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.


10th International Conference; Stockholm, Sweden; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #15
CE Offered: BACB
Toward Expanding Repertoires: Identifying and Training Behaviors Associated With Exemplary ABA Practitioners
Sunday, September 29, 2019
10:30 AM–11:20 AM
Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, Level 6, A2
Area: AUT/TBA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Kevin Callahan (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Kevin Callahan, Ph.D.

Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of ABA therapy for individuals with autism, relatively little research has focused on the characteristics and behaviors that distinguish exemplary client-therapist interactions. This symposium summarizes research to identify and train qualities and corresponding behaviors of effective ABA practitioners: (1) A survey of BCBAs ranked therapist characteristics and qualities, resulting in the development of the Exemplary Behavior Analyst Checklist (EBAC) of 35 essential traits. In a follow-up survey, BCBAs rated the extent to which exemplary practitioners demonstrated each trait, and ranked their Top 10 qualities in order of perceived importance. (2) Characteristics of ABA therapists within the concept of Behavioral Artistry (BA) (a repertoire of interpersonal behaviors including care, attentiveness, and creativity) were investigated. Parents surveyed significantly preferred BA traits. ABA students were determined to have lower levels of BA compared to other helping professions, and autism therapists with lower levels of BA qualities were observed to deliver ABA less effectively. (3) Therapist social interactions were conditioned using an operant discrimination training (ODT) procedure. Sequential analysis of social interactions and positive social responses suggest that client/therapist positive responding to each other’s social initiations increased following ODT. Implications for training and supervising effective ABA practitioners are addressed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): autism treatment, conditioned reinforcement, social validity, therapist-client relationship
Target Audience:

The target audience for this symposium is behavior analysts currently engaged in delivering therapeutic services and supervising other behavior analysts/staff, as well as researchers and clinical administrators.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe characteristics and corresponding behaviors identified by behavior analysts as essential to being an exemplary ABA practitioner; (2) list a minimum of three interpersonal characteristics associated with the concept of "Behavioral Artistry" as it relates to behavioral practice; (3) describe a clinical intervention designed to increase the effectiveness of behavioral practitioners' social interactions as a reinforcer.
Mastering Your Craft: Behavior Analysts’ Perspectives on the Characteristics and Behaviors of Exemplary Practitioners
(Applied Research)
RYAN M. ZAYAC (University of North Alabama), Madison Williams (University of North Alabama), Ashton Geiger (University of North Alabama), Amber Paulk (University of North Alabama), Jessica E. Frieder (Western Michigan University), Thom Ratkos (Berry College)
Abstract: What makes an individual an exceptional behavior analyst? Given our profession’s focus on objective definition, description, quantification, and experimentation, we should be well-prepared to answer this question. Nonetheless, many of us may struggle to identify what exactly distinguishes an ideal behavior analyst from an average behavior analyst. Phase I of the current study asked BCBAs and BCBA-Ds in the United States to identify their top five qualities and attendant behaviors of those individuals they considered exemplary behavior analysts. Two hundred seventy-four participants completed the survey, resulting in 180 different identified qualities. After consolidating similar qualities (e.g., compassionate, thoughtful, caring) into one category (“Empathetic”), the authors narrowed the list to 35 qualities and corresponding behaviors, which we have named the Exemplary Behavior Analyst Checklist (EBAC). In phase II, 392 BCBAs and BCBA-Ds rated the extent to which exemplary behavior analysts display each quality and corresponding behaviors using a 1 (never exhibits this quality) to 5 (always exhibits this quality) Likert-type scale. Participants also ranked their top 10 qualities in order of importance. A discussion of the EBAC and participants’ ratings will be presented, including implications related to training, study limitations, and future research.
Behavioral Artistry: Toward Expanding Repertoires of Effectiveness in the Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment of Autism
(Service Delivery)
KEVIN CALLAHAN (University of North Texas), Richard M. Foxx (Penn State University at Harrisburg), Adam Swierczynski (University of North Texas Kristin Farmer Autism Center), Susan Marie Nichols (University of North Texas Kristin Farmer Autism Center), Xing Aerts (University of North Texas Kristin Farmer Autism Center), Smita Shukla Mehta (University of North Texas), Rachita Sharma (University of North Texas), Andrew Donald (University of North Texas Kristin Farmer Autism Center)
Abstract: This study investigated interpersonal characteristics associated with Richard Foxx's seminal concept of "Behavioral Artistry," (BA) a repertoire of therapist behaviors including care, attentiveness, creativity, humor, and optimism, among others, hypothetically associated with the high-quality delivery of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment. The results of a U.S. nationwide survey of parents of children with autism (N=86) indicated that respondents preferred Behavioral Artistry traits for ABA therapists over non-Behavioral Artistry traits. A separate survey of 212 university students on a standardized personality assessment (Cattell's Sixteen Personality Factors Questionnaire) revealed that students majoring and/or working in the field of ABA had lower levels of Behavioral Artistry than those in other human services professions. Finally, therapists with higher and lower BA scores were observed over multiple Discrete Trial Training and Naturalistic Environment Training therapy sessions using partial interval and frequency recording. Therapists with higher levels of Behavioral Artistry were rated more positively in their delivery of ABA therapy for children with autism. These results suggest there may be a potential benefit for autism therapists to demonstrate humanistic characteristics and behaviors, in addition to technological skills. Implications for screening, hiring, training, and supervising effective ABA therapists within a Behavioral Artistry model will be discussed.
A Sequential Analysis of Therapist and Child Social Behavior Following a Conditioned Reinforcement Procedure
(Applied Research)
KAREN A. TOUSSAINT (University of North Texas), Carly Lapin (University of North Texas), Kristi Cortez (University of North Texas)
Abstract: A core characteristic in autism spectrum disorder is that individuals often have deficits in social interactions. To address these deficits within a therapeutic context, we conditioned therapists’ social interactions as a reinforcer for children with autism using an operant discrimination training (ODT) procedure. Participants included three child-therapist dyads at a university-based autism center. Results from a reinforcer evaluation indicate that the value of therapists’ attention increased following ODT. Next, we conducted a sequential analysis to examine the correlation between social initiations and positive social responses that occurred during unstructured play observations for both therapists and children. Results of the sequential analysis suggest that child participants and therapists increased positive responding to each other’s social initiations following operant discrimination training. Findings highlight the reciprocal effects of therapist-child interactions, as well as the effectiveness of establishing social attention as a reinforcer via an operant discrimination training procedure. Implications for training and supervision will be discussed.



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