William Ahearn

I am the Director of Research at NECC and have also served as a Program Specialist and Program Director at NECC. I was trained as an experimental psychologist at Temple University under the advisement of Phil Hineline. My clinical career started at the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins where I was a post-doctoral fellow. From there I moved to the Children's Seashore House (University of Pennslyvania) where I managed an interdisciplinary pediatric feeding disorder inpatient unit. In 1996 I moved to NECC. I have always had an interest in advocating for behavior analysis and the professional practice of applied behavior analysis. I worked with behavior analysts in MA to promote licensure for applied behavior analysts and am currently the Chair of the Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions board that licenses applied behavior analysts in MA (as well as mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, rehabilitation counselors, and educational psychologists). I have served as the president of the Association for Professional Behavior Anlaysts (APBA) and the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BABAT). I also have provided voluntary service to ABAI; Autism Speaks; CASP; OAR; CCBS; and to a number of state ABA organizations. I am currently the Editor-in-Chief of Behavioral Interventions; served on the editorial board of JABA for over 20 years; am currently on the editorial board of JEAB; and have provided guest reviews for a number of other peer reviewed outlets including Pediatrics. I have over 100 publications and regularly present keynote addresses at ABA conferences. I was named the APA Division 25 Nate Azrin honoree (Enduring Contributions to Applied Behavioral Research) in 2009 and as CalABA's outstanding contributor in 20202. I have participated in a number of federally funded research projects collaborating with, among other, Bill Dube, Bill McIlvane, Tony Nevin, Willie DeLeon, and Tim Shahan. 

Curriculum Vitae


Automatic Reinforcement

The concept of automatic reinforcement is crucial to of the behavior of all organisms, especially humans. Our group has published extensively in this area including developing a best practice approach (Response Interruption and Redirection to appropriate behavior; RIRD) to treating repetitive behavior.

Play and Social Skills

Targeting play and social skills in persons with autism is important. Our group has examined a number of strategies including in vivo modeling, video modeling, and matrix training.

Verbal Behavior

Given that individuals with autism often have communicative deficits, identifying effective teaching procedures is a priority. Our group has examined teaching procedures for establishing vocal imitation (echoic behavior); commenting (tacting); requesting (mands); answering questions (intraverbals); and, reading comprehension.

Behavioral Momentum

The work of Tony Nevin has shown that the strength of an operant class of behavior is similar to the concept of momentum in physics. Our group has examined a number of the implications of the behavioral momentum metaphor.

Behavior Chains

Establishing independence in the community is facilitated by teaching many behavioral routines through task analysis (TA). Our group has examined a number of strategies related to effective instruction of TA such as prompting and prompt fading procedures. We have also examined treating prompt dependency through the use of differential reinforcement.


I have always encouraged my students to suggest topic that they are interested in conducting research on. Therefore we have examined a wide variety of topics including, but not limited to, anxiety, staff training, pediatric feeding disorders, transitions between activities, and preference.

Courses Taught

PSY 501 Basic Principles of Behavior Analysis

This class serves as a foundational subject for practicing behavior analysts. It is taught using an interteach method of instruction. Brief lectures are interspersed with small group discussions on study guide questions each student prepares to discuss for each class meeting. 

PSY 507 Theoretical Foundations

The conceptual underpinnings of behavior analysis are the topic of this course. Skinner's Radical Behaviorism was a stark departure from the superficial behaviorisms of psychology. This class consists of a number of Skinner's papers as well as a text in Radical Behaviorism for Practitioners by Jim Johnston (to which I have contributed some content). This is a more traditional seminar class and students present on several of the papers. Another component of this class is translating the behavior analytic language in a user friendly manner.

PSY 650 Radical Behaviorism

Behaviorism is the philosophy of the scientific approach to the study of behavior, including verbal behavior and private events. The approach holds that all behavior is a function of the interactions of ontogenic and phylogenic variables rather than hypothetical structures. This course focuses on the philosophies of methodological, radical, and cognitive behaviorism. The primary focus is on B.F. Skinner, his conceptual works, and his major critics.