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 #335
CE Offered: BACB
Changing the Unchangeable: Treatment Advances in Relational Frame Theory Can Influence Global Measures of Intellectual and Adaptive Functioning in Children
Sunday, May 24, 2020
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Level M4, Independence F-H
Area: EDC/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Taylor Marie Lauer (Missouri State University)
Discussant: Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)
CE Instructor: Jordan Belisle, Ph.D.

Contemporary advances in our knowledge of human language and cognitive development stemming from Relational Frame Theory (RFT) have advanced assessment and treatment for children. Global measures evaluate higher-order patterns of behavior that are currently considered stable in most areas of behavior science. Constructs such as intelligence, executive functioning, and theory of mind are treated as independent variables that are predictive of several life outcomes and mediate the effectiveness of most treatment approaches. This symposium challenges this approach, showing that behavior analysts can not only assess behaviors that may underly these constructs, but interventions developed from an RFT account can actually change these global patterns of behavior. Belisle will provide an overview of RFT and Verbal Behavior accounts with assessment and treatment data with children with autism. Holtsman extends this account showing considerable changes in IQ following relational training, but not traditional VB instruction. Stanley will show how relational training guided by PEAK can lead to increases in IQ in typically developing children within a multiple-baseline design. Roche concludes these talks by demonstrating the effectiveness of SMART training in improving attentional abilities and intelligence in children. To conclude this symposium, Dixon will discuss these data in the context of a field moving towards more contemporary approaches and larger scale socially significant research designs.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Executive Functioning, Intelligence, Relational Framing, Verbal Behavior
Target Audience:

Therapists, educators, supervisors, program managers

Learning Objectives: Describe differences between VB and RFT models of human language learning Discuss applications of RFT with children with autism Discuss applications of RFT with typically developing children Describe the advantages of contemporary models and advanced research designs
A Model Dependent View of Executive Functioning: Assessment and Treatment of Children with Autism
JORDAN BELISLE (Missouri State University)
Abstract: Underlying all approaches within applied behavior analysis are theoretical models of human behavior. Skinner’s verbal operant theory emphasizes learning through direct contingencies and the co-occurring processes of discrimination and generalization. Relational Frame Theory extends this account by incorporating relational learning, transformations of stimulus function, and derived relational responding as a generalized operant. I present several studies that examine the utility of these models in accounting for executive functioning - and executive functioning deficits - experienced by individuals with autism. A review of functional neurological research suggests that differences during executive functioning tasks occur in the same regions that are involved in derived relational responding and not direct contingency learning. A multiple hierarchical regression on PEAK assessment data suggests that derived relational responding is highly correlated with IQ test scores in children with autism and can account for the relationship between verbal operant development and IQ. Finally, in a multiple baseline experimental design, systematic increases in executive functioning and IQ were observed as a function of relational training guided by the PEAK-Equivalence and PEAK-Transformation modules with children with autism. Implications for autism assessment and treatment are discussed.
ABA Effectiveness for Persons with Autism and Related Disabilities in Large-Scale Group Designs
LINDSEY NICOLE HOLTSMAN (Emergent Learning: STL Center), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University), Becky Barron (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of the most highly recommended treatment options for individuals with autism for decreasing challenging behaviors and increasing functional skills. Many studies using traditional ABA methods such as verbal behavior training have provided evidence for improving language and communication skills. Studies utilizing relational training have shown additional benefits to the acquisition of both language and communication skills, but also in changes of intelligence. The current presentation will evaluate randomized controlled trials (RCT) that utilized both traditional ABA methods and relational training to increase intelligence. Variables within these studies include overall treatment dosage, relational training dosage compared to traditional ABA dosage, and ABA/Relational training treatment compared to a special education treatment as usual protocol. The results of each study indicated positive outcomes in changes of intelligence measures for children with autism. The implications of these studies when taken together suggest value in assessing differences in dosages or treatment types when looking at ABA interventions for skill acquisition. Additionally, the utility of RCT’s in behavior analytic research is also discussed.
Relational Framing to Promote Increases in Intelligence with Neurotypical Children
CALEB STANLEY (Utah Valley University), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University), Ayla Schmick (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: In recent years, several studies have emerged demonstrating the effectiveness of procedures derived from Relational Frame Theory in facilitating increases in intelligence and other related behaviors. The current study aimed to extend on previous research by evaluating if exposure to relational framing tasks had an effect intelligence. The current study incorporated a multiple baseline across participants design to evaluate the effects of the intervention and was conducted with 12 neurotypical children. Experimenters obtained pre-training and post-training performances by administering the WISC-V IQ test to all participants in the study. Following the pre-training assessment, nine of the participants were exposed to a series of relational training phases, in which they were required to respond in accordance with arbitrarily applicable relational responding across a series of relational tasks. The remaining three participants were not exposed to the relational training phases and served as a comparison group. The results indicated that participants exposed to the relational training phases showed an overall increase in IQ, whereas those that did not partake in the relational training phases did not have similar increases. Taken together, the results add to a growing body of literature that support the use of RFT-based interventions to promote intelligent behavior.

A Relational Frame Skills Training Intervention to Increase IQ in 11-12 Year Old Children: The Role of Attentional Skills

BRYAN T. ROCHE (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Ian Grey (Zayed University), Anna Dillon (Zayed University), Justin Thomas (Zayed University), Sarah N. Cassidy (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Lauren Moore (Maynooth University)

The current study investigated the effects of a SMART (Strengthening Mental Abilities through Relational Training) intervention on the intellectual ability of a sample of 11-12 year old children, but with the intention to control for baseline attentional skill levels. Fifteen children aged between 11 and 12 years attending school in the UAE received approximately 1-5 hours of training per week in derived relational responding skills via a computerized on-line programme (SMART) over 13 weeks. Attentional abilities and intelligence were tested at baseline and follow-up using the Test of Everyday Attention-2 and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, respectively. Fourteen further children matched for age served as waiting controls. Results showed significant gains on IQ for the experimental participants only, but gains were affected by baseline attention scale scores and compromised by differences in baseline IQ across treatment groups. Implications for future work and applications are discussed.




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