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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #15
CE Offered: BACB
What Are We Doing? Asking Behavior Analysts About Their Approaches to Research and Practice
Saturday, May 27, 2023
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 2A
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Faris R Kronfli (University of Florida)
Discussant: Linda A. LeBlanc (LeBlanc Behavioral Consulting LLC)
CE Instructor: Tyra Paige Sellers, Ph.D.

Surveys provide us with a better understanding of commonly implemented procedures in practice. This symposium will present data from four studies that used surveys completed by BACB certificants at various levels across a variety of topics. These included questions regarding a) types of preference assessments implemented, b) factors that influence changing reinforcers on a momentary basis, c) the use of social and non-social reinforcers, and d) the use of a medical vs social model when identifying target behaviors. A discussion regarding the findings will be presented in addition to future directions to guide behavior-analytic practice.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): medical model, preference assessments, qualitative assessments, reinforcer assessments
Target Audience:

Researchers and practitioners who are certified as at least an RBT, of have more than 2 years of experience working with individuals diagnosed with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation participants will be able to: 1) Distinguish between the medical and social models of disability. 2) Understand why and how clinicians change reinforcers on a momentary basis. 3) Describe the various preference assessment methods used in practice.
Surveying Preference Assessments Used by Behavior Analysis Professionals: A Replication of Graff & Karsten (2012)
DANIEL E CONINE (Georgia State University), Samuel L Morris (Louisiana State University), Crystal M. Slanzi (Temple University), Faris R Kronfli (University of Florida), Hannah M Etchison (Georgia State University)
Abstract: Stimulus preference assessments are commonly used in behavior-analytic research and practice to make data-based decisions about stimuli to use as reinforcers for a variety of interventions. A large body of research supports the use of a wide range of specific direct preference assessment methodologies. However, previous research also indicates that a number of practical barriers inhibit the frequent use of preference assessments by professionals in clinical and educational practice (Graff & Karsten, 2012). The current study conducted a survey to replicate and extend these findings 10 years later. Survey respondents included BCBAs, BCBA-Ds, BCaBAs, and RBTs from six different countries, conducting behavior-analytic practice in a variety of applied contexts. Respondents were asked about preference assessment methods that they use in their practice, and with what regularity they used each method. Results largely replicated the findings of prior research: most respondents reported using formal stimulus preference assessments only infrequently. We also surveyed respondents regarding their use of less formal or indirect approaches to preference assessment, which respondents reported using more frequently. Data were also analyzed for differences in participant responses as a function of certification level, years of experience, and populations served. Implications of these findings for practice and future research will be discussed.
Understanding How and Why Behavior Analysts Change Reinforcers on a Momentary Basis: A Survey and Qualitative Analysis
HANNAH M ETCHISON (Georgia State University), Samuel L Morris (Louisiana State University), Daniel E Conine (Georgia State University), Crystal M. Slanzi (Temple University), Faris R Kronfli (University of Florida)
Abstract: Previous research recommends clinicians make frequent use of preference assessments in order to improve the effectiveness of reinforcement. One potential solution proposed in recent research is to conduct momentary preference assessments, to select new reinforcers during a teaching session. However, it remains unclear whether, why, and how clinicians change reinforcers on a momentary basis. Therefore, this study aimed to determine common reasons for, and methods of, changing reinforcers in practice by asking participants to explain why and how they change reinforcers in both open-ended and selection-based questions. Most respondents who indicated that they often change reinforcers during a session, do so when the client mands for or attends to different stimuli or refuses the current stimulus, and identify the new reinforcer based on recent client behaviors (e.g., mands) or by providing an informal choice between stimuli. Responses did not vary meaningfully based on respondent credentials, client characteristics, or service goals. Implications for clinical practice as well as future research on methods of momentary preference assessment and reinforcer identification are discussed.

On the Identification and Use of Social Versus Non-Social Reinforcers: Clinical, Research, and Educational Practices

SAMUEL L MORRIS (Louisiana State University), Madison Leigh Gallagher (Southeastern Louisiana University)

Recent research has developed several methods that are effective at identifying individualized social reinforcers and utilizing social reinforcers may be beneficial for several reasons. However, the relative likelihood of utilizing social versus non-social reinforcers in research and practice remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to evaluate how likely behavior analysts (BAs) are to employ social versus non-social reinforcers in research and practice. We surveyed 362 BACB certificants to determine how likely BAs were to utilize different types of reinforcers in practice and reviewed the past 7 years of research in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis to determine how likely BAs were to utilize different types of reinforcers in research. Results suggest that non-social reinforcers are used more frequently than social reinforcers in research and practice. In both cases, when social reinforcers were employed, they were often generic not individualized. Finally, we surveyed verified course sequence coordinators to evaluate how educational practices may contribute to these clinical and research practices. Our results suggest many course sequences do not cover the identification of social reinforcers and, when they do, little time is allocated to doing so. Implications and recommendations for future research and practice are discussed.

The Medical Versus Social Model of Disability: Are We Changing Client Behavior or Creating More Inclusive Environments?
CRYSTAL M. SLANZI (Temple University), Daniel E Conine (Georgia State University), Samuel L Morris (Louisiana State University), Faris R Kronfli (University of Florida), Mark Salzer (Temple University)
Abstract: Traditionally behavior analytic services for autistic individuals and those with intellectual disabilities have leaned toward a medical model of disability with treatment focused on reducing challenging behaviors and improving skill deficits. Recently, applied behavior analysis has been criticized for utilizing interventions and treatment goals that promote the "normalization" of behavior. In response, some have suggested that we shift toward a social model of disability to promote inclusion by working with others to be more accommodating and accepting of a wider range of behaviors. We evaluated the clinical practices of certified behavior analysts related to inclusion using a survey. We specifically asked the degree to which they would focus on changing client behavior to fit the environment (medical model) better or work with others or change the environment to better fit the client’s repertoire (social model). To date, we have 60 respondents who completed the entire survey. Although we observed a high level of variability across participants, our results suggest that behavior analysts often employ both strategies by changing clients’ behavior as well as their environment or the behavior of others in their environment.



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