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 #265
CE Offered: BACB
Enhancing Experiences: Steps Toward the Empirical Evaluation of Compassionate Care
Sunday, May 26, 2024
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon AB
Area: TBA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Nicole Radzilowicz (Endicott College)
Discussant: Bridget A. Taylor (Alpine Learning Group)
CE Instructor: Britany Melton, M.Ed.
Abstract: Taylor and colleagues (2018) article exploring caregiver perceptions of behavior analysts resurged interest in the notion of compassionate care within the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA). While a foundational value of ABA, these behaviors in professionals and direct care staff are often overlooked in training and graduate programs. The papers in this symposium represent steps toward the assessment, intervention, and measurement of behaviors commonly associated with compassion and/or empathy. Marchese will discuss the development of a qualitative analysis (Parent Partnership Questionnaire) of caregiver feedback relating to interactions with BCBAs. Rohrer will discuss the development of the Compassionate Collaboration Tool which measures the extent to which interactions by graduate students with caregivers are compassionate. Melton will discuss the reliability of an assessment tool designed to assess compassionate interactions between direct interventionists and autistic individuals. Lastly, O'Connell-Sussman’s paper will explore teaching and training to graduate students of ABA to discriminate between empathic or compassionate responses to caregivers (i.e., stakeholders). This symposium explores the various ways in which our field can ensure our interactions with clients and stakeholders are therapeutic and socially valid through a compassionate care approach.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): assessment, autism, compassionate care
Target Audience: Basic
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Identify measurable behaviors associated with compassion; (2) Identify three assessments that may be used to measure aspects of compassionate care; and (3) discriminate between empathy and compassion from a behavioral framework.
Preliminary Reliability Scores of the Compassionate Collaboration Tool
JESSICA ROHRER (Center for Children with Special Needs & Endicott College), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College)
Abstract: The importance of collaborative and compassionate approaches is beginning to gain recognition within the field of ABA as it has been in other disciplines. In allied fields as well as behavior analysis, compassionate and personal approaches are associated with improved therapeutic relationships (Beach et al., 2006; Horst et al., 2000), increased adherence to intervention procedures (Hojat et al., 2011), and ABA therapists who are rated more highly by parents (Callahan et al., 2019; Foxx 1985). A tool to measure skills associated with these compassionate qualities (the Compassionate Collaboration Tool; Rohrer et al., 2021) was developed to help practitioners measure the extent to which these qualities can be observed in interactions with caregivers. The Compassionate Collaboration Tool contains 25 skills that have been shown to be effective in applied behavior analytic research and research in related fields in improving treatment outcomes, treatment adherence, and clients’ perceptions of service providers (Beck et al., 2002; Coulehan et al., 2001; Fong et al., 2016; Helton & Alber-Morgan, 2018; Neuman, 2018; Platt et al., 2001; Shelton & Stepanek, 1994). Data on the development of this tool as well as reliability on its use will be presented

The Development of the Compassionate Care Assessment Tool for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Settings

BRITANY MELTON (Journeys Autism Center; Endicott College), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College)

The behavioral assessment of compassionate skills in an emerging area of research and focus in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Much of the literature to date evaluates compassion on the part of master's level clinician. The current project seeks to establish reliable assessments of compassionate behavior displayed by direct interventionists in autism treatment settings.The Compassionate Care Assessment Tool evaluates the interactions between the direct interventionists (Registered Behavior Technician) and the child with whom they work. The assessment was designed to measure specific behavioral indices of compassion in an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) setting. Given the nature of the difficulty of operationally defining “compassion”, the current project seeks to obtain reliability between observers to validate the use of the assessment. Alterations to the assessment based on the data regarding reliability will be discussed along with data on the reliability and content validity of the Compassionate Care Assessment Tool. Additionally, data on the use of the Teaching Interaction Procedure to teach elements identified as deficits will be presented.


Qualitative Date in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – Key to Compassionate Care

NANCY MARCHESE (Breakthrough Autism), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College)

Taylor et al. (2018) suggested that the application of compassionate care skills in clinical practice may allow for opportunities to listen and gather information related to meaningful parent goals. Yet, empirically validated tools that facilitate the development of these skills are limited (Marchese & Weiss, 2023). Qualitative assessment procedures (e.g., semi-structured interviews) may allow for flexibility in data collection and subsequent analysis to enhance a clinician’s understanding of an individual’s experience. In the current study, ten parents of children with autism participated in semi-structured interviews related to their experiences with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment and parent training. Then, a qualitative data coding system was systematically developed to summarize these data across key themes that emerged from the interviews. Average intercoder agreement across two independent scorers was 89% (range 75%-100%). Summary of these data across parents and a detailed sample of individual parent responses will be presented. This study demonstrates how qualitative can be systematically gathered, analyzed, and summarized to support the clinical application of compassionate care skills while working with families who have children with autism.


Responding With Heart: Teaching Behavior Analytic Students Empathic and Compassionate Responding With Caregivers

LORI E. MASTROGIACOMO MASTROGIACOMO (Gold Coast Children's Center), Eilis O'Connell-Sussman (Endicott College)

Compassionate care and therapeutic relationships have been the subject of applied behavior analytic (ABA) research over the last few years, specifically looking at parent and practitioner interactions. Melton and colleagues (2023) provided a conceptual analysis that distinguished between empathic and compassionate responses within a radical behavioral framework. Given this framework, we are better able to identify the context under which compassion and/or empathy is exhibited. This distinction highlighted a need for behavior analytic practitioners to discriminate between when empathic or compassionate responses are appropriate given various contexts and situations. A decision-making tool will be reviewed to support practitioners in cultivating their responses to generate greater therapeutic alliances with the families with whom they work. Data reviewing a training package with discrimination training and the tool to Applied Behavior Analysis graduate students will be reviewed. Implications for the potential impact on graduate student coursework and applications of skills will be discussed along with future directions.




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