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.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

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Invited Tutorial #72
CE Offered: BACB
Tutorial: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Autism and Feeding.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
3:30 PM–4:20 PM
Douglas B
Area: AUT/CBM; Domain: Applied Research
BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: William H. Ahearn, Ph.D.
Chair: Jack Scott (Florida Atlantic University)
Presenting Authors: : WILLIAM H. AHEARN (New England Center for Children)

Feeding problems are common among children diagnosed with autism and developmental disabilities. The feeding difficulties of these children potentially stem from and are maintained by numerous biological and environmental factors. This presentation will begin by providing an overview of factors that may trigger feeding difficulties with a particular focus on common problems encountered in children with autism. The presentation will also address empirical evidence for the gut theory of autism and the potentially harmful implications of arranging dietary restrictions as treatment for autism. Feeding assessments for classifying feeding difficulties will be discussed and evidence will be presented suggesting that the most common feeding problem for children with autism is food selectivity. Behavioral interventions for selective intake will then be reviewed. Systematically presenting previously rejected and/or novel foods will be illustrated as an initial step in the treatment process. Then an antecedent manipulation, the simultaneous presentation of rejected/novel and preferred foods exposure, will be described. Two effective differential consequence procedures, reinforcing acceptance/ignoring refusal-related responses and escape prevention, will be reviewed.

WILLIAM H. AHEARN (New England Center for Children)
Dr. William H. Ahearn is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who serves as the Director of Research at the New England Center for Children and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis (MABA) Program at Northeastern University. He is also Past-President of the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BABAT). Bill received his doctorate at Temple University in 1992 and subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Behavioral Psychology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Ahearn then served as program manager for the Inpatient Pediatric Feeding Program at the Children’s Seashore House in Philadelphia before moving to the New England Center for Children in 1996. Bill has written a book chapter on managing feeding problems in children with autism and has published studies that have appeared in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Behavior Modification, Animal Learning and Behavior, The Lancet, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, The Behavior Analyst, and Behavioral Interventions. Dr. Ahearn currently serves on the Board of Editors for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and provides service to ABA, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, and the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.



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