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 #239
CE Offered: BACB
Reassessing ABA Practice and Acceptance During COVID-19: Where Does Your Organization Stand?
Sunday, May 30, 2021
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Area: AUT/OBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: Noor Syed (SUNY Empire State College; Anderson Center International; Endicott College)
CE Instructor: Sara Gershfeld Litvak, M.S.

The sudden emergence and ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19 led many behavioral health organizations to reassess how they deliver applied behavior analysis (ABA) services as well as the skills that employees need to effectively execute their job functions. This reassessment for how services would be delivered resulted in ABA sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic that looked significantly different than ABA sessions delivered pre-COVID-19. In this symposium, we will share the results of three studies that measured the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of ABA services. The first presenter will discuss the importance of compassion and empathy as a soft skill for behavior analysts, and how those skills can be taught using Behavior Skills Training. The second talk discusses parental acceptance of Telehealth to replace in-person ABA therapy. The final talk discusses the impact of COVID-19 on ABA practitioner job satisfaction and their perception of care quality. All presenters will discuss the implications of their findings and future steps.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): behavior-skills-training, COVID-19, employee satisfaction, telehealth
Target Audience:

Practicing behavior analysts or patient's/caregivers of those who receive ABA services.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe how COVID-19 has changed the delivery of ABA services; (2) the impact of changing service delivery on parents of patients who receive ABA services; and (3) the impact of changing service delivery on the staff who deliver ABA services.
Adding Soft Skills to the Repertoires of Behavior Analysts: Using Behavior Skills Training to Teach Compassion and Empathy
(Applied Research)
KAREN ROSE (Northborough/Southborough Public Schools), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College)
Abstract: In recent years, the concept of soft skills, including those that demonstrate compassion and empathy had a place in the field of behavior analysis. Behavior analysis takes pride in their adherence to the science, data and practice of evidence-based treatment. The commitment to clients includes making socially significant changes in behavior to improve the quality of life for clients and families. With the surge in the number of practicing behavior analysts, criticism has ranged from being too rigid when collaborating with families and other treatment providers as well as not listening or taking into consideration the wants and needs of the families (Taylor, LeBlanc & Nosik, 2018). Further studies of those practicing in the field of behavior analysis indicate that while their training programs may excel at teaching the technical skills there lack of training and focus on training of soft skills such as active listening, Making empathic statements, asking clarifying questions. The purpose of this study is to use the evidence-based Behavior Skills Training Model to teach pre-credentialed behavior analysts soft skills to augment their technical skills. Seven pre-credentialed Masters students participated in three one-hour Behavior Skills trainings in the area of three soft skills; Active Listening, Making Empathic Statements and Asking Clarifying questions. With the use of behavior skills training, 6 graduate students of behavior analysis demonstrated and maintained skill acquisition of three soft skills including: active listening, Making empathic statements and asking clarifying questions.

Parental Acceptance of Telehealth to Replace In-Person ABA Therapy at the Onset of COVID

(Applied Research)
JENNA ARANKI ( Easterseals), Amin Duff Lotfizadeh (Easterseals Southern California), Patricia I. Wright (Behavioral Health Center of Excellence )

Addressing issues of disparity in access to treatment for children with autism has gained increased attention. COVID-19 has been documented to disproportionally affect disenfranchised populations in both its direct health effects and have a greater impact on the upstream social determinants of health such as financial well-being, access to education, etc. The purpose of this retrospective study was to assess known factors that affect autism treatment (e.g. severity of symptomology, behavioral excesses) and care-providers acceptance or rejection of ABA telehealth services at the onset of COVID-19. Rejection of telehealth resulted in the absence of any behavior analytic services to patients. This study reports on an initial convenience sample (∼100 patients) of a larger sample size (∼1500 patients) from a service provider in Southern California. A t-test for the convenience sample found significance for one variable but not others. Additional measures are being conducted and a randomized sample of the patient population is being analyzed. If particular variables are found to be significant in the randomized sample, interventions may be tailored to decrease the disparity and ensure more children do not experience a disruption in service should telehealth be required as a treatment modality.


Impact of COVID-19 on ABA Practitioner Job Satisfaction and Perceived Care Quality

(Applied Research)
SARA GERSHFELD LITVAK (Behavioral Health Center of Excellence), David J. Cox (Behavioral Health Center of Excellence; Endicott College), Melissa Cottengim (Behavioral Health Center of Excellence), Ellie Kazemi (Behavioral Health Center of Excellence)

The sudden emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to economies, businesses, and workers nationwide – including behavior analysis workers. During the pandemic, we administered a survey to all BACB certificants to identify the variables that best predicted perceived COVID-19-related change in service quality and the impact of COVID-19 on job status. Using regression analyses, we found that perceived negative change in ABA service quality was influenced most by low confidence using Telehealth technologies, changes in the setting of service delivery, and a higher number of cancelled sessions. Our findings also indicate that COVID had a greater impact on job status for respondents who were younger, had lower certification status (i.e., RBT, BCaBA), had lower positions in the company (e.g., frontline staff), and for those who worked in home and clinical settings. In short, this presentation highlights who was impacted most by COVID-19 and in what ways. Understanding this information opens the door to field-wide collaboration to develop and disseminate effective strategies to mitigate the negative impact of future events that have far-reaching economic impact.




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