Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #252
“Problematic” in Sexual Behavior: Operational Definitions and Interventions
Sunday, May 26, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Lobby Level, Crystal Ballroom C
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Translational
Chair: Barbara Gross (Empowered: A Center for Sexuality)
Discussant: Sorah Stein (Partnership for Behavior Change)

For many practitioners, protecting clients’ sexual behavior rights and the safety of clients and others can be a challenging balancing act. Clear operational definitions of sexual behavior are a key component in choosing supports that best serve our clients and those around them. This symposium presents behavior analytic conceptualizations of defining problematic sexual behavior, and difference between sexual behavior and romantic behavior. This symposium also presents data on the implementation of interventions for treating harmful sexual behavior using best practice and technology. Presenters will discuss resulting data and their implications as applicable, and will discuss recommendations for future research, instruction, and applied projects.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): pornography, relationship education, sex education, sexual behavior
Rule 34 and Client Rights: Definitions of “Problematic” and “Pornography”
(Service Delivery)
BARBARA GROSS (Empowered: A Center for Sexuality)
Abstract: Internet pornography is an industry where opinions regarding its utility, risk, or societal impact vary widely based on audience (Montgomery-Graham, Kohut, Fisher, & Campbell, 2015). Available literature often focuses on "inappropriate" or "problematic" use of Internet pornography with little to no clarification about what this means (Short, Black, Smith, Wetterneck, & Wells, 2011). Before we intervene on behaviors, it is important to determine if the behavior is one that should be targeted at all, and if so we must consider the least intrusive methods that protect client rights while also considering safety. This conversation will offer suggestions for operational definitions for pornography, behavioral language defining "inappropriate" use, and finally, will extend and contrast these definitions with other potentially sexual behaviors.

The Right to Be a Slut—Or Not: Tacting Desire and Building Correlating Skill Sets

(Service Delivery)
WORNER LELAND (Upswing Advocates), Janani Vaidya (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

For many individuals in the US, cultural and formal education conflate romantic interest with sexual interest. It is often taught that a sexual relationship necessitates a romantic relationship, and vice versa. Because of this, skill set needs may be assumed and training may focus on skills that don’t align with client desires. For clients with asexual or aromantic identities, there is still great room for growth in providing ethical and affirming services with skill building that validates these identities and their unique needs and that centers bodily autonomy. Examining cultural assumptions about interpersonal closeness, this talk examines tacting different components of desire, communicating desire, and skill building to meet idiosyncratic interpersonal goals.

The Evolution of Technology and the Treatment of Problematic Sexual Behavior in Real World Settings
(Applied Research)
Stephani Fauerbach (Human Development Center), KIMBERLY E. CHURCH (Human Development Center), Ashley Tomaka (Human Development Center)
Abstract: Ethical challenges related to providing treatment to individuals who have engaged in problematic sexual behavior have become even more complex as technology has advanced. Human Development Center (HDC), inc., is a non-profit organization that provides behavior analytic treatment to consumers with intellectual disabilities in a variety of community-based settings. HDC specializes in treating behaviors that interfere with the consumer’s ability to live successfully and safely in the community. Behavior analysis service plans and clinical data for two individuals with problematic sexual behavior targeted for reduction will be presented, highlighting a collaborative, data based decision making process that guides treatment and levels of support. Balancing rights and safety requires constant vigilance, collaboration, training and knowledge of current media and technology. Examples of ethical dilemmas related to problematic sexual behavior and technology will be reviewed, and suggestions for future research and treatment will be discussed.
Managing Harmful Sexual Behavior: Keeping Everyone Safe
(Applied Research)
DUNCAN PRITCHARD (Aran Hall School), Heather Penney (Aran Hall School), Veda Richards (Senad Group)
Abstract: A multi-component behavioral intervention (MCBI) was developed and refined over ten years to meet the increasing prevalence of harmful sexual behavior presented by adolescent males with intellectual and other developmental disabilities referred to a residential program. The MCBI is now comprised of a point and level system, and weekly sex and relationship education and therapy/counselling components. The young people who were enrolled in the program earned supervised access to the internet and also participated in staff supported community-based leisure activities and also attended college and work experience in cafes, garden centers and shops. Those young people whose harmful sexual behavior persisted were denied access to some of these activities. The ethical considerations of denying young people access to these age-appropriate activities will be discussed. Follow-up data will also be presented and discussed, as will the importance of ensuring that all stakeholders (i.e., parents, staff, funding agencies, regulators, etc.) share the same commitment to keeping everyone safe.



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