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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #240
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Services to Facilitate Communication in Individuals With Complex Needs in the United Kingdom
Sunday, May 26, 2024
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 103 A
Area: DDA/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Risca L. Solomon (Skybound Therapies)
Discussant: Lina M. Slim (Lina Slim Consulting; Endicott College; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
CE Instructor: Risca L. Solomon, M.A.

An overarching goal of ABA services is to empower individuals to ask for what they want and make choices about their own life. While this skill may be commonplace for many individuals, several barriers begin to surface for individuals with severe disabilities and in regions with few trained behavior analysts. The authors of Study 1 will contextualize ABA services to the UK and highlight unique cultural and societal considerations for successful programs. Study 2 will evaluate the impact of modified TalkTools to facilitate speech in minimally-verbal children with developmental disabilities. The authors will highlight the efficacy and acceptability of their intervention. The authors of Study 3 will present data on the effectiveness of functional analysis and functional communication training using manual signs for an autistic adolescent. They will discuss the barriers to intervention and how these were addressed. The authors of Study 4 will present data on how an AAC device was used to train choice-making in an adolescent with brain injury. Specific implications for quality-of-life measures and happiness indicators will be highlighted. Finally, Lina Slim will discuss these studies with a focus on interprofessional collaboration and advocate for programs that directly target quality-of-life in individuals.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): communication, non-vocal individuals
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the symposium, attendees will be able to: 1. List at least three specific considerations for designing and implementing a successful ABA program in the UK 2. Define and list the steps involved in a modified TalkTools intervention 3. Describe how to implement functional communication training for individuals using manual signs 4. List the steps involved in choice-making training using an AAC device

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for Individuals With Special Needs in the United Kingdom: Demand and Services Between 2019-2023

RISCA L. SOLOMON (Skybound Therapies), Alison Deakin (Skybound Therapies), Maithri Sivaraman (Teachers College of Columbia University)

ABA interventions were largely developed in the United States, in settings with relatively more trained professionals compared to the United Kingdom. Data retrieved from the BACB website showed that as of October 18, 2023, there were a total of 214,817 certified behaviour analysts in the USA compared to 837 such professionals in the UK. When this number is juxtaposed against the estimated 1.6 million individuals with special and complex needs in the UK who could benefit from the services offered by behaviour analysts, it becomes apparent that there is a critical shortage in the number of trained professionals available. Nevertheless, the past few years have seen growth in the number of professional behaviour analysts in the UK, the establishment of a local accreditation body, and increases in the demand for ABA services. This talk will offer a snapshot of how ABA services are offered in the UK, a five-year perspective on demand for these services, and trends in the types of services offered (e.g., home-based, consultancy) by one organization during this period. The feasibility of funding, designing and implementing an ABA intervention program in the UK will be discussed.


Modified TalkTools to Improve Speech Outcomes for Minimally Verbal Learners With Autism and Intellectual Disabilities

SOPHIE LOUISE BRADBURY (University of South Wales, Skybound Therapies), Jo Saul (University College London), Corinna F. Grindle (University of Warwick), Dan Bowers (University of South Wales), Richard James May (University of South Wales)

TalkTools is an intervention designed to target functional speech. We undertook a preliminary investigation to explore the efficacy and the feasibility of an adapted version of TalkTools for improving speech in minimally verbal young learners with autism and intellectual disabilities. Ten participants with minimal functional speech or speech clarity difficulties and diagnosis of autism who were receiving clinic-based services were randomly allocated baseline and intervention durations in an AB phase design. Over an 8-month period we explored the impact of the intervention on speech sound through weekly probe assessments of individualised speech sounds. Standardised measures were also administered at the beginning and the end of the intervention period, measuring speech sound inventory, oral motor imitation, functional speech, oral motor fluency, and motor imitation. We evaluated the feasibility of the intervention through acceptability, adherence, and fidelity of implementation measures. The results of the study will be discussed, highlighting how our findings might usefully inform future large-scale evaluations of TalkTools.


Service-Delivery for a Non-Vocal Autistic Adolescent With Severe Self-Injurious Behaviour, Seizures and Partial Visual Impairment

SARAH DENISON (Behaviour Analyst), Simbarashe Kenneth Shamu (Skybound Therapies), Victoria Adshead (Skybound Therapies), Megan Bonelle (Skybound Therapies)

Over the last few decades, the provision of ABA services to individuals with disabilities has had a flourishing literature base. Several successful studies have demonstrated the effectiveness and acceptability of functional analysis and functional communication training to address self-injurious and aggressive behavior. A limitation of prior research is that a majority of these studies have been conducted with young children in North America most of whom were vocal and sessions were conducted in short weekly meetings. The current study was conducted with a 16-year-old non-vocal adolescent in the UK diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, convulsive seizures, and a partial visual impairment. In this study, we report on the assessment and treatment process offered by behavior analysts in the home setting. We used a functional analysis to develop a function-based treatment to reduce severe self-injurious behavior and increase communication using manual signs. Over the course of 15 months, we observed reductions in challenging behavior to near-zero levels and a substantial increase in manual signs. Areas for future research and clinical considerations for adolescents with complex needs are discussed.


Facilitating Choice-Making Using a Head Switch in an Adolescent With Quadriplegia and Brain Injury

JODIE WHITE (Skybound Therapies), Sarah Denison (Behaviour Analyst), Kirby Duval (Skybound Therapies), Veronika Liptakova (Skybound Therapies)

Being able to communicate and make choices about one’s life is a basic human right. Yet, these seemingly fundamental rights are unavailable, marginalized, or marked by profound dependency for some individuals with complex needs. Previous research has used children’s consumption of a food item, refusal, approach, or verbal statements about preferences as indicators of a valid choice. Identifying and training valid choice-making for individuals with limited motor and verbal skills may involve measuring other idiosyncratic behaviors that may demonstrate their happiness at a preferred choice being offered. In this study, we report on a 16-year-old girl with quadriplegia and brain injury in the UK being facilitated to make choices using a head switch mounted on her wheelchair. We describe the training phases beginning with a movement analysis, followed by shaping to teach head switch activation, and choice-making training with stimuli of varying preference levels. We will highlight the methods we used to assess preference, measure happiness indices, and how these data were used to successfully guide teaching sessions. Our training was effective in establishing socially-valid choice-making and adds to the literature on the scope of behavior analytic procedures to improve quality of life.




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