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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Symposium #487
CE Offered: BACB
Functional Behavioral Assessment:The Key to Understanding and Treating Individuals with Psychiatric Disorders
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
W179b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: CBM/PRA; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Jeannie A. Golden (East Carolina University)
Discussant: Ennio C. Cipani (National University)
CE Instructor: Jeannie A. Golden, Ph.D.

Typically, functional behavioral assessment (FBA) has been used with individuals with developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders. The goal of FBA is to identify the function of aberrant behavior and to teach the individual to exhibit an acceptable replacement behavior that can serve the same function. Traditional counselors view aberrant behaviors in individuals with psychiatric disorders as symptoms of underlying constructs and use the diagnosis as a reason for these behaviors, proposing more global treatments such as evidence-based therapies or medications. On the other hand, behaviorists view those behaviors as serving an environmental function. Once the environmental function of a psychiatric symptom is identified, it can be treated effectively by replacing it with a more acceptable behavior serving the same function. Presenters in this symposium will discuss the process of conducting FBAs and function-based treatments in various settings, including school systems, clinics, and homes, with several different symptoms of psychiatric diagnoses. Symptoms include anxiety, callous-unemotionality, disturbed attachment and non-suicidal self-injury.

Keyword(s): psychiatric diagnoses

Assessing Anxiety-Related Behaviors and Teaching Proactive Strategies for Coping with Anxiety

JESSICA MINAHAN (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that one in four 13-to-18-year-olds has had an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Without intervention, these children are at risk for poor performance, diminished learning and social or behavior problems in school. The keys to successful intervention are to assess the function of anxiety in the students' behavior and to teach the students appropriate replacement behaviors for their anxiety responses. By understanding the role anxiety plays in a student's behavior, proper preventive strategies can be identified that avoid the reward/punishment-based consequences of traditional behavior plans. The focus then becomes the use of preventive strategies and the teaching of coping skills, self-monitoring and alternative responses. Consultation with teachers is essential to explain how to implement a successful behavior plan for a student with anxiety. This includes demonstrations of how to identify and accommodate common anxiety-provoking school activities, as well as explicitly teaching those underdeveloped skills that lead to anxiety-related behavior. Symposium participants will take away easy-to-implement preventive tools, in addition to strategies and interventions for reducing anxiety and increasing self-regulation, executive functioning and self-monitoring in students with anxiety disorders.


Including Bio-Behavioral States in Functional Behavioral Assessment: Treating Individuals with Conduct Problems and Anti-Social Behaviors

EMMI SCOTT (East Carolina University)

Behavior analysts emphasize the function of behavior specifically associated with the resulting contingencies. However, functional behavioral assessment can be extended by examining the effect that bio-behavioral states may have on individuals' responsiveness to reinforcing or punishing contingencies. Individuals with what researchers refer to as "callous-unemotional" traits demonstrate reduced neurophysiological responsiveness to aversive and emotional stimuli, and appear to have a generally limited repertoire of emotional behaviors (e.g., excluding fear, guilt, and empathy). Thus, they may not respond in the same way as neuro-typical individuals to aversive events and appear to lack many emotional behaviors. These bio-behavioral states may serve as abolishing operations and this lack of responsiveness may serve as a setting event for conduct problems. This presentation will provide a review of relevant research on "callous-unemotionality" and how this may lead to anti-social behaviors. Additionally, attendees will learn how this assessment information can be used to inform more comprehensive behavioral interventions.


Using Functional Behavioral Assessment to Select Coping and Self-Management Skills for Youth with Internalizing Disorders

JESSE W. JOHNSON (Northern Illinois University)

Coping and self-management strategies have been demonstrated as effective interventions for children and youth with anxiety and other internalizing disorders (Oswald, 2008). For example, a child with an anxiety disorder may learn to engage in specific alternative behaviors (e.g., problem solving, self-instruction, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation) in the presence of stressful situations (Kendall, 2010). An emerging body of research is demonstrating that the effectiveness of coping and self-management skills can be further enhanced by the use of functional behavior assessment. This process provides the means for understanding the motivating operations and stimulus events that set the occasion for anxiety and for identifying the functions of anxiety responses. The purpose of this presentation is to a) summarize recent research on developing function-based self-management skills, b) outline a series of steps for practitioners to use when developing function-based self-management programs, and c) demonstrate the process through the a case study example.


Functional Behavioral Assessment and Function-Based Treatment of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Adolescents

ASHLEY LAUREN BOUKNIGHT WINGARD (East Carolina University), Jeannie A. Golden (East Carolina University)

Functional behavioral assessment can add significantly to the treatment of adolescents with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). NSSI includes cutting, burning, marking and other forms of bodily mutilation without suicidal thought or intention. Researchers have found that up to 45% of young adolescents have exhibited at least one incident of NSSI (Lloyd-Richardson, 2007; Nock & Prinstein, 2004). Setting events such as bullying, relationship problems, and other failures and disappointments are common in the daily lives of adolescents and may serve as establishing operations for cutting and other forms of NSSI. These behaviors may serve functions of immediate and effective access to attention and preferred activities and escape from painful emotions and sensations for these adolescents. By identifying the maintaining functions, treatment protocols can be developed that provide more appropriate replacement behaviors. This presentation will provide relevant research related to functional behavioral assessment of NSSI and provide a case example of how it was used in treatment.




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