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 #464
CE Offered: BACB
Being Prepared for the Unexpected: The Role System Variables Play in Autism Intervention Programs
Monday, May 30, 2022
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Meeting Level 1; Room 153C
Area: OBM/AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Dawn B. Townsend (Alliance for Scientific Autism Intervention)
Discussant: Binyamin Birkan (Biruni University)
CE Instructor: Binyamin Birkan, Ph.D.

Autism intervention programs have a number of responsibilities; however, the most important responsibility is to provide effective intervention to the individuals served to produce meaningful outcomes for them and their families. Programs that operate from the science of behavior analysis, and consistently implement systems that ensure the organization operates successfully at every level, are far more effective in producing positive outcomes under varied conditions. The pandemic, that we all faced over the last two years, provided an opportunity to test and analyze the efficacy, and strength, of the systems proposed by McClannahan and Krantz (1993). The papers in this symposium will focus on system variables that promoted continued student skill acquisition, staff development, and parent support and mentorship through a number of unexpected and unusual conditions. Each presenter will share relevant data that have been collected across a number of agencies, nationally and internationally, to support the value of systems and their role in ensuring generalized outcomes under novel conditions. The data obtained during the pandemic period provide us with an opportunity to analyze those system variables and promote the continued use of organizational systems in autism intervention programs.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Autism Intervention, Program Administration, System Variables
Target Audience:

This symposium is intended for individuals who are responsible for the development and implementation of behavior analytic programs for individuals with autism. Attendees should have a minimum of a MA level education in behavior analysis and experience developing administrative systems for the effective implementation of intervention programs for those diagnosed with autism.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, individuals will be able to: (1) Develop programming goals, implement teaching plans, and measure relevant outcomes to ensure effective intervention to individuals with autism under a variety of conditions including virtual and in-person instruction; (2) Implement staff training and evaluation protocols, as a system variable, to develop new skills in staff delivering intervention services to individuals with autism under a multitude of conditions; (3) Implement effective parent support and mentorship programs as part of an effective intervention program and measure relevant outcomes supporting the effectiveness of the training program under highly individualized conditions.

Ensuring Student Progress During the Pandemic

Alison Gillis (The Graduate Center/CUNY, New York Child Learning Institute)

Ensuring continued student progress under a wide variety of, and unexpected, conditions is a critical guarantee that any intervention program should provide for students who they serve. The pandemic left many programs scrambling to define and develop methods of ensuring continued student progress and advancement of critical goals and objectives when teachers were no longer able to provide in-person instruction. This presentation will focus on the critical role systems played in ensuring a seamless transition from in-person instruction to virtual instruction. Data on student progress and skill acquisition, collected across sites both nationally and internationally, will be presented for periods of both in-person and virtual instruction to support the value of systems in ensuring effective intervention to individuals with autism under any set of conditions. In addition, the presenters will discuss how virtual instruction led to the development of additional systems and teaching strategies that will be incorporated into the programs in the future.

Staff Training and Evaluation During the Pandemic: Important Lessons Learned
KEVIN J. BROTHERS (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Paul Shreiber (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Emily Gallant (Somerset Hills Learning Institute)
Abstract: Developing skillful, creative, and flexible professionals is critically important in ensuring effective educational programming for individuals with autism, as well as the advancement of such programming. Member programs in ASAI are collectively committed to ensuring that staff members have both the professional and clinical skills needed to educate students under whatever conditions present themselves. The shutdown of programs during the pandemic tested those systems that our programs consistently use, which are based on the pioneering work of Krantz and McClannahan. This presentation will share information on how the training and evaluation systems ensured the success of our staff members when educating individuals with autism under new and highly variable conditions. Data from our collective programs, both nationally and internationally, on staff skill acquisition will be presented to highlight the importance of professional development systems, which include critical training and evaluation variables, in dealing with the unusual and unexpected. The information obtained during this period, in addition, has also been used to revise and advance our staff development systems for the future.

Parent Support and Mentorship Under Highly Variable Conditions

CHRISTINE FRY (Princeton Child Development Institute), Amanda Sawma Freeman (Princeton Child Development Institute ), Gregory S. MacDuff (Princeton Child Development Institute)

The pandemic left parents of individuals with autism in a highly vulnerable position. Within days, parents found themselves at home with their children all day long, in the absence of the highly structured teaching conditions that typically surrounded their children, and that they depended on. During this time, the important role that parents play on the intervention team was highlighted more than ever. Evidence quickly mounted during this period that emphasize the very important role that parent support, mentorship, and training play in ensuring effective home programming efforts and preparing parents for situations in which the support system they rely on is not available. During this presentation, data will be shared on the home programming efforts of educational programs, both here in the US and abroad, during the pandemic and the critical effect that they had on ensuring continued effective outcomes for students with autism. In addition, the presentation will discuss the importance of modifying parent support programs, and the system variables associated with such, to ensure an individualized and effective experience for all.

Lessons Learned About System Implementation Under Unplanned and Unique Conditions
ERIC ROZENBLAT (Institute for Educational Achievement), Donna De Feo (Institute for Educational Achievement), Dawn B. Townsend (Alliance for Scientific Autism Intervention)
Abstract: Although the pandemic presented a whole host of conditions that educational programs, professionals, parents, and students had to adjust to, programs with well-defined and highly developed systems of program operation, staff training, and parent support fared far better than any of us would have expected. This period presented an opportunity for generalization to be assessed for staff, student, and administrative performance across a number of varied conditions. In this presentation, we will highlight the importance of systems both for practicing during the pandemic conditions and returning to in-person instruction thereafter. Data, collected from a number of national and international programs, will be shared on key measures that demonstrate the effectiveness of our systems and how we used the data obtained during this period to feed back into the system and prompt future changes in our practices. System variables must be defined, implemented, and consistently re-evaluated in light of annual data collected on their effectiveness. The presentation will conclude with details on the critical role system implementation plays in ensuring this.



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