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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #476
CE Offered: BACB
Marijuana and Other Medication Use With Individuals With Autism: Review of Data and Protocols for Successful Consultation With Medical Professionals
Monday, May 27, 2019
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Lobby Level, Crystal Ballroom C
Area: AUT/CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Gloria Satriale (Preparing Adolescents and Adults for Life (PAAL))
Discussant: Robert LaRue (Rutgers University)
CE Instructor: Jessica Zawacki, M.A.

Behavior analysis has been shown to be effective in dealing with a wide range of issues related to the support of individuals with autism. For example, behavior analytic principles have been used to improve skill acquisition and decrease behaviors that interfere with learning and independence. However, professionals from other disciplines also provide treatment from their respective worldview orientations. Specifically, medical professions are widely used in the treatment of individuals with autism by prescribing medications that are used for both physical and behavioral issues. The intersection of behavior analysis with medicine is frought with potential problems. Behavior analytic solutions to, for example, behavior problems is often in conflict with a medical solution (i.e, reinforcement plans versus medication). Since both approaches are often used in clinical situations, it is important for behavior analysts to learn how to work most effectively with other disciplines while, at the same time, upholding our ethical code of conduct (by behaving within our conceptual framework). This symposium will discuss two different situations in which behavior analysts collaborate with physicians to plan for, and assess the outcome of, various medications being used with adolescents and adults with autism.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): autism, collaboration, marijuana, medications
Target Audience:

front-line staff and other professionals interested in working in the medication area with their clientel

Learning Objectives: After these presentations, audience members will be able to: 1. orally review the literature on the effectiveness of marijuana products on autism symtomology; 2. orally explain the impact of preferred and nonpreferred staff on behavioral and skill development; 3. conduct preference assessments across staff;

A Preliminary Examination of the Influence of Medical Marijuana Products on Aberrant Behavior of Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder

KAITLIN ROSS (PAAL), Gloria Satriale (PAAL), Thomas L. Zane (University of Kansas)

Recently, there has been increasing use of medical marijuana. Coinciding with this trend is the belief that marijuana products can be used to treat symptoms of autism. There are no controlled studies evaluating the effects of marijuana on autism. Advocacy groups have formed to promote use of marijuana to reduce behavioral episodes and increase social behaviors. No scientific evidence exists that this drug is causally related to any improvements in developmental, behavioral or social areas. In contrast, most national organizations related to substance abuse strongly argue that marijuana is potentially dangerous.The purpose of this investigation was to examine the relationship between changes in problem behaviors and the use of the marijuana products. Participants included adolescents diagnosed with autism. Target behaviors for which a marijuana product was prescribed were operationally defined. Staff gathered daily data on the occurrence of these targeted behaviors, and the dates of administration of the marijuana products. Results showed no direct correlation between the use of the marijuana product and positive changes in problem behavior, casting doubt on the efficacy of this intervention. This suggests the need for the involvement of behavior analysis when manipulating medication in order to empirically evaluate the impact of such interventions.


Successful Collaboration With Medical Professionals: How to Integrate Medicine and Behavior Analysis

Jessica Zawacki (PAAL PARTNERS), Gloria Satriale (PAAL), DANIEL ALBRAND (The PAAL Program)

The prescription of psychotropic medications is increasingly common as an alternative for supplement to behavior therapy for managing ASD-associated aberrant behaviors In an ideal setting, medication used to decrease challenging behaviors, such as aggression or self-injury, should be considered only after medical diagnoses and comorbid psychiatric disorders have been addressed and behavioral interventions have been tried and, based on data analysis, deemed unsuccessful. It is the clinical responsibility to develop effective interventions using behavior analytic processes, conceptually consistent with behavior analytic theory. The ethical code also requires behavior analysts to evaluate concurrent treatments that individuals may be receiving and their overall impact on the target behavior. However, this is challenging for the behavior analyst working with individuals with more profound disabilities, specifically deficits in communication, as psychiatric disorders are typically measured via self-report. Case studies will be presented demonstrating formal protocols used to operationally define, measure, and track symptoms, diagnoses, and medication changes that are typically measured haphazardly or through self-report, such as anxiety and obsessive compulsive.




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Modifed by Eddie Soh