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 #474
CE Offered: BACB
A Behavioral-Developmental Approach to Autism Assessment, Data Collection, Intervention, and Curriculum
Monday, May 31, 2021
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Area: AUT/DEV; Domain: Theory
Chair: Michael Lamport Commons (Harvard Medical School)
CE Instructor: Michael Lamport Commons, Ph.D.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, nonverbal communication, and behavioral challenges. An individual diagnosed with ASD may not look different from others, but they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. Because there is no definitive medical test, diagnosing ASD can be difficult. Research has shown that intervention can improve a child’s overall development and the earlier it occurs, the more effective it may be. In this symposium, we introduce a diagnostic tool designed to improve a very early diagnosis of autism. The tool is informed by extensive research on the Model of Hierarchical Complexity, a behavioral developmental model of tasks. The Model allows for the scaling of behaviors, tasks, reinforcers, stimuli, etc. in terms of their Hierarchical Complexity, a form of difficulty. This kind of scaling explains developmental sequences. The symposium first describes the Behavioral Developmental Autism Instrument, including how it was devised, how the data is being collected, and comparison to other assessments. The second paper illustrates how the Model of Hierarchical Complexity can be used to generate a developmental sequence of reinforcers. The third paper applies the model to curriculum development.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Behavioral Development, Developmental Disability, Early Intervention, Hierarchical Complexity
Target Audience:

People who are interested in learning more about early warning signs in infants and know where to intervene. Those who want to learn more about what behavioral stage of development to intervene at, and at what behavioral developmental stage ASD people are functioning at.

Learning Objectives: They are to learn about at what level of difficulty to do the interventions and at what level the interventions are appropriate.
The Behavioral Developmental Autism Instrument
PATRICE MARIE MILLER (Salem State University)
Abstract: The purpose of the study to be presented was to test a new behavioral-developmental instrument to see how well it predicted performance in participants diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The items in the instrument are ordered based on the Model of Hierarchical Complexity, a developmental model. Each item consists of a task that the child is asked to perform. Some items were created from our experience with children with an ASD diagnosis, some based on experience or existing scales used with typically developing children. The assessment starts with behaviors that occur in very early infancy. If a child is shown to successfully perform the earliest items, the instrument moves on to more complex items. Multiple domains of behavior are assessed. The aim is to allow for a possible earlier diagnosis of autism and also to provide a basis for interventions. Because it assesses specific behaviors it has been shown to be easier to use, providing face valid results. Results from multiple sites on the use of this instrument will be presented.

Testing of an Instrument Measuring Reinforcer Preferences in Children

Mansi Shah (Dare Institute), SHUTONG WEI (Dare Association, Inc.)

Operant conditioning procedures are used to investigate various developmental emotional and socialization processes (e.g., Gewirtz & Pelaez-Nogueras, 1992). The choice of what reinforcers to use has been conducted in somewhat of an ad hoc manner. This presentation introduces a way to scale reinforcers in terms of their likely effectiveness for children at different behavioral stages of development. Reinforcers are scaled in terms of their complexity using the Model of Hierarchical Complexity. This model applies a mathematically based scale to different tasks and behaviors (including reinforcing events). A brief example would be that for some children perhaps only a food-based reinforcer would work. For another saying “Good job” would work. Based pm this model, we have generated an ordered list of reinforcers. This can be used to ascertain which specific reinforcers are effective for each particular child. This presentation will show preliminary results on whether or not the sequences are as predicted. Ultimately it will provide a list of a large number of reinforcing events that may be effective when working with a wide range of children.


Mapping a Teaching Curriculum Based on the Autism Developmental Instrument

Patrice Miller (Salem State University), MICHAEL LAMPORT COMMONS (Harvard Medical School)

Previously, this research group has proposed that a teaching curriculum based on the Behavioral Developmental Autism Instrument should be more effective. Each item in the instrument is both a behavior that is assessed and behavior that can then be trained if the child does not pass the item. Children with developmental delays or with Autism Spectrum disorders are trained bottom up, starting with items of less difficulty and moving to those with higher difficulty. Currently, there are 121 items in the curriculum. The current presentation will select a few key domains and illustrate possible sequences of behaviors that could be used in teaching and training. Creating teaching curricula from the instrument will facilitate interventions since the child will be placed at the right level of difficulty to learn. That is, the item will not be too easy and will also not be too difficult. Using the sequences as guides will also be effective so that steps in learning certain behaviors will not be skipped. This curriculum can be beneficial for both typically developing children and children with developmental disabilities across a variety of cultural settings.




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