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

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Invited Symposium #221
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
What Does Evidence-Based Practice Have to do With Applied Behavior Analysis?
Sunday, May 25, 2014
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
W183a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: PRA; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Robert K. Ross (Beacon ABA Services)
Discussant: Susan Wilczynski (Ball State University)
CE Instructor: Susan Wilczynski, Ph.D.

The term "evidence-based practice" now appears in the professional literature of every discipline that attempts to change human behavior in some dimension (e.g., health, social, communication, etc.). In recent years, behavior analysts have begun discussing the role of evidence-based practice within our field. Differing views about the definition of "evidence-based practice of ABA" have been raised as well as the question of how the evidence-based practice of ABA should influence practitioners. This presentation invites leading scholars within ABA to define evidence-based practice and to discuss the implications of their definition on the practice of behavior analysis. By answering questions like "What is a practice?" "What constitutes evidence?" and "How should the evidence-based practice of ABA influence practitioners' decision-making in their daily work?", Tim Slocum and Tristram Smith will demonstrate that the answers are essential to our field but more murky than they appear on face value. In addition, they will identify the role researchers must play if an evidence-based practice of ABA is to be realized in a meaningful way. They conclude by providing recommendations about how we should proceed as practitioners, researchers, and as a field if we expect to fully adopt the evidence-based practice of ABA.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

The primary target audience is practitioners who are required to make decisions regarding evidence-based practice as a part of their daily work. A secondary audience is researchers who conduct research and/or submit for federal funding in this area.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the event, participants should be able to (1) Provide different definitions for the evidence-based practice of applied behavior analysis; (2) Answer the question "What is a practice?"; and (3) Answer the question "What constitutes evidence?"

Evidence-Based Practice: A Framework for Professional Problem Solving

TIMOTHY A. SLOCUM (Utah State University)

Dr. Slocum will suggest that evidence-based practice of behavior analysis (EBP-BA) be defined as a decision-making process that integrates (A) the best available evidence with (B) clinical expertise and (C) client values and context. This definition corresponds with definitions of EBP in other professions including medicine and psychology, supports the foundational principles of applied behavior analysis, and provides a framework that can be applied to virtually all of one's professional practice as a behavior analyst. In this definition, behavior analysts' practices are understood to encompass all of their professional behavior. It states that behavior analytic practice should be based on the best available evidence. The quality, volume, and relevance of evidence varies greatly across the decisions that behavior analysts make--what is constant is that behavior analysts should seek out and use the best of what is available. This approach to EBP-BA suggests that ABA researchers (A) advance best available evidence through primary intervention research, (B) investigate how clinical expertise, client values, and context can be most effectively integrated into professional decision making, and (C) develop ways to make the best available evidence functionally accessible to practitioners.

Dr. Timothy A. Slocum earned his doctorate in special education at the University of Washington in 1991 and has been a faculty member at Utah State University (USU) in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation since then. He has been involved in reading instruction and reading research for more than 25 years. He has conducted research on phonological skills, vocabulary, and school-wide implementation of research-based reading instruction, and evidence-based practice. He teaches courses at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral levels on topics including evidence-based reading instruction, research methods and statistics, advanced topics in behavior analysis, and language. Dr. Slocum was recognized as 2011 Teacher of the Year by the USU College of Education, and he received the 2011 Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education award from Division 25 of the American Psychological Association.

What is Evidence-Based Behavior Analysis?

TRISTRAM SMITH (University of Rochester Medical Center)

Although behavior analysts often say we engage in evidence-based practice, we express differing, sometimes contradictory views on what constitutes "evidence" and "practice." In order to provide useful guidance to consumers, providers, third-party payers, and researchers, we need to be clear on what is or is not a practice and what is or is not suitable evidence. This talk will critique applied behavior analytic interventions that behavior analysts have identified as evidence-based practices. It argues that establishing such practices involves more than analyzing the effects of discrete intervention procedures on behavior; it requires synthesizing findings into a package that is demonstrably usable by independent providers and useful to consumers. Recognizing the need for synthesis offers behavior analysts many promising opportunities to build on our existing research in order to increase the quality and quantity of evidence-based practices.

Tristram Smith, Ph.D., is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), where he leads federally funded studies comparing the efficacy of different interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. He is also a clinician in URMC's Community Consultation Program, serving students with ASD and other intellectual disabilities in schools and other agencies. His commitment to the study and treatment of children with ASD began in 1982, when he had the opportunity to volunteer as a buddy for an adult with autism who lived near his college. This experience inspired him to apply to graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied clinical psychology and worked as a therapist and researcher with O. Ivar Lovaas, Ph.D., in the UCLA Young Autism Project. Before moving to Rochester in 2000, he directed clinics for children with autism and their families in the states of California, Iowa, and Washington. He has authored or coauthored several of the most widely cited studies on treatment outcomes for children with ASD.



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