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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.

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44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #252
CE Offered: BACB/QABA
ABA and the Ethics of Neurodiversity
Sunday, May 27, 2018
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom F
Area: PCH/PRA; Domain: Theory
CE Instructor: Joshua K. Pritchard, Ph.D.
Chair: Shawn P. Quigley (Melmark)
Discussant: Joshua K. Pritchard (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: While the neurodiversity movement gains traction among individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, the behavior analytic literature is nearly silent on the topic. Lack of knowledge of the neurodiversity movement threatens to undermine behavior analysts ability to understand client goals while misconceptions about ABA found in some quarters of the neurodiversity literature can lead potential clients to be unnecessarily hostile toward behavior analysis. As such, an improved appreciation for neurodiversity has implications for the ethical provision of high-quality behavior analytic services. Symposium attendees will: (a) be introduced to the neurodiversity perspective and the primary concerns proponents of neurodiversity have with ABA interventions; (b) be able to articulate the commonalities between a behavioral worldview and a neurodiversity perspective that make the two natural allies; (c) be able to identify ways in which the neurodiversity perspective can be integrated into behavior analytic interventions; and, (d) be able to discuss the intersection between neurodiversity and the ethics.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): ethics, neurodiversity
Target Audience: Practicing BCBAs, BCaBAs, RBTs, as well as others with a general interest in autism, intellectual disabilities, and/or neurodiversity.
Learning Objectives: Symposium attendees will: (a) be introduced to the neurodiversity perspective and the primary concerns proponents of neurodiversity have with ABA interventions; (b) be able to articulate the commonalities between a behavioral worldview and a neurodiversity perspective that make the two natural allies; (c) be able to identify ways in which the neurodiversity perspective can be integrated into behavior analytic interventions; and, (d) be able to discuss the intersection between neurodiversity and the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts.
 
Are Neurodiversity and ABA Compatible?
ABRAHAM GRABER (University of Texas at San Antonio), Jessica Emily Graber (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Abstract: Neurodiversity, a movement closely allied with a general disability rights perspective, rejects a pathological view of autism and other diagnostic categories found in the DSM-5. Rather, the proponent of neurodiversity holds that "mental disorders" are a type of diversity, fundamentally no different than gender, race, or religion. The neurodiversity perspective is gaining prominence and there is growing literature exploring the implications of the neurodiversity perspective across a variety of domains. Unfortunately, a notable and unanswered strand in this literature is profoundly antagonistic toward applied behavior analysis (ABA), viewing ABA as an arch-nemesis of neurodiversity. In contrast to this strand in the literature, given ABA’s emphasis on environmental causes and the plasticity of behavior, ABA is a natural ally of the neurodiversity movement. The parallels between the neurodiversity perspective and ABA have important implications for the how behavior analysts should conceptualize and implement therapy. Understanding the parallels between the neurodiversity movement and ABA can be important for involving clients in the planning process and articulating these commonalities can help remove environmental barriers to the successful implementation of a behavior-change program.
 
Mentalistic Explanations for Autistic Behavior: A Behavioral Phenomenological Analysis
DON DAVIS (San Antonio Independent School District)
Abstract: In this paper autism is analyzed as a hypothetical construct to explain how an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis functions to derail scientific investigations of autistic behavior. To support this argument, we employ a series of behavioral phenomenological investigations to analyze potential sources of control over the verbal behavior of parents, who were asked to observe their children with autism and record explanations for each occurrence of problem behavior. Autistic behaviors were recorded cumulatively, and the parents' explanatory responses were then mapped onto the cumulative records to identify the controlling relations for each response. We then analyzed the parents' responses for mentalistic explanations for the children's problem behaviors. Parent reports are discussed in terms of the prevalence of mentalisms, the stimulus control exerted by autistic behavior, the relationship between parent and child, the conditioning of parents' observations throughout and across observation sessions, and how fictional explanations function for the speaker. We conclude with a discussion of the role of behavioral phenomenology in elucidating the histories of reinforcement provided by the verbal communities of parents of children with autism. The ethical implications of understanding the function of mentalisms will be discussed in relation to third-party involvement in services.
 
An Analysis of Autism as a Functional Tint of the Environment
LEE L. MASON (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Abstract: The term "neurodiversity" is frequently used to discuss autism spectrum disorder as a variation in functioning rather than a disorder of the individual. This arm of disability studies is directly in line with molar behaviorism, which seeks understanding through temporally-extended patterns of behavior instead of appealing to molecular causality. The explanations for autism, like that of all behavior, are found outside of the person. Given a particular history of reinforcement, the present environment may be either enabling or disabling; what Uexküll (1926) referred to as the "functional tinting" of controlling stimuli. The purpose of the present discussion is to describe a theoretical model for how autistic behavior is conditioned over time, with implications for behavior-analytic intervention. We use the word autism to describe teleological patterns of behavior that are distributively skewed from the Gaussian bell curve, and propose that the term autistic best describes the convergent multiple control over behavior that is otherwise perfectly neurotypical given the circumstances. Accordingly, our goal as behavior analysts is never to change the individual, but to demonstrate how environmental modifications can shift a population of responses back towards the center, thereby reducing the "tint" and increasing access to a greater number of environmental affordances. Reconceptualizing autism in this way can inform the individualized tailoring of behavior analytic services as well as help shape behavior analytic program objectives.
 
How "Special" Education Impedes Social Justice for Individuals With Disabilities
ALONZO ALFREDO ANDREWS (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Abstract: To receive special education services in the United States public schools, students must meet the eligibility criteria for one of the 13 disability categories designated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004). To access services, predefined criteria from one of these examples must adversely affect the student's academic performance to a "disabling" degree. But aside from qualifying the student for services, these disability labels serve a number of other functions for the students who receive them. Here we argue that the use of disability labels results in equivalence formations that relate the specific behavior of one individual classified with a particular category with all members of that set. Disability labels point to the history of reinforcement of the individuals who carry them, but they do not necessarily dictate a particular teaching methodology or instructional intervention. In this way, "disability" is examined as a function of the environment instead of a characteristic of the person. DSM-5 diagnositic classifications, special education categories, and insurance codes, all of which compose the infrastructure for providing access to much needed services may also be the antithesis of effective intervention. The ethical implications of this understanding of disability labels will be discussed in relation to a client's right to effective treatment.
 

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