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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #412
CE Offered: BACB
Advancements in the Selection of Effective Reinforcers
Monday, May 31, 2021
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Noelle Brooke Neault (Simmons University)
Discussant: Noelle Brooke Neault (Simmons University)
CE Instructor: Noelle Brooke Neault, Ph.D.

Individualized treatment based on sufficient pre-treatment assessment is a feature of high-quality behavior analytic (BA) service delivery. The identification of effective reinforcers is a fundamental aspect of treatment intended to improve the adaptive behavior of BA service recipients. Evaluation of client choice and preference is a necessary initial step toward designing effective, individualized treatment. Two applied studies are presented that highlight methods for customizing treatment based on the evaluation of client choice and preference for individuals with autism. In the first study, Badger and Huntington (2019) demonstrated a reduction in vocal stereotypy using matched stimulation with high-preference music (e.g. hip-hop). This non-contingent matched stimulation music intervention was designed following the evaluation of participant preference with a competing stimulus assessment for different types of music via an alternating treatment design. The results indicated a reduction of vocal stereotypy during leisure activity time in the participant’s classroom setting. The second study investigated the role that client choice plays in selecting interventions with social validity. Huntington and Schwartz (2018) conducted video preference assessments with three service recipients prior to treatment commencing. Subsequent reversal designs demonstrated a reduction in target behavior levels when treatments were informed by the results of video preference assessments. Practices for optimizing treatment outcomes based on creative assessment of client choice and preference are considered.

Target Audience:

Behavior Analysts


Reducing Vocal Stereotypy With Hip-Hop Music

MATTHEW BADGER (University of Washington)

This study explores the use of noncontingent access to various samples of music stimuli (from 3 distinct music classes) as a strategy to reduce the immediate engagement of vocal stereotypy for a child with autism spectrum disorder. The use of noncontingent access to high preference music (NCM) as matched stimulation to effectively reduce the occurrence of vocal stereotypy has been demonstrated across multiple studies in behavior analytic research. This study examined the effect of this strategy on the levels of vocal stereotypy during unstructured free time in an attempt to enable greater access to socialization opportunities and reinforcement in the one participant’s natural environment. Results from an alternating treatments design comparing 3 distinct music treatment conditions (two neutral conditions and one high-preference condition) during unstructured leisure time showed a decrease in immediate levels of behavior across all conditions, with high-preference music emerging as the most effective treatment in reducing behavior in experimental and generalized settings. Implications for future research applying noncontingent access to music to skill acquisition and social engagement opportunities are discussed.


Video Preference Assessment to Evaluate Client Treatment Acceptability

SHELLY HUNTINGTON (University of Hawaii)

Social validity, in applied behavior analysis (ABA) refers to the acceptance and importance that behavioral treatment has for the consumers of the work. Most often, social validity is assessed by examining the opinions and feelings of indirect consumers such as caregivers, teachers, or those implementing intervention services. Typically, the opinions of the direct recipient of ABA services (i.e. individuals with disabilities that have varying degrees of communication, academic, and cognitive skills) are not assessed or considered. Behavioral assessments and interventions that are conducted, designed, and implemented without assessing acceptability on the part of the direct recipient can create both practical and ethical concerns that can hinder the success and long-term effects of intervention services. This study included three direct recipients in the assessment and selection of their own behavior interventions. Recipients were included in the descriptive assessment using the Student directed Functional Assessment Interview (SFAI; O’Neill et al., 2015). A video preference assessment was utilized to demonstrate the intervention options and allow the participants the opportunity to select their preferred procedure. The preferred interventions were then implemented and were successful at decreasing challenging behavior and increasing appropriate behavior for each of the three participants. Implications of these data for practice and future research are then discussed.




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