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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #306
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Diversity submission Partnering to Empower Staff in the Trenches: Strategies for Dealing With Trauma Underlying Challenging Behavior
Sunday, May 29, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 156A
Area: CSS/CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Jeannie A. Golden (East Carolina University)
Discussant: Gabrielle Morgan (Bay Path University)
CE Instructor: Gabrielle Morgan, Ph.D.

Behavior analysts frequently encounter staff such as teachers, administrators, and youth counselors who deal with youth exhibiting challenging behaviors that may be related to the trauma these youth are experiencing. Moreover, the youth who are experiencing this trauma are often youth of color who may be retraumatized by the traditional means of dealing with challenging behavior. Unfortunately, behavior analysts may lack the skills for dealing with these challenging behaviors and the related trauma and thus are unable to assist staff in their efforts. A partnership developed among the leadership of Together Helping Reduce Youth Violence for Equity (ThrYve), a program for youth at the University of Kansas, a private provider of services to youth in schools, and a university professor and doctoral student at East Carolina University. The goal of this partnership was to provide information, training, and support to staff working with youth in the ThrYve program as well as other community programs. Presenters in this symposium will provide information about the ThrYve program, the structure and resources provided in the training that took place, effective strategies for dealing with traumatized youth and their challenging behaviors, and lessons learned about empowering staff to implement these strategies.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Participants can include BCBAs, teachers, school administrators, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, counselors, therapists, and social workers. Participants should be familiar with terms including verbal behavior, discriminative stimuli, establishing and abolishing operations, and positive and negative reinforcement, and have experience and examples dealing with those terms.

Learning Objectives: At the completion of this symposium, participants will be able to: 1. Describe the structure and goals of ThrYve, a community-based intervention to address youth violence 2. Describe the structure and goals of START ANU Behavior, a training program for staff who work with traumatized youth exhibiting challenging behaviors 3. Describe several trauma-based strategies that consist of changing staff verbal behavior when dealing with challenging behavior of traumatized youth 4. Describe lessons that were learned from a pilot study that represented a collaboration among programs and universities with the goal of empowering staff to implement trauma-based strategies
Diversity submission 

ThrYve: Addressing Youth Violence Using a Trauma-Informed, Behavioral-Community Approach

Jomella Watson-Thompson (University of Kansas), Malika N. Pritchett (University of Kansas)

The consequences of youth violence are long-term, causing adverse health effects and negative impacts on life outcomes, including trauma. In Kansas City, Kansas (KCK), 28% of homicides in 2016 involved youth, 92% of victims were racial and ethnic minorities. Using the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Framework for Collaborative Action in Communities, this study examines Together Helping Reduce Youth Violence for Equity (ThrYve), a community-based intervention to address youth violence. ThrYve engages more than 40 community partners across 16 sectors through a Systems Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB coalition supports implementation of cross-sector, collaborative strategies by facilitating systems changes across socioecological levels to address factors that contribute to youth violence and prevent trauma. ThrYve supported the implementation of 87 system changes to address youth violence. As a result, the SAB facilitated more than 90 community action and community change activities. Implementation results demonstrate a marked increase in services and systems changes addressing factors impacting youth violence. The project provides social validity for addressing disparities in youth violence and trauma prevention by implementing and sustaining systems-level approaches. Factors that influenced collaboration will be explored including developing and using a strategic plan, data-informed decision-making, and building staff capacity to implement trauma-informed interventions.

Diversity submission 

START ANU Behavior: Providing Staff With Skills to Support Traumatized Youth Exhibiting Challenging Behaviors

PAULA Y FLANDERS (, Danielle Webb (East Carolina University)

Sensitive to Trauma Assessment and Relationship Training to Alter Negativity Underlying Behavior (START ANU Behavior) is a manualized training program especially designed to provide staff with the skills to support youth, many of whom are youth of color, who have experienced trauma and are exhibiting violent, aggressive, and other challenging behaviors. The START ANU Behavior program was provided online by three facilitators who conducted workshops over the course of four mornings. The first two mornings consisted of content and information sharing and the second two mornings involved modeling, role-play, feedback, and practice of specific strategies. These training days were followed by five online consultation sessions over several weeks. These consultation sessions were used to assist staff who were trying to implement new strategies with youth that they worked with. Staff were also provided with a training manual to use as a reference guide with written scenarios, sample behavioral intervention plans, and checklists providing steps for the various strategies.

Diversity submission Trauma-Based Responses to Challenging Behavior of Traumatized Youth: Changing Verbal Behavior of Staff
DANIELLE WEBB (East Carolina University), paula y flanders (
Abstract: The verbal behavior of staff toward youth can serve as motivating operations that can either encourage (establishing) or discourage (abolishing) aggressive, violent, oppositional, or defiant behavior. When strong emotional reactions and physiological responses are brought about by underlying trauma, techniques such as reflective listening, reframing, empathy, paradoxical intention, reinforcement, validating, and debriefing can serve as abolishing operations for these challenging behaviors. However, when staff are constantly the target of many of these behaviors, it is very difficult to respond using these strategies. Staff need both the skills and the motivation to respond to challenging behaviors in these in trauma-sensitive ways. Presenters will describe and demonstrate how to provide staff with the skills and motivation to use these techniques with traumatized youth.
Diversity submission 

START ANU Behavior: Lessons Learned About Empowering Staff to Implement Trauma-Sensitive Strategies

JOMELLA WATSON-THOMPSON (University of Kansas), Malika N. Pritchett (University of Kansas)

Changing staff behavior has long been recognized as a difficult endeavor. Particularly when staff are being subjected to violent, aggressive, oppositional, and defiant behavior from youth, it is difficult to maintain a calm demeanor and provide therapeutic responses to their behaviors. Research has indicated that providing staff with didactic information alone does not change staff behavior. Behavior skills training has been demonstrated to be efficacious in training staff (Little &Tarbox, 2019). In our staff training program, staff were provided with two days (two-and-a- half hours each) of didactic information and then two days (two-and-a- half hours each) of modeling, role-play, and practice of the techniques that were taught. Follow-up was provided where staff received further practice and support of these techniques during five sessions over several months. Pre and post role-play videos, written scenarios, and surveys assessing opinions, attitudes, and beliefs were used to evaluate this training program. Much was learned about how to effectively facilitate change in staff who are on the front lines dealing with youth who have experienced trauma and are exhibiting challenging behavior.




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