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.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #355
CE Offered: BACB
Expanding the Scope of ABA: Diagnosing & Treating Children With Psychological Disorders & Emotional Behaviors
Monday, May 25, 2009
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
North 222 C
Area: CBM/EDC; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Jeannie Golden (East Carolina University)
CE Instructor: John M. Guercio, Ph.D.
Abstract: Over the course of the past decade, the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has become synonymous with treatment of autism in the eyes of many parents, teachers and clinicians from other disciplines. Many professionals in ABA do not fully welcome a narrow view of this applied science. The lack of the identification of ABA as the most empirically effective treatment for other areas (e.g., psychological and emotional disorders) may stem from a range of factors including: our discomfort with the difficulty in controlling the variables, the absence of efficacy studies in these domains, challenges in defining “emotional behavior” and others. If we hope to expand the application beyond DD and autism, we must identify and confront these impediments to broader application. The presenters will address the issue of operationally defining “emotional” behaviors and specific behavioral assessment and intervention strategies for diagnosing and treating children who have been diagnosed with psychological disorders.
Children With Severe Emotional & Behavioral Problems: The Impact of Maladaptive Learning Histories
JEANNIE GOLDEN (East Carolina University)
Abstract: Many children in the child welfare system are at-risk of developing severe emotional and behavioral problems due to learning histories associated with early abuse/neglect, multiple placements and multiple caregivers. The impact that this may have on the child’s behavior is likely to cause continued problems for the child and those providing care and treatment. Inappropriate behaviors may be related to learning histories and contingencies that are not observable in the immediate environment. Feelings may be establishing operations for the salience of particular reinforcers and punishers. Certain adult and peer behaviors may be discriminative stimuli for particular reinforcers and punishers in children’s learning histories. Negative peer models and naïve adults may provide inadvertent reinforcement for inappropriate behaviors such as lying, stealing and cheating. The presenter will discuss the impact that this learning history has on current behavior and the effectiveness of behavioral treatments as well as offer alternative types of treatment.
Using Functional Behavioral Assessments of Emotional Behaviors to Assist in the Differential Diagnosis of Psychological Disorders
ENNIO C. CIPANI (National University), Jeannie Golden (East Carolina University)
Abstract: Traditional psychologists use clinical interviews and symptom checklists to diagnosis psychological disorders. Behaviorists know that it is essential to ascertain the function as well as the topology of behavior in order to effectively treat problem behavior. A functional behavioral assessment, including direct observation in natural environments, is a tool that can aid in going beyond a simple description of problem behavior to the identification of the maintaining variables. This can help to differentially diagnose the psychological disorder. In a functional behavioral treatment, the function of the presenting problem needs to be disabled, while an alternate function (that is more acceptable) needs to be enabled (Cipani & Schock, 2007). To determine how such consequences should be altered, a functional behavioral assessment is needed in order to ascertain the social and environmental function of the presenting problem. In this presentation, functional behavioral assessments are presented as tools for differential diagnosis of children presenting severe behavior problems.
Applying ABA in Public School: Interventions to Reduce Anxiety and Other Emotional Behaviors
Abstract: Many children demonstrate behavioral and emotional responses to academic challenges and non-preferred social conditions at school. The current case studies provided in this presentation describe the use of behavior analytic descriptions and behavioral interventions designed to address the accompanying skill deficits. Operational definitions are provided for “emotional” behaviors. These definitions and objective baseline data were used to establish teaching procedures designed to develop adaptive responses to academic and social challenges. The interventions were implemented by public school personnel with periodic consultation support from a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). The data demonstrate a rapid reduction in “emotional” behaviors and dramatic increases in academic participation and acquisition of targeted academic and social content. The results are discussed both in terms of the procedures implemented and their effect on target behaviors as well as the process the team used to ensure effective staff training and reliable implementation across classroom teachers and school settings.
Childhood Trauma and Attachment Issues: Toward Rational Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Abused Children
WALTER WITTY PRATHER (Barry University), Jeannie Golden (East Carolina University)
Abstract: Attachment theory provides a useful conceptual framework for understanding trauma and the treatment of abuse in children. This presenter will examine childhood trauma and attachment issues from the perspective of behavior analysis, and provides a theoretical basis for a rational cognitive behavioral treatment approach for previously abused children and their foster or adoptive parents. This new treatment approach is based on the integration of attachment theory and basic concepts and principles of relativity and behavior analysis. This model provides both dyadic and cognitive behavioral interventions that encourage behavior change with foster children who have been abused or neglected as part of their early experiences. The role of emotion in behavioral causation and the teaching and learning of different behavior are central to the treatment process, just as they are central features in healthy parent child relationships. Conclusions are reached that “familial and therapeutic environments” in which perception and previous learning guide parent child interaction are more important than diagnostic orientation, and implications for specific cognitive and behavioral interventions are suggested.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh