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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #507
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Advancements in the Treatment of Pediatric Feeding Disorders
Monday, May 25, 2020
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon B
Area: CBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Connor Sheehan (Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health; University of North Carolina Wilmington)
Discussant: Valerie M. Volkert (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine)
CE Instructor: Valerie M. Volkert, M.A.

Children are diagnosed with a feeding disorder when they do not eat an adequate quantity or variety of foods, sustain an appropriate weight, or grow (Palmer & Horn, 1978; Piazza & Carroll-Hernandez, 2004). Applied behavior analytic interventions have proven effective in the treatment of pediatric feeding disorders (Volkert & Piazza, 2012). Preference for flavors develop in a variety of ways in typical eating individuals (Capaldi, 1996), however, if and how preference occurs for individuals with feeding disorders is less known. The current symposium includes two studies that evaluated preference for nonpreferred foods and examined shifts in preference before, during, and after applied behavior analytic intervention in children with feeding disorders. An additional study used preferred foods during treatment involving a high-probability sequence with and without escape extinction to increase consumption of healthy, nonpreferred foods. The effectiveness of applied behavior analytic interventions to treat feedings problems may be influenced by treatment integrity. The final study examines various components of behavior skills training in isolation and in combination to increase correct implementation of feeding protocols.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): caregiver training, feeding disorders, high-probability, preference
Target Audience:

Board Certified Behavior Analysts

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify assessments commonly used to evaluate preference within a feeding context; (2) describe a high-probability instructional sequence as treatment for pediatric feeding disorders; and (3) identify commonly used behavioral skills training components when training caregivers on feeding protocols.
Evaluation of Preference Shifts Following Treatment for Picky Eaters
JESSICA FOSTER JUANICO (University of Kansas), Claudia L. Dozier (The University of Kansas)
Abstract: Picky eating is defined as the consumption of a limited number of foods from each food group (Food Selectivity, 2018). There are various challenges associated with picky eating including a restricted diet and challenging mealtime behavior (Bandini et al., 2010; Penrod, Gardella, & Fernand, 2012). We were interested in identifying whether there were any shifts in preference for nonpreferred foods following treatment. Therefore, prior to and following treatment (i.e., differential reinforcement of alternative behavior with and without nonremoval of the spoon) with eight children, we conducted paired stimulus preference assessments (Fisher et al., 1992) with high-preferred and nonpreferred foods to determine whether there were shifts in preference or if there were selections of previously nonpreferred foods. Results demonstrated that five children selected and consumed at least one previously nonpreferred food and three children selected and consumed at least one previously nonpreferred food at a higher level than at least one preferred food.

A Replication of an Examination of Food Preferences Before and After Treatment for a Pediatric Feeding Disorder

JASON R. ZELENY (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Cathleen C. Piazza (Rutgers University), Valerie M. Volkert (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine), Vivian F Ibanez (University of Florida), Jaime Crowley (May Institute), Caitlin A. Kirkwood (Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health, University of North Carolina Wilmington)

Exposure to noxious stimuli in the context of eating results in avoidance behavior in nonhuman animals (Garcia & Kellog, 1966), which may be the same mechanism by which feeding disorders can develop in some children. For example, if a child were to experience pain, discomfort, or excessive emesis shortly following mealtimes, he or she may be more likely to avoid certain foods, flavors, textures, or mealtime altogether in the future. However, little is known about the development of food preferences for children with feeding disorders. The goal of our investigation primarily focused on identifying whether intervention for the feeding disorder resulted in preference changes for foods as a function of exposure. In the current investigation, we replicated an earlier study (Zeleny et al., 2019) with additional participants and evaluated whether food preferences of children with feeding disorders changed over the course of intervention. We conducted repeated free- and random-choice preference assessments with foods to which we either exposed or did not expose children with a feeding disorder during clinical treatment. We observed a shift in preference following exposure to exposed foods throughout the preference assessments, suggesting that preferences for foods may have changed due to exposure during treatment.


Comparing High-Probability Demands With and Without Food to Increase the Consumption of Healthy Food in Picky Eaters

LAURA TARDI (Brock University ), Kimberley L. M. Zonneveld (Brock University)

The high-probability (high-p) instructional sequence is a non-intrusive procedure that involves the presentation of a series of high-p requests followed by 1 low-probability request. To date, only 9 studies have examined its effectiveness to treat food selectivity in children, and results of these studies have been mixed. In the current study, we used a multielement design to compare the effectiveness and efficiency of 2 iterations of the high-p sequence to increase the consumption of healthy food in picky eaters. One iteration of the high-p instructional sequence consisted of the researcher presenting 3 bites of a preferred food on a spoon to the child and the other consisted of the researcher presenting 3 bites of an empty spoon to the child. Preliminary results show that nonremoval of the spoon may be necessary to increase consumption for some children. We will discuss the results within the context of treatment implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research.


Evaluating Staff and Caregiver Training Within Pediatric Feeding

RONALD J. CLARK (Florida Institute of Technology), Corina Jimenez-Gomez (Auburn University), Christopher A. Podlesnik (Auburn University)

Pediatric feeding problems are present in approximately 50% of the general population and 90% of children with autism spectrum disorder. Much research has been conducted to evaluate behavioral interventions aimed at addressing these problems. In research and clinical protocols, it’s reported that trained staff implement the treatments. However, it’s unclear how much of the variability observed in the results of behavioral interventions for feeding is a result of differences in the therapist's ability to implement the treatment reliably. This study evaluated different training packages containing all of or some of the following components: written instructions, verbal instructions, video modeling, rehearsal, feedback, and task clarification. Three groups were evaluated across staff members and two groups were evaluated across caregivers. It is expected that the use of these treatment components will increase protocol adherences across novel staff and caregivers with varying levels of acquisition conditional to the group they are exposed to.




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