, “The Most Trusted Name in News,” was actually sponsoring the promotion of dangerous autism pseudoscience, and even broadcast the show without commercials to schools during the day as an educational opportunity for kids. We solicited signatures from BAAM‘s mailing list, and collected about two hundred in the first few weeks. The President of the Oakland County Michigan chapter of the Autism Society of America wrote objecting to the resolution. Interestingly, the group was sponsoring FC training at about the same time and took exception to the BAAM Resolution. That prompted James Randi to issue his $1,000,000 challenge to the Oakland County chapter to demonstrate valid FC. We put a copy of Randi‘s letter to the Oakland County group on the website, and even scheduled Mr. Randi to speak on the issue of medical pseudoscience at our 20th anniversary convention. Boy, did we get hate mail for that!
The BAAM resolution now has about 450 signatories from people all over world. It has sensitized many people to the continued menace of FC. It has even been introduced in court cases as evidence for the repudiation of FC by the scientific community.
I am also quite proud of our coverage of the FC-sex abuse case in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. BAAM’s was the most detailed of all the coverage, describing how a man and his wife had been accused through FC of raping their daughter for several years. We had extensive details about how nothing in the original accusations was credible, with critical details being apparently made up by the facilitator to fill out the story. The dog named in the record was dead and was given the wrong name. There was an extra grandmother, and two extra grandmother’s names. This observant Jewish family was supposedly espousing Christian theology. The girl, who could supposedly do middle-school work and write poetry with FC was unable to correctly or reliably spell her brother’s three-letter name, but could accurately spell her facilitator’s nine-letter name. There were rooms that didn’t exist, a gun that didn’t exist, and photos that didn’t exist. Facilitated statements that the parents had visited the daughter in violation of a court order were believed over the denials of the Orthodox Rabbi entrusted by the court with the care of the girl. We were among the only ones with coverage which accurately described what the judge meant when he said of FC that he “didn’t find anything scientific about it.”
What that means legally is that FC is not a scientifically-derived method that can be challenged as to general reliability and validity. In other words, the judge agreed with the FC advocates’ view that FC should be treated by the courts as “interpretation,” like translating Spanish to English (Phipps & Ells, 1995). Science was out; superstition was in. The upshot of it all was that despite “testimony” so self-evidently incorrect and inconsistent; produced using a technique supported by no bona-fide scientific or professional organization, that had been thoroughly repudiated by the scientific evidence, and even questioned by the prosecution’s own expert as well as both of those on the defense; the prosecution went on and an innocent man spent 80 days in jail. Worse than that was what FC led to for the girl’s brother: He was secretly plucked from school and interrogated for almost two hours without benefit of counsel or child services protection, and was led to believe that he had been videotaped participating in the rape of his own sister. We didn’t have the exposure and impact of the excellent Detroit Free Press coverage, but ours remains available for the record.
I should also mention our compendium of other resolutions against FC on the BAAM website. As far as I know, it is the only place where one can find so many science-based statements on FC in one place. It too has been used in court cases.
Thank you for an incredible interview. Your perspectives on pseudoscience in general, and facilitated communication specifically, were interesting and enlightening. Your use of the BAAM website to address these matters should be a wakeup call for other organizations to take a stand, as you say, as anything less only separates individuals with autism from effective, scientifically-validated treatment.
I look forward to the second part of our interview where you respond to questions such as:
- What should behavior analysis organizations do to better address this issue? In your view, what are they not doing?
- What are some suggestions you would make to behavior analysts working on multi-disciplinary teams?
- What are the three most important things needed to bolster a shared commitment to science and to attenuate the influence of pseudoscience?
- Can you provide our readers with some specific homework? What titles would be good reads and why?
The conclusion of this interview will appeared in the Summer Issue of Science in Autism Treatment.
Brock, P. (2008). Charlatan: America’s most dangerous huckster, the man who pursued him, and the age of flimflam. New York: Crown.
Burnham, J. C. (1987). How superstition won and science lost: Popularizing science and health in the United States. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
Calculator, S. N., & Singer, K. M. (1992). Preliminary validation of facilitated communication. Topics in Language Disorders, 13(1), ix-xvi.
Christopher, M. (1962). Panorama of magic. New York: Dover Publications.
Dunninger, J. (1967). Dunninger’s complete encyclopedia of magic. London: Spring Books.
Haskew, P., & Donnellan, M. (1993). Emotional maturity and well-being: Psychological lessons of facilitated communication (“Movin’ on” Beyond Facilitated Communication series). Madison, WI: DRI Press.
Phipps, C. A., & Ells, M. L. (1995). Facilitated communication: Novel scientific evidence or novel communication. Nebraska Law Review, 74(4), 601-657.
Rachlin, H. & Green, L. (1972). Commitment, choice and self-control. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 17, 15-22.
Weiss, M. J. S., Wagner, S. H., & Bauman, M. L. (1996). A validated case study of facilitated communication. Mental Retardation, 34(4), 220-230.
James T. Todd, PhD is Professor of Psychology at Eastern Michigan University. He earned his PhD in Human Development and Child Psychology in 1990 at the University of Kansas studying under Edward K. Morris. Morris instilled in Todd a deep respect for the importance of applying high-quality scholarship and science to all questions in all areas. Prior to earning his PhD, he spent seven years as an engineer at KANU radio, the University of Kansas Public Radio Station, and taught electronics, mathematics, and computer programming at Kansas City Area Vocational Technical School and General Motors. At Eastern, he has taught courses on a variety of topics including, “Everyday Computing and Social Responsibility,” the “Experimental Analysis of Behavior,” and “Clinical Ecological Psychology.” From 1999 to 2003, Todd served as Psychology Department Head and then Association Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. It was while Todd was Psychology department head that Eastern Michigan approved the first PhD program in its history (in Clinical Psychology)–although Todd points out that that the real credit for the development and success of the program belongs to others. He is co-editor, with Ed Morris, Modern Perspectives on John B. Watson and Classical Behaviorism and Modern Perspectives on B.F. Skinner and Contemporary Behaviorism, published on the history of behavior analysis, schedule-induced behavior, and animal models of exposure therapy. Todd is also Secretary/Treasurer of the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM). Todd has had a longstanding interest in superstitious, magical, and pseudo-scientific thinking. Lately, like many behavior analysts, he has been drawn into teaching and working in the area of autism, which has lead to serving as expert witness and consultant on several recent court cases involving the discredited intervention, facilitated communication.
Citation for this article:
Celiberti, D. (2010). Facilitate this: Part I of a two-part interview with Dr. James Todd. Science in Autism Treatment, 7(2), 1-8.