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 #385
CE Offered: BACB
Maintaining Socially Meaningful Outcomes During the COVID-19 Pandemic at a Private School for Children With Autism
Monday, May 31, 2021
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: OBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Emily Gallant (Somerset Hills Learning Institute)
Discussant: Sandra R. Gomes (Somerset Hills Learning Institute)
CE Instructor: Sandra R. Gomes, Ph.D.

Meeting the needs of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a daunting task under the best of circumstances. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, typical in-person service delivery can carry a significant risk of severe harm to clients, family and caregivers, staff, and an overburdened healthcare system. As such, our small, private, not-for-profit New Jersey school for children with ASD developed a comprehensive set of procedures designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while returning to in-person instruction following state-mandated school closure. We will discuss technology-based changes implemented during state-mandated school lockdown and physical plant modifications, as well as changes required of administrative, supervisory, and teaching staff. Foundational to our plan is a rotating schedule designed to maximize in-person instructional time, while allowing an interceding duration that exceeds estimated COVID-19 incubation times. In-person, in-building instruction alternates between two student-instructor cohorts; virtual instruction occurs during opposing weeks. Further policies designed to reduce the opportunity for COVID-19 transmission govern our in-person instructional activities. We further discuss our hypothesis regarding the contribution of our ongoing professionalism training model to adherence to these procedures, and contextualize the financial and time costs of developing and implementing them with respect to student outcomes.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): autism, behavioral systems, COVID-19, schoolwide policy
Target Audience:

The target audience is behavior analysts providing in-person school- or center-based instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic and those designing and implementing policies for such sites. This could include individuals in administrative or supervisory roles. The target audience also includes those who develop, implement, and monitor the effectiveness of professionalism training procedures, digital data analysis tools for a variety of levels within and organization, and behavioral systems.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) provide examples of digital tools that may help an organization to maintain data-based accountability for desired behavior change at the individual service recipient, classroom, and schoolwide levels; (2) ascertain to what extent a set of infection control policies and procedures is comprehensive in nature, particularly with respect to preventing transmission of COVID-19; (3) describe how to create a professional culture in which individual staff members' and stakeholders' (e.g., parents'/caregivers') behavior reliably align with requests made and expectations described by the organization.

Using Technology to Maintain Performance Outcomes and Promote Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic at a Private School for Children With Autism

KEVIN J. BROTHERS (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Debbie Ann Brothers (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Sandra R. Gomes (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), E. Dennis Machado (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Paul Shreiber (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Tara Ferrigno (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), David May (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Emily Gallant (Somerset Hills Learning Institute)

Like many educational institutions, our organization faced an extremely short runway for transitioning to remote from in-person services due to state-mandated school lockdown orders in early 2020. This presentation describes the policies and procedures put in place to ensure professionalism, transition from paper-based to digital data summary and analysis, appropriate supervision, curriculum modification, and program-level performance analysis during remote instruction. Additional technology supported a smooth return to in-person instruction. Among other tools, this includes COVID-19 daily symptom screening via a smartphone application; rapid saliva test kit shipping, supervision, and results communication; ongoing region-based risk tracking; and service delivery hour monitoring to ensure satisfaction of minimum state-mandated hour requirements and provide a basis for celebrating the provision of additional service hours. We will discuss how policies regarding virtual meetings between staff members contribute to adherence to described expectations, and how the organization approached delivering professional feedback in a virtual setting.


Preventing Transmission of COVID-19 During Return to In-Person Instruction at a Private School for Children With Autism

Debbie Brothers (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), KEVIN BROTHERS (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Sandra R. Gomes (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), E. Dennis Machado (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Paul Shreiber (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Tara Ferrigno (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), David May (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Priya P Patil (Caldwell University)

This presentation will detail the measures taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during in-person instruction in the school building. To best safeguard our consumers and staff, we found it was necessary to not only meet, but exceed federal, state, and local guidelines and requirements. Procedures include exclusion based on the results of smartphone-application-based symptom screening and saliva tests; conservative policies about exclusion on the basis of symptoms appearing during the school day while present in the building; mask policies, hand hygiene policies, and physical distancing policies; physically-distanced pickup and dropoff; policies surrounding mask-free activities (e.g., consuming lunch). Special emphasis will be placed on environmental changes implemented to support successful adherence to these policies and expectations, e.g, provision of touch-free timers in restrooms to ensure a sufficient duration of hand-washing, signage detailing physical distancing and mask policies, physical distancing floor markers. The time and financial cost of designing, procuring, and implementing these measures will be discussed in the context of response effort and maximizing instructional hours while in school.




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