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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #302
CE Offered: BACB
Toward a More Compassionate Implementation of Behavior Analysis
Sunday, May 29, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 258A
Area: AUT/CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Britany Melton (Endicott College; Journeys Autism Center)
Discussant: Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College)
CE Instructor: Mary Jane Weiss, Ph.D.

Compassionate care has been highlighted as vital to the service delivery provided in behavior analysis in recent years, and there has been a call to action issued for the field to increase its effort in defining, measuring, and training practitioners in this vital set of skills. Taylor et al., 2018 highlighted that service recipients have found fault with the compassionate care skills of behavior analysts and have suggested that there is an urgent need for behavior analysts to operationalize and teach compassionate care skills to behavior analysts. The papers presented in this symposium represent a behavior analytic approach to defining and measuring compassionate care skills. Included here is a literature review of compassionate care in behavior analysis, an assessment tool that was developed to support parent-practitioner collaboration in clinical practice, the results of behavior skills training in teaching compassionate care skills via telehealth, and the use of a questionnaire to better define compassionate care as it relates to first responders and victims of trauma. Implications of the presented research are provided, along with suggested future directions for research and for clinical practice.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Compassionate Care, Empathy, Telehealth
Target Audience:

Practicing Behavior Analysts; graduate students with knowledge of implementation

Learning Objectives: (1): Better define compassionate care behavior(s) (2): Identify how to use BST to teach compassionate care skills via telethealth (3): Identify barriers to teaching compassionate care skills
Compassionate Care in Applied Behavior Analysis: How Our Past Can Inform Our Future as Leaders in Compassionate Care
AMY RACHEL BUKSZPAN (Endicott College, Butterfly Effects)
Abstract: A great scholar and Buddhist monk, stated, “compassion is a verb” an action of the heart. He conceptualized compassion not as a quality to possess, but the sum of an individual’s behaviors towards improving the lives of others. As the call for compassionate care in today’s healthcare and medical fields reverberates through the ears of practitioners, what field is better suited than applied behavior analysis to lead the way? ABA is well equipped to be at the forefront in addressing and engaging in compassionate care. Yet compassionate care is subjective and poorly defined. Recently, a renewed emphasis on how compassionate care is delivered in applied behavior analysis, what it looks like in practice, and how behavior analysts obtain those skills has come increasingly under scrutiny. Taylor et al. 's 2018 seminal article defined compassionate care in ABA and suggested substantial pre-service training for practitioners in relationship building skills. This presentation will first review the history of compassionate care in the development of ABA as a field, then highlight some recent arguments for compassionate care in applied behavior analysis, and finally determine how those factors influenced the current state of ABA and some future recommendations.

Supporting Behavior Analysts in Providing Compassionate Care: The Development of the Parent Partnership Questionnaire

NANCY MARCHESE (Breakthrough Autism), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College)

The demonstration of compassionate care skills by behavior analysts may be integral to establishing successful parent-professional relationships in the delivery of interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD; Taylor et al., 2018). The Parent Partnership Questionnaire (PPQ) is an assessment tool that was developed to support parent-practitioner collaboration in clinical practice. The systematic development process involved multiple phases including collecting descriptive data from families, qualitatively analyzing those data, integrating the findings into an assessment tool (PPQ), soliciting feedback on the PPQ and testing the reliability of the PPQ. Average intercoder agreement on the coding of the qualitative interviews was 89%. During testing of administration of the PPQ, clinicians were able to administer the tool with good intercoder reliability and procedural fidelity (98.2% across both measures). This study offers a resource to support clinicians’ work with families and potentially advance the integration of compassionate care into services provided by behavior analysts.

Compassionate Care in First Responders
JERIDITH ANN LORD (Endicott College)
Abstract: Although first responders have extensive training in their specific area of response, they are often called upon to provide compassionate care to survivors of trauma without training in these soft skills. This section will highlight the disparities in understanding of compassionate care by comparing the components of the “12 Item Schwartz Center Compassionate Care Scale” and the surveyed responses from various first responders at the RAF Mildenhall Air Force Base. The first responders surveyed include firefighters, police officers, emergency room technicians, domestic abuse victim advocates, and sexual assault volunteer victim advocates. The survey asked individuals in these professions to provide key words to describe what they believe would be included in the definition of compassionate care. Their answers were then compared with the 12 items Schwartze Center Compassionate Care Scale for uniformity. Although this is a relatively small population size, each of these units of first responders represent a different education, culture, and population. In addition, the environment for each unit is unique in its approach to trauma.
Teaching Compassion Skills to Students of Behavior Analysis via Telehealth
JESSICA ROHRER (Center for Children with Special Needs; Endicott College)
Abstract: Socially valid practices are at the heart of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and can influence how interventions are experienced by families. However, the training of practitioners of ABA is primarily focused on the implementation of technical procedures with little focus on therapeutic approaches. Skills that seem ancillary to practice such as empathic interpersonal interactions can in fact be integral to the effective dissemination of our science. Empathy and therapeutic rapport have been associated with improved outcomes in allied professions (Beach et al., 2006; Hojat et al., 2011; Horst et al., 2000) but minimally studied within the field of behavior analysis. In the present study, several sources were utilized to identify and define empathic and compassionate care skills. These skills were divided into three skill areas and taught to ABA masters students using Behavioral Skills Training (BST) via a telehealth platform. All four participants significantly improved their engagement in compassionate care skills following training and maintained these skills in follow up probes and with a different experimenter. Several post-study measures of outcome were taken, including social validity measures from participants, ratings of compassion from consumer and professional experts, as well as comparison measures on the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE). Participant reports of social validity were high, as were consumer and professional ratings of compassionate behaviors. Improvements on the JSPE were also observed. Implications for training practitioners and for expanding this focus within the field are explored.



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