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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #125
CE Offered: BACB — 
If You Have to Rely on Coercive Practices, You Are Not a Behavior Analyst
Saturday, May 28, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 205A
Area: EDC/PCH; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Adam Michael Peal (The Behavioral Education Research Initiative; The Walden Learning Collective)
Discussant: Janet S. Twyman (blast)
CE Instructor: Janet S. Twyman, M.A.

Coercive practices can be damaging for the individuals who behavior analysts serve, inflict harm on the reputation of and trust in the scientific and applied endeavors of the field, and negatively impact desired clinical and education outcomes. Despite the growing awareness among practitioners, scientists, community members, and clients to classify coercive practices as harmful and undesirable, these practices persist all too frequently in the application of behavior analysis. The persistence of coercive practices can be examined and understood from a behavior analysis perspective, and thus may be used to help practitioners develop and strengthen new skills for treatment and instruction. Basic and applied behavior analysts can offer clinical and instructional techniques based in positive reinforcement to bypass the use of coercion and instead provide methods for teaching and shaping new behavior.This symposium will discuss historical, theoretical and scientific accounts for coercion rooted in behavior analysis, methods for constructing positive alternatives to coercive parenting, the integration of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) to increase learner engagement in academic settings, and a description of a model that builds the skills of learners and practitioners in the absence of coercive practices.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): coercion, instruction, positive reinforcement, punishment
Target Audience:

Certified BCBAs and BCaBAs must be able to determine the contingencies (e.g., DRA) to develop desirable repertoires and weaken undesirable repertoires. In addition, they must have the ability to select and implement the most appropriate data collection procedures to be able to monitor the outcomes of the programming.

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will be able to select positive alternative contingencies (e.g., DRA and Thinning of reinforcement over time) instead of relying on coercive practices. 2. Participants will be able to describe and implement brief, low-effort exercises and tools focused on the core processes of ACT with both staff and consumers. 3. Participants will learn about the “Rights to Effective Education” as developed by the ABA Education Task Force in 1998.

A Theoretical Conceptualization of Coercion Rooted in Behavior Science


Israel Goldiamond’s account of coercion, which is empirically and philosophically based in behavior science and theory, has existed in the literature for nearly 60 years. Even though such an account exists, it appears to have not been widely adopted by behavior analysis professionals when determining the degree to which coercion occurs in clinical or education settings. By analyzing behavior-environment relations using Goldiamond’s formulation of coercion, clinicians and educators may be able to achieve a better understanding of the variables that impact the degree to which coercion occurs in a variety of treatment settings. A more detailed and robust account of coercion is likely necessary for behavior analysis professionals to avoid and mitigate deleterious outcomes of coercive practices. This talk will detail Israel Goldiamond’s lesser-known formulation on degrees of coercion (and thus freedom) as well as provide examples and recommendations for clinicians and educators.


Constructing Positive Alternatives to Coercive Parenting


The purpose of this intervention was to intervene in a situation in which given the high rate of aversive exchange between mother and child that was observed, both emotional and physical abuse were potentially probable, although not observed during sessions. The mother was an immigrant of Hispanic origin from a low socio-economic status. The child was a language delayed five-year old boy, who attended a special needs preschool in a large metropolitan area. The pre-school had a strong component of parent training. We provided this intervention at home, and it consisted of a treatment package to build positive alternatives to coercive parenting. The treatment package included prompting, modeling, training in new rules (in part using readings and quizzes), positive reinforcement, fading of instruction, thinning of reinforcement over time, and feedback over video-taped sessions. We used a multiple baseline design across three different settings: (1) Putting toys away, (2) Playing with brother, and (3) Mealtime. The results indicated that child compliance improved substantially, as did the mother’s ability to provide appropriate commands - occasions for compliant behavior, as well as changes in consequences provided by the mother (see Fig, 6). The unexpected results indicated multiple benefits, including breaking the existent coercive pattern of exchanges, and increasing reciprocal positive transactions, including physical affection (see Fig 7). The child became more compliant, the rate of aversives from the mother decreased remarkably while the rate of positive reinforcement increased, leading to a significantly altered relationship.


Integrating Acceptance and Commitment Training to Increase Learners’ Willing Engagement in Academic Programming

KENDRA B. NEWSOME (Fit Learning), Donny Newsome (Fit Learning)

Behavior analysts have a responsibility to design interventions that are non-coercive and promote willing engagement from the individuals they serve. Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) is a contemporary behavioral approach that focuses on several core processes that produce psychological flexibility and valued living. Psychological flexibility can be defined as a repertoire of awareness with respect to thoughts and their functions that gives rise to adaptable and effective responses in the presence of those private events. By promoting psychological flexibility in those we serve, we can increase an individual’s engagement in a non-coercive way that accepts an individual’s history and humanity. In this presentation, Fit Learning will share the inductive process and resulting data from our journey in integrating ACT into our organization with staff and the learners we serve to create an empowering context that promotes willing engagement and assent.

Developing Competent Learners and Practitioners in the Absence of Coercive Practices
VICCI TUCCI (Tucci Learning Solutions, Inc.)
Abstract: The Competent Learner Model (CLM) implements evidenced-based practices (i.e., ABA, DI, and PT) in the absence of coercive practices with educators and parents all over the world. The CLM Standards were derived from the “Rights to Effective Education” by ABA Education Task Force in 1998. Examples of the standards for practitioners are: 1) Utilize validated curricula and instructional materials to develop learners’ missing repertoires, 2) Instructional conditions are arranged that promote the development of desirable learner social behaviors, 3) Caring and supportive interactions with learners, and 4) Educators/Parents motivate learners to participate in instructional conditions. There are four components of the Big CLM Ideas (i.e., Develop the Missing Learner Repertoires, Just Teach, Keep Learning Environments in Balance, and Keep Learning Environments in Motion by Using the CLM Tool Kit). The Practitioners are taught to formulate, deliver, and monitor the evidenced based programming via an online Teaching Machine. Once each of the 17 Units are completed, the Certified CLM Coach conducts a supportive checkout to assure that the practitioners can apply the content learned in each unit.



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