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 #151
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission What’s the Word on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)? Discourse Analyses Outside and Within Our Discipline
Sunday, May 28, 2023
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: PCH/CSS; Domain: Theory
Chair: Rosemary A. Condillac (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University)
CE Instructor: Rosemary A. Condillac, Ph.D.

In 2021, ABAI President Carol Pilgrim issued a call to action for Behaviour Analysts to examine discourse on ABA and DEI to assist us in finding solutions to current social issues. In this symposium, we are pleased to present three studies using different approaches to analyze discourse relating to ABA. The first study examined the sentiments expressed about ABA on Twitter related to the hashtags #ABA, #BehaviorAnalysis, and #appliedbehaviouranalysis. The second study examined the sentiments and themes expressed in TikTok videos related to the hashtags #ABA, #ABA Therapy, #AppliedbehaviorAnalysis and compared these across speaker groups including autistic adults, families, non-ABA professionals, and ABA Professionals. The third study analysed the abstracts of DEI related presentations at ABAI over a four-year period and reports on themes and trends over time. These studies offer opportunities to reflect on the content of the discourse surrounding ABA and to consider recommendations on ways behaviour analysts might influence that discourse within and outside of our field.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): DEI, Discourse Analysis, Qualitative Methods, Social Media
Target Audience:

Behaviour Analysts interested in learning more about the nature of discourse surrounding ABA on social media, how it has changed over time, and how our inside (ABAI) efforts with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion have evolved, and must continue to evolve to change the narrative inside and outside our community. Researchers and graduate students interested in the use of different qualitative methods to examine discourse.

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will learn about prevailing sentiments and common themes in the discourse surrounding ABA on social media, how it has changed over time, and how our inside (ABAI) efforts concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion have evolved and must continue to evolve to change the narrative outside our community.   2. Participants will learn about different methods of analyzing discourse across three research exemplars and how these methods can be used in solving socially significant problems.   3. Participants will consider the impact of the language in our discourse and how it may strengthen or interfere with our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts
Diversity submission #ExploratoryAnalysisOfSentimentTowardABAonTwitter
ALBERT MALKIN (Western University), Priscilla Burnham Riosa (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University), Laura E. Mullins (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University), Kristi Thompson (Western University), Allison Kretschmer (Western University), Chee Wan (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University)
Abstract: Naturalistic observation of verbal behaviour on social media is a novel method of gathering data on the acceptability of topics of social interest. In other words, online social opinion is a modern-day measure of social validity. We sought to gain an objective understanding of online discourse related to the field of applied behaviour analysis. We conducted an analysis of Twitter posts related to Applied Behavior Analysis (e.g., #ABA, #BehaviorAnalysis,#appliedbehaviouranalysis). Our initial sample consisted of 110,008 Tweets from the past ten years (2012 – 2022). We selected a random subset (n = 12,000) for further analysis using a stratified sampling procedure to ensure that Tweets across years were adequately represented.Two observers were trained to code Tweets for relevance and sentiment toward the field. We will discuss trends regarding the valence (i.e., positive, negative, neutral) of relevant ABA Tweets toward the field in the broad context of observed Tweets. We will suggest some potential paths forward.
Diversity submission Vibe check on TikTok #ABA: Voices, themes, and sentiments
ROSEMARY A. CONDILLAC (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University), Emily Bulten (Brock University, Applied Disability Studies), Kathryn Matthyssen (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University)
Abstract: The field of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is gaining attention on social media, but the kinds of attention are quite variable. In this study we explored videos with #ABA and related hashtags (i.e., #aba, #abatherapy, #appliedbehavioranalysis) to objectively record the sentiments, the speakers, and the common themes being expressed about our science. Videos not specifically related to ABA were excluded from analysis. Using a 3-point scale to measure valence (Negative, Neutral, Positive), two coders analyzed a random sample of 1000 relevant videos, and grouped these data by speaker (ABA professional, Autistic person, Parent/family member of ABA recipient, and other professionals) to identify trends. The video content was reviewed and coded into emerging themes. To examine potential maintaining variables the number of comments for each post were recorded and a randomly selected, representative number of comments were coded for valence. Finally, the number of likes for each video were recorded. We will provide an overview of our results, an opportunity to reflect on the sentiments relating to ABA from different groups, and consider recommendations for behaviour analysts and allies to change the vibe on TikTok and make our own discourse, and practices more inclusive.
Diversity submission 

Talking About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI): Is Our Focus Evolving?

Laura E. Mullins (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University), Rachel Sheppard (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University), REXELLA DWOMOH (Brock University), Amanda Marie Bailey (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University), Sabrina Palmer (Applied Disability Studies, Brock University), Courtney Denise Bishop (Durham College)

Discourse surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have become part of an expanding and evermore present narrative about how to improve practices within Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). As suggested by Dr. Carol Pilgrim, in her 47th ABAI Presidential address, “wouldn’t it seem good to know the nature of this discourse, and be able to follow its development”? This project aimed to describe the changing discourse and the development of DEI at the ABAI Annual Convention since the inception of the DEI subcommittee in 2019. A descriptive analysis provided an overview of the events labelled as DEI, by identifying the frequency of presentation types, domains, and program areas. A summative content analysis was conducted on abstracts labelled as DEI (N = 488) and explored the areas of diversity (e.g., age, gender, disability, religion, ethnicity, and sexuality) and dimensions of diversity (e.g., recognizing discrimination and diversity, and cultural humility), equity (e.g., systematically addressing barriers and individualized accommodations), and inclusion (e.g., cultural competence and creating space). This presentation will provide an overview of the current state of practices and gaps between ABA and the movement toward more inclusive, equitable, and diverse practices.




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