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

Previous Page


Symposium #255
CE Offered: BACB — 
Measurement of Assent and Assent-Based Interventions
Sunday, May 26, 2024
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 113 A
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Simone Palmer (Simmons University and Bierman Autism Centers)
Discussant: Fumi Horner (Bierman Autism Centers)
CE Instructor: Fumi Horner, Ph.D.

Obtaining client’s assent as applicable has been included in the most recent version of the ethics code for behavior analysts (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2020). Many companies providing ABA-based services to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have in their standard practice obtaining informed consent from families and caregivers as a part of the client onboarding process. Given the recency of this topic, many professionals, such as BCBAs and teachers, are questioning how to also obtain assent from learners, especially if they display communication deficits. Additional challenges may include difficulties with honoring assent or programming for assent withdrawal and the concern of increasing escape/ avoidance behaviors that interfere with the productivity of therapy or instructional time and treatment outcomes. This symposium reviews the definition of consent, assent, and assent withdrawal, the methods to identify assent from learners with communication deficits, some case examples of how to program for assent-based interventions.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): assent, assent withdrawal, autism, Escape avoidance
Target Audience:

Beginning to intermediate level. Prerequisite skills include programming, conducting FBAs, and writing behavior plans.

Learning Objectives: Review the definition of consent, assent, and assent withdrawal Describe the importance of assent-based interventions within ABA therapy Review some practical examples of assent withdrawal Review some measurement strategies of assent withdrawal Describe some strategies/ treatment goals when assent withdrawal is identified
Measurement of Assent and Assent Withdrawal
CHLOE KONRAD-SNEE (Key Autism Services)
Abstract: One of the significant deficits that impact children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is their communication ability. Generally, children do express their emotions using their emerging language skills and non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, gestures and body language. Those skills help others identify what they like and what or how assistance needs to be provided. On the other hand, caregivers and clinicians who provide care for children with ASD often use their own judgment to decide what is appropriate for them and what needs to be followed through or respected for the child as the children do not have adequate skills to communicate with others effectively. Using a systematic application of some behavior modification strategies such as extinction, eliminating the unwanted behaviors and increasing compliance in children with ASD have been accomplished effectively in numerous studies. However, it poses a serious ethical consideration to whether those children are willing to participate in the teaching activities. Implementing assent-based interventions for children with autism has started capturing attention from many researchers and clinicians in the recent years. It is critical for researchers and clinicians to investigate how assent can be measured from those children with limited communication skills . In the present study, a set of assent related behaviors is collected for each participant. The assent related behaviors include the response latency, presence and absence of escape-maintained behavior targeted for reduction, observer rating of their facial expression and body language, in addition to the response accuracy.
Effects of Honoring Assent Withdrawal
NANETTE PFEIFFER (Key Autism Services )
Abstract: Historically, many ABA therapies for children with autism has known to over-emphasize compliance, and any escape avoidance behaviors from demands are targeted to reduce with extinction where the demands are continuously presented and every attempt to escape from the aversiveness was often blocked and physically prompted to comply. It is commonly noted that “behavior will get worse before it gets better” during the initial training for the clinicians or caregivers to expect every member of the therapy team to endure the pain of a phenomenon called extinction burst where the intensity of the behavior increases and the topographies of the behavior vary temporarily. This therapeutic approach in ABA has gained the significant amount of criticisms over the years. Implementing assent-based interventions for children with autism to ensure each child is willing to participate in the teaching activities has started capturing attention from many researchers and clinicians in the recent years. In particular, children with autism who has limited language skills demonstrates a significant challenge in giving consent to participate in those teaching opportunities. It is critical for researchers and clinicians to investigate how assent withdrawal can be tracked and how it affects the overall escape – avoidance behavior during therapy. In the present study, a set of assent withdrawal criteria was identified for each participant by their BCBAs and their escape- avoidance behaviors were reinforced (i.e., will be excused from the teaching activity) when the criteria were met. During the entire study, the frequency of each participant’s overall escape- avoidance behavior and rate of skill acquisition (number of change-harder) were monitored.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh