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 #373
CE Offered: BACB
Acceptance and Commitment Training: Evaluating Direct Measures of Overt Behaviours Across Populations
Monday, May 31, 2021
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: CBM/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kendra Thomson (Brock University )
Discussant: Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)
CE Instructor: Kendra Thomson, Ph.D.

Acceptance and commitment training (ACTraining) is a third wave, empirically supported behavioural intervention that has been demonstrated to improve the quality of life across numerous populations. ACTraining differs from Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), as ACT focuses on the therapeutic delivery in the psychotherapy realm. Comparatively, ACTraining focuses on providing individuals with the tools to implement ACT in their daily lives. With increasing interest in ACTraining within the field of behaviour analysis, this symposium explores its diverse application across a variety of populations. Presenters will explore the use of direct measures of overt behaviours when training mediators to facilitate ACTraining, the delivery of ACTraining in a group format for caregivers of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities, and the implementation of ACTraining in an individual format with caregivers, staff, and individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Discussion also includes the delivery of ACTraining within the scope of behaviour analysis, adapting the delivery of ACTraining to a telecommunication format, gaps in the ACT literature, and potential future directions.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): ACTraining, caregivers, direct measurement, neurodevelopmental disabilities
Target Audience:

Designed for: Students, researchers, and Clinicians

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation participants will be able to: 1. Describe how to use direct measures when implementing ACT 2. Discuss various gaps in the ACT literature 3. Describe how direct measurements of ACT processes can be implemented with a variety of populations 4. Describe how self-monitoring can be incorporated into an ACT intervention 5. Assess & describe the pros and cons of providing an intervention using a telecommunication platform

A Systematic Review of Acceptance and Commitment Training in the Behavioral Intervention of Individuals With Autism and Developmental Disorders

VICTORIA DANIELA CASTILLO (Endicott College), Emma Isabel Moon (Pepperdine University), Adel C. Najdowski (Pepperdine University)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a contemporary approach to dealing with unhelpful private events and improving psychological flexibility (Hayes et al., 2006) that is often used in psychotherapy (Szabo, 2019). Non-psychotherapeutic uses of ACT have been referred to as Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACTraining; Moran, 2011, 2015; Szabo, 2019), which refers to the use of six processes: present moment attention/mindfulness, values clarification, committed action, self-as-context, defusion, and acceptance (Hayes et al., 2006), implemented in the context of a training method.Recent interest in ACTraining within the behavior analytic community has led behavior analysts to question whether ACTraining is truly useful to the field and whether it’s within their scope of practice. Tarbox et al. (2020) have proposed that the use of ACTraining is within the scope of practice of behavior analysts and aligns with the seven dimensions of ABA as outlined by Baer et al. (1968). Thus, the purpose of this study was to provide a review of single-case research designs measuring the behavioral effects of ACTraining components conducted with individuals with ASD/DD, their parents, and/or their staff and to inform clinicians/researchers about what variables have been evaluated and what gaps still exist.


Implementing and Evaluating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the Context of ABA for Children With Autism

AMANDA N. CHASTAIN (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids), Alexandra Little (University of Southern California), Erica Baron (FirstSteps for Kids, Inc.), Courtney Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids, Inc.), Tom G. Szabo (Florida Institute of Technology), Taira Bermudez (FirstSteps for Kids)

While research on the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) with individuals with autism has been increasing in recent years, it remains true that there are limited data demonstrating its effectiveness on generating overt behavior change for this population in the applied clinical context. The current presentation reviews a series of treatment evaluations which used multiple baseline designs to analyze the effects of ACT interventions on overt behavior change for children with autism as a part of their clinical ABA treatment. Based on an initial analysis of the participants indirect acting contingencies, multiple exemplar training was used to teach one of the six behavioral repertoires outlined on the ACT Hexaflex (acceptance, present moment, self as context, defusion, values, or committed action). Results of these evaluations suggest that ACT strategies can produce socially significant behavior change in this population with generalization to direct care staff. Maintenance data and social validity data were also collected and will be discussed.


Self-Monitoring Committed Actions During Acceptance and Commitment Training for Caregivers of People With Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

AMANDA MARCINKIEWICZ (Brock University), Kendra Thomson (Brock University ), Carly Magnacca (Brock University), Sarah Davis (Brock University), Lee Steel (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)), Linda Moroz (Bethesda), Yona Lunsky (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH))

Caregivers of people with neurodevelopmental disabilities often experience greater psychological distress than other caregivers. Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) has been shown to decrease this psychological distress. Limited research has measured a core component of ACT (committed actions), which could be crucial in understanding how ACT can improve life satisfaction. In two separate studies, we asked caregivers in an in-person ACT-workshop (N=11) and caregivers in a virtual adaptation of the ACT-workshop (N=14) to complete standard psychological measures and self-monitor their frequency of committed actions pre-, post- and 1-month follow-up. Post-ACT, the in-person group average frequency of self-monitoring committed actions increased from 0 in baseline to 3.9 days per-week across four weeks, which returned to baseline levels in follow-up. Statistical analyses indicated therapeutic trends for all psychological measures, with decreases in parenting stress scores approaching statistical significance. Post-ACT, the virtual ACT-workshop results for self-monitoring increased from 0.33 in baseline to 3.56 days per-week across seven weeks. Statistical analyses indicated significant results for decreasing parenting stress, depression, anxiety and stress. Follow-up results are currently being collected. Results may help inform how self-monitoring committed actions may impact or relate to self-reported measures of psychological distress and impact the overall ACT experience for caregivers.


Evaluating Behavioural Skills Training via Telecommunication to Teach Mediators to Facilitate Acceptance and Commitment Training

CARLY MAGNACCA (Brock University), Amanda Marcinkiewicz (Brock University), Sarah Davis (Brock University), Lee Steel (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)), Yona Lunsky (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)), Kenneth Fung (University of Toronto), Tricia Corinne Vause (Brock University), Kendra Thomson (Brock University )

Multiple randomized control trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of acceptance and commitment training (ACT) for improving the quality of life of numerous populations, including caregivers of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. However, little research has been conducted on effective methods to train facilitators to lead ACT experiential exercises in general, with even less research incorporating caregivers as co-facilitators. To increase potential facilitators’ access to ACT facilitation training and reduce geographical barriers, a telecommunication format may be leveraged. The aim of this research was to examine the effect of providing behavioural skills training via telecommunication to caregiver and clinician facilitators across Canada that had already received a manualized, group-based ACT facilitation training to prepare to facilitate ACT workshops themselves. This study included a total of five caregivers and three clinicians, where quantitative data on fidelity and confidence was collected at baseline, post-training, and at 1-month follow-up using a multiple-baseline design. The results from this study suggest that implementing behavioural skills training to teach facilitators to provide ACT greatly improved the facilitators’ fidelity implementing three ACT exercises. Increasing the number of competently trained facilitators will help build capacity to increase caregivers’ access to ACT, ideally resulting in decreased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression this population has reported experiencing.




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