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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #417
CE Offered: BACB
Innovative Teaching Strategies to Promote Healthier Lifestyle Choices in Students with Autism.
Monday, May 26, 2014
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
W184a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: AUT/EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jill E. McGrale Maher (Crossroads School)
CE Instructor: Jill E. McGrale Maher, M.S.
Abstract: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over the last 30 years childhood obesity has more than tripled. In the United States, 16% of children aged 2-19 years are obese, while the prevalence among children with autism spectrum disorders increases to 19%, with 54% at risk for being overweight. While these numbers may be alarming, the lack of evidence-based research on interventions to increase healthy choices is limited. Teaching students with autism to make healthier lifestyle choices, including increasing exercise and decreasing body mass index (BMI), is an area in need of research. Three papers will be discussed in this symposium. Specific data will be presented on a weight-management program for children and parents using a readily available health program (; the utilization of a teaching procedure and individualized conditioned reinforcement systems to increase independence and decrease stigmatizing behavior during exercise routines; and the effects of self-monitoring and exergames on children’s physical activity.

Weight Management for Children with Autism: Nursing and Applied Behavior Analysis Making Measurable Differences

DEBRA A. BROTHERS (Somerset Hills Learning Institute), Kevin Joseph Brothers (Somerset Hills Learning Institute)

Currently two-thirds of American adults and nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese (Benjamin, 2010). According to data collected from the United Health Foundations and Emory University (2010) if current trends continue, the US will spend as much as $344 billion on obesity health-care costs by 2018. Children with disabilities may be at additional risk due to predisposing factors such as lack of exercise, restricted food preferences, or overprotective care providers. Children with disabilities may be helped to maintain a healthy weight and Body Mass Index throughout their lifetimes if they and their caregivers are taught effective weight-management skills. This presentation reviews the data from a weight-management program designed to teach three children with autism (1 underweight and 2 overweight) and their parents skills to establish and maintain a healthy BMI. The weight management program consisted of teaching portion control, informed meal consumption choices, informed non-mealtime consumption choices, and appropriate activity level. Parents were taught to use as a reference to identify the portions of each of the 5 food groups and were given food-preparation tools and hands-on training. All participants have made progress towards their goal of a healthy BMI.


The Effects of Self-Monitoring and Exergames on Children's Physical Activity

NICHOLAS VANSELOW (Salve Regina University), Gregory P. Hanley (Western New England University)

Approximately 12.5 million children in the United States are considered obese (CDC, 2009). A proposed solution for the obesity problem is to use technology to improve physical activity, such as video games that require physical movement (i.e., exergames). The current project examined activity levels and heart rate when a self-monitoring program was and was not available at an after-school exercise area for children that contained both exergames and traditional exercise equipment. Activity levels and heart rates were lower when participants were playing exergames than when they engaged in more traditional forms of exercise. Activity levels and heart rates were highest when a self-monitoring program was available. The use of self-monitoring for improving childrens levels of physical activity via traditional exercise is discussed.

Increasing Independence and Decreasing Stigmatizing Behavior in Exercise Routines with Students with Autism
IAN T. MELTON (Crossroads School), Britany Melton (Crossroads School), Jill E. McGrale Maher (Crossroads School)
Abstract: Previous research has demonstrated that with the use of conditioned reinforcement systems and a systematically increasing time requirement increased exercise time in students with autism. (Melton & McGrale, 2013) The primary goal of the current project is to examine the efficacy of reinforcement strategies paired with well-documented teaching strategies for long response chains to increase independence in cardiovascular routines in students with autism. Additional protocol to decrease stigmatizing behaviors as well as measures of social validity will be included. The project takes place at a private day school for students with autism and specifically includes fifteen students, in eight classrooms, ages 10 to 18. The independent variables are the individualized teaching strategy, and student specific reinforcement strategy. The dependent measures are percent of steps completed independently on a long response chain, the number of minutes on a treadmill, the number of prompts to stay on a treadmill, percent of intervals that stigmatizing behavior occur and a social validity measure. A multiple baseline design across students within classrooms is used. Preliminary results indicate that a valid teaching procedure and individualized reinforcement systems students increased the amount of independent daily cardiovascular exercise, and decreased stigmatizing behaviors.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh