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

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Tutorial #69
The Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities (ABLA): Thirty years in the development of a Clinical and Research Tool.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
West 301 CD
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Christina A. Weise Default (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
Presenting Authors: : W. LARRY WILLIAMS (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: A ubiquitous feature of a behavior analytic approach to the measurement and manipulation of learning is the concept of discrimination. Much of the behavior analytic literature on learning and behavior change in general is presented in terms of simple discrimination tasks and more complex “conditional” discrimination tasks. It has been assumed that more complex, conditional discriminations represent performance that is more “difficult” than simple discrimination tasks. The ABLA is a table top testing protocol that assesses an individual’s performance on 6 types of discriminations: a simple motor task, a visual position discrimination, a simple visual discrimination, a conditional visual discrimination(match-to-sample), a simple auditory discrimination, and a conditional auditory-visual discrimination. Thirty years of research has indicated that these discriminations are hierarchical in difficulty, predict testability on standard intelligence tests, are predictive of daily living skills, and may be pre-requisite for cross-modal equivalence formation and relational framing. As such the ABLA can be considered a basic tool for clinicians and researchers interested in learning, behavior function, preference assessments, language acquisition, social skills and many other performances. The objective of this tutorial is to allow more behavior analysts to become aware of this amazing clinical and research instrument. Wilfred Lawrence Williams Ph.D., C., Psych., B.C.B.A. Having graduated in 1977 from the University of Manitoba, Canada, In 1978, Dr. Williams and 2 prominent Brazilian Psychologists designed the first Masters Degree program in Special Education in South America at the Federal University at Sao Carlos. Dr. Williams was its chair from 1979-1981. In 1985 Dr. Williams became the director of the Agency Behavioral Consultation Services and subsequently Director of the Family and later the Community Behavioral services at Surrey Place Centre, Toronto Canada. In 1994, Dr. Williams accepted his current position at the University of Nevada, Reno where he teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, directs a community program for adults with Intellectual disabilities, consults to service agencies, provides a service for children with Autism, and maintains an active basic and clinical research laboratory. Dr. Williams served as Associate Chair of the Psychology Department and has now assumed the duties of Director of the UNR graduate Behavior Analysis Program. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a registered Psychologist in Ontario, Canada, he was the founder of the Ontario Behavior Analysis Association, a founding member of the Manitoba Behavior Modification Association, and the Founding President of the Nevada Association for Behavior Analysis.
W. LARRY WILLIAMS (University of Nevada, Reno)



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