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 #127
Diversity submission Can Behavioral and Developmental Science Live Happily Ever After? An Overview of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention
Saturday, May 29, 2021
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Melanie Pellecchia (University of Pennsylvania)
Discussant: Sophia R D'Agostino (Hope College)
CE Instructor: Melanie Pellecchia, Ph.D.

Early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder is historically rooted within two distinct theoretical foundations: behavioral and developmental sciences. Proponents of each discipline have traditionally held opposing views toward treatment, with little collaboration. A recent shift in autism intervention has led to the emergence of a group of interventions that incorporate elements from both developmental and behavioral science. These naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions (NDBI) have been used effectively in a variety of settings. This symposium includes a series of presentations describing the application of NDBI across a range of settings, with a focus on describing the integration of developmental and behavioral science. The first presentation will provide a broad overview of NDBI, including a description of its core components. The second will describe the implementation of NDBI in a hospital-based clinic setting, including data related to the characteristics of children enrolled in the program. The third will describe outcomes from a group-based delivery of NDBI for preschool-aged children. The final presentation will shed light on the actual use of NDBI strategies by describing the self-reported utilization of developmental and behavioral strategies from a large sample of applied behavior analysis providers.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): early intervention, NDBI
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1) Describe the differences between developmental and behavioral approaches to autism intervention. 2) Describe core strategies used within naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions. 3) Discuss how naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions are used in a variety of practice settings.
Diversity submission 

Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention: The Next Frontier for Early Autism Treatment

(Service Delivery)
MELANIE PELLECCHIA (University of Pennsylvania)

A recent trend in early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder is the development of interventions that bridge both developmental and behavioral sciences. This new breed of interventions, Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBI), merge best practices in these two previously opposing approaches to intervention. NDBI integrate behavioral learning theory and developmentally-focused strategies within natural environments. Several efficacious NDBI treatment models have been successfully implemented across a variety of settings with improved child and family outcomes. Yet, this approach has yet to be disseminated widely among behavior analysts. This presentation will provide an in-depth overview of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions, with an emphasis on how this approach can be incorporated into existing applied behavior analysis programs for young children with autism spectrum disorders. The presentation will include: a description of the theoretical background underlying the approach, the core components of NDBI, and examples illustrating its application. A summary of the evidence supporting the effectiveness of NDBI and recommendations for incorporating NDBI strategies into existing programs will be provided.

Diversity submission 

The Application of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions in a Hospital-Based Autism Center

(Service Delivery)
Ashley Dubin (Nemours/AI duPont Hospital for Children), EMILY BERNABE (Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children), Meena Khowaja (Nemours/ Alfred I. Dupont Hospital for Children ), Erin Machemer (Nemours/ Alfred I. Dupont Hospital for Children )

This presentation describes the clinical implementation of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBIs; Schreibman et al., 2015) in a hospital-based autism center. Parents of young children recently diagnosed with autism are coached on strategies to promote social communication. Different service delivery models (e.g., telehealth) and the strategies comprising the parent-mediated NDBIs will be discussed. Data will be presented about characteristics of the parents and children referred for, enrolled in, and who have completed one of the center’s NDBI programs. As enrollment in NDBIs is ongoing, we anticipate including additional data related to child social communication and other behaviors over time, and other factors potentially related to enrollment and completion of NDBI programs. Important considerations for implementation of parent-mediated NDBIs in a hospital-based clinic setting will be discussed, including advantages, possible barriers, need for modifications, and future directions for research and practice.

Diversity submission 

Follow the Children: A Group-Based Application of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention for Preschool Children With Autism

(Service Delivery)
MEGHAN KANE (University of Pennsylvania), Julia Waldman (University of Pennsylvania), David Mandell (University of Pennsylvania)

Group-learning models for young children with autism provide environments rich with opportunities for teaching social communication and interaction skills. Comprehensive preschool programs that incorporate naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention (NDBI) strategies have produced improvements in children’s social communication skills, social engagement, and core ASD symptoms (Stahmer & Ingersoll, 2004; Strain & Bovey, 2011). This presentation will provide an overview of an NDBI treatment model delivered within a group program for preschool-aged children with autism. A description of the treatment model and subsequent changes in children’s social communication skills for 20 preschool-aged children enrolled in the program will be discussed. Staff fidelity was measured using a direct observation fidelity tool designed to measure the core components of a group-based NDBI model. Fidelity was high and averaged over 87% accuracy across all NDBI components. Changes in children’s social communication were measured at baseline and following six months of intervention using the Social Communication Checklist, a curriculum-based measure of social communication. Improvements were observed across all domains, with significant improvements in the group’s overall social communication score (p < .05), social engagement (p <.01), and play skills (p <.05). Implications for research and practice incorporating NDBI into group-based treatment programs will be discussed.

Diversity submission 

Self-Reported Utilization of Developmental and Behavioral Intervention Techniques by Applied Behavior Analysis Providers

(Service Delivery)
KYLE M FROST (Michigan State University), Brooke Ingersoll (Michigan State University )

Naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions (NDBIs; Schreibman et al., 2015) are a class of early interventions for autism spectrum disorder with growing empirical support, however, their similarity to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as delivered in the community is unknown. This online survey-based study characterized the self-reported utilization of developmental and behavioral intervention techniques in a large sample of ABA providers (n=368) and explored what aspects of provider background predict utilization. Respondents rated the extent to which they used each of a number of intervention techniques in a recent session with a specific child. ABA providers self-reported less use of developmental techniques than behavioral techniques, t(356)=-26.35, p<0.001. Providers with greater self-reported competency in NDBIs reported more frequent use of developmental techniques (Table 1); NDBI competency was not related to use of behavioral techniques, which were reported at high levels across providers. Point-biserial correlations indicated some trending relationships with training background such that providers with a background in psychology reported greater use of developmental techniques and those with backgrounds in ABA and special education reported less use (Table 1). Results suggest that further research on the similarities and differences between NDBIs and ABA delivered in the community is warranted.




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