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 #354
Partnering to Empower Staff Dealing With Trauma Underlying Challenging Behavior: What Are the Outcomes?
Monday, May 29, 2023
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 2B
Area: CSS/EDC; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Jeannie A. Golden (East Carolina University)
Discussant: Gabrielle Morgan (Bay Path University)
CE Instructor: Jeannie A. Golden, 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. One year later we have measures of staff attitudes and mindsets as well as behavioral observations of staff role-play and naturalistic interactions with youth.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Challenging Behavior, Staff Training, Trauma Informed, Youth Violence
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 the outcomes of qualitative and quantitative measures of staff mindsets and attitudes; 5. Describe the outcomes of measuring staff exhibiting trauma-informed strategies using a behavioral observation system.
ThrYve: Using a Trauma-Informed Approach to Address Youth Violence
LAURATU BAH (University of Kansas), Jomella Watson-Thompson (University of Kansas), Malika N. Pritchett (University of Kansas), Valerie Thompson (University of Kansas)
Abstract: In the United States, youth violence is a significant public health concern. Black and Hispanic/Latinx youth experience disparities in violence nationally and in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Centers of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention (YVPCs) are academic-community collaborations that advance youth violence prevention research and practice. The YVPC- Kansas City is designed to expand the evidence base for participatory strategies to prevent and reduce youth violence, particularly among Black and Latinx youth. Together Helping Reduce Youth Violence for Equity (ThrYve), is a multi-level, behavioral- community approach to youth violence prevention that supports both universal and targeted strategies for youth and families. At the individual-level, ThrYve provides educational supports including academic enrichment activities; curriculum programming for leadership and life skills development; and youth engagement and navigation. In supporting the ThrYve approach, it is important for staff and volunteers to practice cultural humility in service delivery by identifying and addressing the individual and community-level trauma and related risk factors experienced by those served. This presentation provides trauma-informed strategies that can be implemented across socioecological levels to provide safe and supportive communities through youth violence prevention efforts.
START ANU Behavior: Providing Staff with Trauma-Based Responses to Challenging Behavior of Traumatized Youth
PAULA Y FLANDERS (27703), Danielle Webb (East Carolina University), Jeannie A. Golden (East Carolina University)
Abstract: Sensitive to Trauma Assessment and Relationship Training to Alter Negativity Underlying Behavior (START ANU Behavior) is a 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. 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. The presenter will describe and demonstrate skills for responding to challenging behaviors in trauma-sensitive ways.
STARTANU Behavior: Qualitative & Quantitative Measures of Staff Mindsets & Attitudes
DANIELLE WEBB (East Carolina University), Jeannie A. Golden (East Carolina University)
Abstract: Adolescents who have experienced trauma often show signs of difficulties academically, socially, mentally, and behaviorally. The presenter will describe an evaluation of the START ANU (Sensitive to Trauma Assessment and Relationship Training to Alter Negativity Underlying Behavior) training and its influence on the utilization of trauma-informed strategies among staff members of the University of Kansas ThrYve program. Educators are not always equipped with adequate training to support adolescents who benefit from trauma-informed strategies. Consequently, many educators utilize counterproductive strategies that result in poor outcomes for students and create an unpleasant work environment for themselves. During the START ANU training, staff of the University of Kansas’ ThrYve program were provided with two days of didactic information and two days of modeling, role-play, and practice of the techniques. Follow-up was provided where staff received further practice and support of these techniques two hours a week for six weeks. A mixed method design was used for this research. The quantitative approach provided researchers with data about ThrYve staff member’s mindsets and attitudes. These data informed researchers about the START ANU training program’s effectiveness. The qualitative approach focused on the frequency in which trauma-informed strategies occurred within incident and observation reports. These data informed researchers about important components to be included in future START ANU Behavior trainings.
STARTANU Behavior: Measuring Staff Exhibiting Trauma-Informed Strategies Using a Behavioral Observation System
LAUREN CUTLER (East Carolina University), Daniel Stickel (East Carolina University), George Cherry Jr (East Carolina University), Taylor Smith (East Carolina University)
Abstract: Staff participants in the STARTANU Behavior Training were videotaped in interactions with youth in the natural settings where these interactions occurred (such as classrooms and after school programs) as well as in role-plays with other staff (one would interact as the staff person, the other would interact as the youth) prior to and following the training. A behavioral observation system was developed to measure staff use of trauma-informed strategies. Undergraduate students were trained to identify trauma-informed strategies on a checklist using a series of role-playing sessions to practice observing and test reliability. Inter-observer reliability was calculated on a series of observations by two students. Comparisons of the use of trauma-informed strategies before and after training were made to determine any behavior changes in staff. Presenters will report on inter-observer reliability as well as changes in staff behavior.



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