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 #192
CE Offered: BACB
Values-Based Programming and Dismantling Ableism in Behavior Analysis
Sunday, May 26, 2024
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 103 C
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Ryan Moser (Missouri State University)
Discussant: Dana Paliliunas (Missouri State University)
CE Instructor: Dana Paliliunas, Ph.D.
Abstract: The field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) is supported by multiple quality assurance bodies as incorporating evidence-based practice to support autistic children and adults (Slocum et al., 2014). Yet, ABA has been criticized for too infrequently considering the values and lived experiences of autistics as the community most served by -- and therefore with the most potential to be harmed by – behavior analytic practices. Presenters will discuss a series of studies designed to center the values of autistic learners in the development of behavioral services, as well emerging research on biased relational frames that could influence the behavior of ABA practitioners working with autistic learners. The first presentation will describe findings of a values-based approach to intervention utilizing the LIFE (Dixon, 2020) curriculum with autistic adults. The second presentation expands on the results of the first by creating affirming social skills training using LIFE and other technologies adapted around clients’ values and yearning for social connectedness. The third and fourth presentations broaden a relational learning analysis to allistic adults and behavior analytic service providers to model autism stereotyping that can impact services. The results of both studies suggest biases may be evident in practitioners and speak to solutions to reduce the function of biases when interacting with autistic learners. The broad methods of creating neurodiversity and autistic affirming spaces and centering the values of autistic learners is discussed.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience: Behavior Analysts and Practitioners. No prerequisite skills required.
Learning Objectives: 1. Describe the role of values in identifying behavior targets for autistic learners2. 2. Discuss relational framing within negative stigmatic beliefs towards autistic learners 3. Evaluate the role of defusion in reducing the function of autism stereotyping relations
A Neurodivergent Affirming Approach to Teaching Social Skills
(Applied Research)
MEREDITH T. MATTHEWS (University of Illinois at Chicago), Claire M Zuch (University of Illinois at Chicago), Mark R. Dixon (University of Illinois at Chicago), Jordan Belisle (Missouri State University)
Abstract: The field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has made significant strides in developing and implementing effective social skills interventions for autistic individuals. Neurodiversity, which emphasizes the value of diverse neurocognitive functioning, calls for a paradigm shift in our approach to autism interventions, and in the spirit of neurodivergent-affirming practices, we suggest the use of a more affirming approach to teaching social skills within the neurodivergent community. The present study evaluated perceived self-stigma, psychological flexibility, and social validity of neurodivergent affirming social skills in autistic and ADHD individuals, and further explored the potential benefits of including neurodivergent individuals in the development, implementation, and evaluation of social skills interventions. Participants completed a series of pre/post questionnaires including the Interpersonal AAQ, a value-identification social interaction scale, and an internalized self-stigma measure. Implications are made surrounding the importance of a person-centered, neurodiverse-affirming approach to teaching social skills, and examples of successful interventions that have integrated the voices of autistic individuals are provided.

Values-Based Programming Using the LIFE Curriculum With Adult Learners

(Applied Research)
MAGGIE ADLER (Missouri State University), Jordan Belisle (Missouri State University), Dana Paliliunas (Missouri State University), Ray Burke (Apex Regional Program), Steven L. Taylor (Apex Children's Center), Sara R. Ibbetson (The Arc of the Ozarks), Kayette Glass (The Arc of the Ozark)

Person-centered planning and support should be a pillar in applied behavior analytic research by focusing on the inclusion of participants in decision-making and supporting neurodiversity affirming practice (Belisle et al., 2021). The LIFE Functional Module (LIFE; Dixon, 2018) provides functional behavior targets of daily living and prescriptive methods to target behaviors across multiple categories and domains. The current set of studies detail a framework for centering the input and values of adult learners in the selection and design of LIFE programming to support autonomy and independence. Multiple behavior topographies were targeted and evaluated within single-subject experimental designs, such as cooking, filmmaking, and liesure skills. Each broad target area was comprised of multiple component skills and training was designed to promote independent completion of chained tasks, generalization of skills across contexts, and relational frames developed to support the behavior targets. In all cases, results showed rapid acquisition of the target skills and social validity scores obtained directly from the adult learners suggested the interventions were seen as both helpful and preferred. Overall, results suggest behavioral technologies like LIFE can be adapted within a values-based framework.

Defusing Autism Stigma to Promote an Affirming World for Autistics
(Applied Research)
ELANA KEISSA SICKMAN (The Chicago School Professional Psychology), Jordan Belisle (Missouri State University), Rocco G Catrone (The Chicago School Professional Psychology), Robin Arnell (The Chicago School Professional Psychology), Claire M Zuch (University of Illinois Chicago), Stephanie Vickroy (Missouri State University)
Abstract: While there has been an increase in assessing stigmatizing beliefs using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) based approaches, there have been fewer instances of exploring stigma within disability and autistic communities (Werner et al., 2012). The present study extended on results reported by Zuch et al. (in press), who demonstrated relational framing patterns and decision-making indicative of negative stigmatic biases towards autistics. The present study recruited a representative sample and measured biases using a multidimensional scaling procedure consistent with Relational Density Theory (Belisle & Dixon, 2020). Results showed relational biases that were consistent with the original study. A defusion exercise that incorporated deictic relating of self- and other- was then developed and results of the exercise were compared to a randomized control group of participants. Outcomes suggested a reduction in stigmatic relations following the intervention with the defusion group. In addition, biased decision making appeared to show reduced ableism that can impact the interlocking behavior contingencies of autistics within a shared verbal community. Taken together, these results speak to a translational technology for targeting autism stigma within behavior analysis.

Paradigms of Treatment and the Perception of Autistic in Applied Behavior Analytic Service Providers

(Applied Research)
CLAIRE M ZUCH (University of Illinois at Chicago), Meredith T. Matthews (University of Illinois at Chicago), Mark R. Dixon (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is diagnosed through the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - Fifth Edition (2013). The DSM-V defines ASD through three areas of core deficits; social-emotional reciprocity, nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, and developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships. Addressing deficits, as seen through the medical model, is common in services for many Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) service providers (Matson, 2023). Pellicano and Houting (2022), echo a call from the autistic community to move away from a medical/deficit approach to autism services towards a paradigm of neurodiversity as an alternative method. The present study seeks to explore the relationship to which ABA practitioners utilize different paradigms of treatment to guide their practice and their perception of autism. Participants completed several surveys to obtain their perception of autism as well as a survey to understand their approach to practice. Results displayed a relationship between the paradigms that practitioners use to direct implementation and their perception of autism. The approach to services that practitioners use may have a relationship to their perception of autism as demonstrated by these results and may have implications for the use of a neurodiversity paradigm within the field of ABA to improve providers’ perceptions of the autistic clients that they serve.




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