Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis InternationalĀ® (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 #155
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission Beyond Direct Assessment and Treatment: Addressing the Safety of Individuals Who Engage in Problem Behavior When First Responders Must be Called
Saturday, May 29, 2021
6:00 PM–6:50 PM
Area: CSS/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Sarah Slocum (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine)
CE Instructor: Sarah Slocum, Ph.D.

Behavior analysts have a history of demonstrating large-scale reductions in severe behavior disorders among the individuals we serve. While this may lead to a quality-of-life improvement, problem behavior is not likely to be eliminated entirely. As such, there are still times in which problem behavior could produce significant danger to an individual, including when unaware or untrained first-responders answer a crisis. The current symposium will first include a presentation on survey results related to the physical and emotional impact of problem behavior on caregivers as well as modifications caregivers have made to their homes to prevent damage caused by problem behavior. These impacts may be critical when training first-responders or other professionals who may be called upon to mitigate the impact of problem behavior. Second, we will present caregiver reports of the use of first-responder services based on their child’s demographics (e.g., race, ethnicity, age, and type of challenging behavior exhibited). Finally, we will show an effective procedure to teach law enforcement officers strategies to promote compliance when responding to a crisis. Overall, these presentations will go beyond the direct reduction of problem behavior to begin to address the safety of individuals with severe behavior disorders during emergency circumstances.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): first responders, law enforcement, problem behavior
Target Audience:

N/A - Basic level

Learning Objectives: 1. identify critical physical and emotional barriers facing families of individuals who engage in problem behavior. 2. understand the impact demographic presentations have on families' uses of first-responders. 3. implement behavioral skills training on critical strategies for first-responders to obtain compliance among individuals with problem behavior.
Diversity submission Caregiver Report on the Social and Environmental Impact of Challenging Behavior
AMANDA KAZEE (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine), Kortney Rist (30329), Grace Binion (Marcus Autism Center), Mindy Christine Scheithauer (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: Most researchers measure challenging behavior with direct observations or parent-report of the frequency/duration. While important, this information often does not address the severity of the behavior as it relates to the impact that the behavior has on the child, the family, or others in the community. The purpose of this study is to describe outcomes from a structured interview conducted with a large sample (N > 400) of parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities referred to a behavioral treatment program for the primary concern of challenging behavior. Domains assessed included: environmental changes to the home; avoiding certain activities or tasks; damage to property; physical harm to self or others; and contacting emergency or crisis services. Caregivers reported a large degree of negative impact from challenging behavior. Over 80% reported physical injury, over 70% damage to items or the home, and over 40% made structural modifications to their home. It is important to consider these impacts when working with families of children who engage in challenging behavior, both when considering necessary resources and when training first-responders or other professionals who may be called upon to mitigate the impact of challenging behavior.
Diversity submission 

Prevalence of Interactions With First Responders: Report From Caregivers of Children Who Exhibit Challenging Behaviors

Nadratu Nuhu (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine), Summer Bottini (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine), MADELINE AUGE (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine), Mindy Christine Scheithauer (Marcus Autism Center), Alexis Constantin Pavlov (Marcus Autism Center), Sarah Slocum (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine), Nathan Call (Marcus Autism Center), Colin S. Muething (Marcus Autism Center)

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder who engage in challenging behaviors are at increased likelihood of coming into contact with first responders during crisis situations. Currently the demographic risk factors associated with contacting first responders is unknown. The purpose of this study is to examine whether caregivers report differential use of first responder services based on their child’s demographics, including race, ethnicity, age, and type of challenging behavior exhibited. Experimenters evaluated 579 participant case files for information regarding caregivers’ use of first responders during crisis situations. Findings from the study suggested no significant differences in contacting emergency services based on race. In regards to ethnicity, findings indicated individuals who identify as Hispanic are less likely to contact emergency services in response to their child engaging in challenging behaviors than those that identify as non-Hispanic. We discuss the clinical implications of outcomes and present areas of future research.

Diversity submission 

Preparing Law Enforcement Officers to Engage Successfully With Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Evaluation of a Performance-Based Approach

KARLIE AMELIA HINKLE (UHCL), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake)

Law enforcement officers (LEOs) may use physical force unnecessarily or escalate problem behavior when attempting to gain the compliance of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Copenhaver & Tewksbury, 2019). Although specialized training may remedy this problem, the relatively small literature on such training programs indicates the need for further research (Railey et al., 2020). This study evaluated the outcomes of performance-based instruction on strategies to promote compliance when LEOs respond to calls involving individuals with ASD. Results for three LEOs and 24 police cadets demonstrated the efficacy of behavioral skills training (BST) for teaching LEOs how to interact more effectively with individuals with ASD. Results also suggested that hands-on training should supplement commonly used forms of didactic instruction.




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Modifed by Eddie Soh