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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #427
CE Offered: BACB
A Behavioral-Developmental Approach to Autism Assessment, Intervention, and Curriculum
Monday, May 25, 2020
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 2, Room 201
Area: AUT/DEV; Domain: Theory
Chair: Patrice Marie Miller (Salem State University)
CE Instructor: Patrice Marie Miller, Ed.D.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, nonverbal communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people. They may, however, communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. Because there is no definitive medical test, diagnosing ASD can be difficult. Research has shown that intervention can improve a child’s overall development and the earlier it occurs, the more effective it may be. In this symposium, we introduce a diagnostic tool designed to improve a very early diagnosis of autism. The tool is informed by extensive research on the Model of Hierarchical Complexity, a behavioral developmental model of tasks. The Model allows for the scaling of behaviors, tasks, reinforcers, stimuli, etc. in terms of their Hierarchical Complexity, a form of difficulty. This kind of scaling explains developmental sequences. The symposium first describes the Behavioral Developmental Autism Instrument, including how it was devised and comparing it to other assessments. The second paper illustrates how the Model of Hierarchical Complexity can be used to generate a developmental sequence of reinforcers. The third paper applies the model to curriculum development.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Behavioral Tasks, Hierarchical Complexity, Mapping interventions, Teaching curriculum
Target Audience:

People who are interested in knowing how the interventions work for instance when to know where to stop, which behavioral developmental stage to intervene at and what behavioral stage the child is functioning.

Learning Objectives: People who are interested in learning about how to develop an intervention based out of teaching curricula, developing the level of difficulty for a behavioral developmental task and understand at what level the interventions are appropriate.
Behavioral Developmental Autism Instrument
PATRICE MARIE MILLER (Salem State University)
Abstract: The purpose of the study was to generate a behavioral-developmental scale and see how well it predicted performance in participants diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Some items were created from our experience with children with an ASD diagnosis, some based on experience with the development with “normal” children. Some items were adapted from existing developmental scales. Each item consists of a task that the child is asked to perform. It starts with behaviors that occur in very early infancy. The aim was to allow for possible earlier diagnoses of autism and also to provide a basis for intervention. The items in the instrument are developmentally ordered, based on the Model of Hierarchical Complexity. If a child is shown to successfully perform these items, the instrument moves to more complex items. Because it assesses specific behaviors it is easier to use, providing face valid results. A brief comparison of this assessment to two others that are commonly used will be included.

An Instrument Measuring Reinforcer Preferences in Children

MANSI J SHAH (Dare Association, Inc.)

Operant conditioning procedures are used to investigate various developmental phenomena in infants, including attention, perception, memory, language, and emotional and socialization processes (e.g., Gewirtz & Pelaez-Nogueras, 1992). The choice of what reinforcers to use has been conducted in somewhat of an ad hoc manner. This presentation introduces a way to scale reinforcers in terms of their likely effectiveness for children at different behavioral stages of development. Reinforcers are scaled in terms of their complexity using the Model of Hierarchical Complexity. This model applies a mathematically based scale to different tasks and behaviors (including reinforcing events). A brief example would be that for some children perhaps only a food-based reinforcer would work. For another saying “Good job” would work. Using this model, we have generated an ordered list of reinforcers. This can be used with individual children to ascertain which specific reinforcers are effective for each particular child. Ultimately it will provide a list of a large number of reinforcing events that may be effective when working with a wide range of children.

Mapping a Teaching Curriculum Based on the Autism Developmental Instrument
PATRICE MARIE MILLER (Salem State University)
Abstract: A teaching curriculum is described that is based on the Behavioral Developmental Autism Instrument. Each item in the instrument is both a behavior that is assessed and behavior that can then be trained if the child does not pass the item. Children with developmental delays or with Autism Spectrum disorders are trained bottom up, starting with items of less difficulty and moving to those with higher difficulty. Currently, there are 121 items in the curriculum. Creating teaching curricula from the instrument will facilitate interventions since the child will be placed at the right level of difficulty to learn. That is, the item will not be too easy and will also not be too difficult. More items may also be added at each level of difficulty (called the Order of Hierarchical Complexity of the task). This curriculum can be beneficial for both typically developing children and children with developmental disabilities across a variety of cultural settings.



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