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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #520

Towards Prevention of Chronic Challenging Behaviors in Neurodevelopmental Conditions

Monday, May 28, 2018
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, San Diego Ballroom B
Area: SCI; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Jennifer R. Zarcone, Ph.D.
Chair: Jennifer R. Zarcone (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
JAMES W. BODFISH (Vanderbilt University School of Medicine)
Dr. Bodfish is a Professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He has devoted his career exclusively to research, teaching, and clinical activities in the field of autism and developmental disabilities. His research has focused on the pathogenesis and treatment of autism and related conditions and has been published in a variety of journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, PLoS One, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Autism Research, the American Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, the Journal of Pediatrics, Brain Behavior Research, and Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience. His research has been continuously funded by NIH since 1992. His service activities have included: standing member of the NIH Childhood Psychopathology and Developmental Disabilities Study Section; Associate Editor of the American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Editor of Autism: The International Journal; of Research and Practice, Co-Chair of the NC Institute of Medicine Developmental Disabilities Task Force, Governor-appointed member of the Council on Developmental Disabilities; NC Senate Appointee of the Legislative Study Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders; expert consultant for the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and faculty member of the International Congress on Movement Disorders.

A subset of children with autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions develop persistent and clinically significant challenging behaviors like aggression and self-injury. Addressing this significant public health concern in an effective, practical, and scale-able manner has been one of the clear success stories of applied behavior analysis. Evidenced-based behavioral assessments and interventions effectively manage and treat a variety of challenging behaviors once they develop. However, this approach typically requires continued application of the intervention across a significant portion of the lifespan and as a result can be costly and resource-intensive. These potential limitations have motivated the start of a paradigm shift away from intervention and towards prevention. The search is on for malleable risk factors that occur early and that are associated with the persistence of challenging behaviors. In my talk I will describe our on-going program of research-to-practice activities in this area. First, I will discuss what is often taken as an overly simplistic “biology versus environment” dichotomy in this area. Instead of some form of subtyping, one could explore how behavior and underlying biology may change over time if the aberrant behavior persists. I will describe findings from our research that indicate that the persistence of challenging behaviors into adulthood can engender both behavioral and physiological changes - suggesting a potential interplay of biology and behavior that could conceivably drive treatment resistance over time. Next, I will describe on-going research focusing on isolating a set of pivotal child behaviors and parent-child interaction patterns early in development that are associated with emerging challenging behaviors in children with autism. These studies have focused on how language develops and interacts with early forms of aberrant behavior. Finally, I will describe our on-going research-to-practice work in this area that is focusing on developing and testing both home-based and a preschool-based approaches for preventing the development of challenging behaviors.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to: (1) list some limitations of evidenced-based approaches for treating challenging behaviors once they have developed and become persistent; (2) identify observable characteristics of play and social-communication that occur early in development and are associated with an increased risk for the emergence of challenging behaviors in children with neurodevelopmental conditions; 3) describe how early risk markers for the development of challenging behaviors can be targeted in home and preschool based approaches designed to prevent the occurrence of persistent challenging behaviors.



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