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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #51
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Fear and Anxiety in Autism: The Complexity of Assessment and Intervention
Saturday, May 29, 2010
2:30 PM–3:50 PM
205 (CC)
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Raymond G. Romanczyk (Institute for Child Development, Binghamton University)
CE Instructor: Dennis Reid, Ph.D.
Abstract: The universal processes of fear and anxiety in both typical and clinical populations have been well studied in multiple disciplines and there exist effective evidence based intervention procedures. One population, individuals with autistism spectrum disorders, has received comparatively little research and clinical attention related to fear and anxiety, even though it is a rapidly expanding population that has generated considerable public and general research attention. Reasons for this comparative lack of attention, particularly within behavior analysis, may have historical roots in the conceptualization of the disorder wherein co-morbidity was not well recognized, availability of poor assessment procedures for a population that typically can not provide meaningful self-report of emotional state, and over-utilization of non-compliance as an explanatory factor for expression of behavior problems. Fear and anxiety in autism spectrum disorders will be examined from multiple behavioral perspectives. Specific focus will be placed upon assessment and clinical intervention approaches regarding similarities and differences in both typical and clinical populations. Examples of treatment focus will be upon fears and phobias, social anxiety, and awareness of environmental dangers and safety issues. An individual case illustration will be presented to highlight critical aspects of precise assessment as it affects treatment in the typical multi-disciplinary setting.
Fear and Child Safety: Risk and Protective Factors for Nonfatal Injury in Children with Autistic Disorder
RACHEL N. STRAUB (Binghamton University, State University of New York), Raymond G. Romanczyk (Binghamton University, State University of New York)
Abstract: In recent years, researchers and practitioners have begun to recognize high levels of comorbidity between autism and other disorders. However, little attention has been given to the construct of fear, which can be defined as the awareness of impending threat for bodily or emotional harm with expectation of undesirable outcome. Previous research has shown that specific individual characteristics, such as impulsivity and lack of fear, increase the likelihood of injury in risk situations (Schwebel, 2004). Interestingly, emerging research has reported that children with autistic disorder experience a higher rate of injuries, with greater severity, than typical children (Lee, et al., 2008; McDermott, et al., 2008; Straub & Romanczyk, 2009). The purpose of this presentation is to present and review characteristics of children with autistic disorder that may serve as potential predictive factors and targets for intervention regarding unintentional, nonfatal injury. Specific focus will be given to characteristics that have been shown as accurate predictors of childhood injury for other clinical populations, including impulsivity, hyperactivity, attention difficulties, and lack of fear regarding likelihood of injury. Additionally, implications for conducting research on the absence of a phenomenon in predicting the occurrence of injury will be discussed.
A Behavioral Approach to the Assessment of Anxiety Disorders in Children with ASD
KELLY D. SCHLEISMANN (Auburn University), Jennifer M. Gillis Mattson (Auburn University)
Abstract: Although anxiety disorders are commonly comorbid with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD; e.g., Weisbrot et al., 2005), little is known about the methods for adequately assessing anxiety disorders in this population. Traditional assessments of anxiety disorders, such as clinical interviews and rating scales, may be inappropriate for use among children with ASD due to factors such as an overlap between symptoms of anxiety and core symptoms of ASD (Matson and Neble-Schwalm, 2007), as well as qualitative differences in sources of anxiety (Leyfer et al., 2006) and symptom presentations (Ozonoff, Goodlin-James, & Solomon, 2005). A behavioral approach to the assessment of anxiety in children with ASD may better enable practitioners to investigate important factors that are not typically relevant when assessing anxiety in the general population. This presentation will discuss complicating factors and recommendations pertaining to the behavioral assessment of anxiety in children with ASD.
Examination of Effective Interventions for Anxiety in Children with ASD
REBECCA BEIGHTS (Auburn University), Jennifer M. Gillis Mattson (Auburn University)
Abstract: Acknowledging comorbidity of anxiety with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), researchers have begun to evaluate treatment of anxiety in this population. Treatment of anxiety from a behavioral perspective often targets avoidance behaviors as observable manifestations of anxiety and aims to decrease avoidance through use of exposure, modeling, and contingent reinforcement (e.g., Conyers, Miltenberger, Peterson, Gubin, Jurgens, Selders, et al., 2004; Jennett & Hagopian, 2008, Rapp, Vollmer, & Hovanetz, 2005; Riccardi, Luiselli, & Camare, 2006). Current research on treatment of anxiety in children with ASD provides support for behavioral strategies as components of an effective intervention (Hagopian & Jennett, 2008). A review of the literature will be presented, with emphasis on analysis of specific treatment elements and recommendations for treatment implementation.
Case Conceptualization in a Multi-Disciplinary Setting: A Clinical Case Example
EMILY HUBER CALLAHAN (Binghamton University)
Abstract: Delivery of services for children with autism and related disorders often occur in the context of multi-disciplinary groups, for early intervention, preschool, and school age children. Thus behavior analysts typically provide services in the broad context of diverse program procedures and policies. Issues concerning professional relations with individuals from differing backgrounds and the ethical dilemmas they present, autism taxonomy, and intervention evaluation procedures, are the focus of this presentation. A clinical case example will be used to illustrate the specific difficulties behavior analysts can encounter providing services within such systems.



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