ABA in Australia: Diverse and Relevant… The Second Annual ABAA Conference

The 2nd Annual Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia conference happened, the first weekend in November. It was a time to come together, meet old and new colleagues and friends, and most importantly, spend an entire weekend talking about ABA with like-minded people! There is just something about being in a room, with people who love ABA as much as you do πŸ™‚

We had two jam-packed full days, with Dr. Dana Reinecke kicking off Day 1, discussing working with older clients, in particularly, utilising technology to increase independence (a current special interest of mine). Lots of great take-aways, including her mention of Dr. Peter Gerhardt and ‘planning for the next five years’ – which ever life stage you are in.

Dana

Dr. Dana Reinecke discussing utilising technology with students.

We then heard from a range of different presenters, covering topics such as the Association for Science in Autism Treatment’s presence in the media, creative ways to assess PICA (eating non-food substances), and supervision.

PICA

Dr. Tessa Taylor sharing some great information to help with assessing functions of PICA.

We wrapped up the day with a lively speech from Dr. John McEachin and teaching receptive language skills. We also we privileged to hear about Jay Birnbrauer, by his friend and colleague, Dr. Alan Ralph, who shared with us Jay ‘Birnie’ Birnbrauer’s contribution to behaviour analysis, in Australia.

It was a long, but really interesting day, topped off by fantastic discussions with ABA colleagues, long into the night.

Day 2 was off to an extremely interesting and renewed start. We heard from Dr. Johnathan Tarbox, on the Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Applied Behaviour Analysis, which just blew everyone out of the water. We all seemed to take away something from this session.

Tarbox

Dr. Johnathan Tarbox, sharing his amazing presentation of ACT and ABA.

The day continued with a very interesting presentation, from Dr. Erin Leif, sharing Dr. Greg Henley’s Interview Informed Functional Analyses in Clinic and Home Settings. We heard about teaching social skills to students with autism, as well as some more on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Behaviour Therapists, and wrapped up the final day of the conference with a panel discussion on advocating for services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

There was so much to take in, and I personally feel like I learned so much. Now, its just about finding the time to synthesise the information, and apply things where needed. I also figured out about 10 different things I wanted to look further into!

It is really great to be able to be a part of a community such as this. I never thought, when I first started this career, over ten years ago, that we would be in a position where we have annual Australian ABA conferences. The field is only growing, and with new opportunities to become a BCBA (through Monash University), the Victorian Department of Education hiring 3 state-wide BCBAs, as well as the Victorian Government providing scholarships for teachers to complete postgraduate study in ABA, we can only continue to expand, from here.

And finally, something that made me smile – applying the principles of ABA, to increase recycling behaviour πŸ˜€

Reduce.jpg

A Behaviour Plan to help everyone increase their recycling behaviour, after the conference!


To find out more about the Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia, visit their webpage, http://www.auaba.com.au.

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ABA in Australia: Diverse and Relevant… The Second Annual ABAA Conference

Keeping up-to-date!

There is a lot of information to take in, particularly in regards to Autism and theories about development and potential new treatment methods. I have found a few sources from the internet that have been particularly informative, and can at least point me in the right direction.

Keep in mind, my main area of interest are people providing information about Applied Behaviour Analysis and Verbal Behaviour, but these sources can link me to other areas as well.

So below, are a selection of resources I go to, when wanting to find out the latest information, or just clarify terminology.

Tricia-Lee Keller (BehaviourAtPlay)

Tricia is really great at providing everyday examples of ABA terms. Recently, she was studying for the BCBA exam via Twitter, providing handy study tips in 140 characters or less! Congrats on passing!

Dr. Amanda Kelly (Behavior Babe)

Hailing from the land of sunshine and aloha! Dr.Amanda Kelly again provides clear-cut explanations of ABA terms for everyone. I often refer to her website when explaining terms and concepts to families. Also great to see her passion for supporting families in trying to get insurance for families receiving ABA services. It was great to catch up with her last month.

Emily Wormald

Emily always asks some good questions on twitter in regards to ABA, and provides links to interesting articles, resources and some cute animals when the weekend comes around.

ABA International

This is my go to source for a) up coming conferences and b) a wealth of information about all the different applications of ABA

The Conversation – Education

Very thought-provoking discussions related to education in Australia. Lots of points of view, and the comments are usually good to get a few different sides and opinions.

Autism Advisory and Support Service

This place always has useful information for families in Sydney who are looking for services and support.

Association for Science in Autism Treatment

This is a great go-to website for the latest information about science and evidence based treatments

Raising Children Network

I think this website is a fantastic resource. Not just for Autism information, but any information about raising a child. The specific Autism section actually provides details about the differnent types of treatments, evidence behind treatments, cost and time involved. I always point newly diagnosed families in the direction of this website.

Mark Sundberg

When I want to get information about Verbal Behaviour, I always visit Mark Sundberg’s website to see some of his uploaded presentations.

The Project

I feel that this show is like BTN (Behind the News) for young adults. I remember having to watch BTN in primary school and hating it, having to write articles about it afterwards, but I find this show really great to watch, just to get general information about what is happening in the world. Occasionally there are segments that are particularly relevant to my interests, but on the whole, it usually has some good pieces.

Autism Spectrum Australia – Positive Behaviour Support

This website contains more *free* resources to help with creating an individual behaviour support plan for people on the Autism Spectrum. There are how-to guides fr filling in, and checklists for parents about Positive Behaviour Support services.

MultiLit

I mainly use this website when I need to figure out what workshops I am presenting! But it provides some information about literacy interventions, as well as information about where to find further research and references.

Musec Briefings

These are short, 1-page summaries on a current topic of interest in the special education world. The researchers look at the research available, and summarise it, and the provide a ‘verdict’ on whether or not it is recommended to be implemented.

These are just a few of my preferred sources of information. I find Twitter and Facebook are great places to connect with people and have discussions about a whole range of different topics.

Keeping up-to-date!

The 7 Dimensions of ABA

This is one of the first things I came across in my more formal study of ABA, however I didn’t really pay too much attention until I did a little bit more further study for my BCBA.

The entire article is from quite a while ago, and is cited at the bottom of this article, however I have found thisΒ link to be quite useful in surmising the information.

In this blog today, I just want to discuss a little bit about each dimension and why I feel it is important in the work that I do. I think this is particularly relevant, and good timing for me to revise, as I am aiming to complete another subject towards my BCBA next month.

Study tip # 1 – I use the mnemonic ‘GET A CAB’ to label the 7 items πŸ˜€

Applied – the work we do, needs to be of socially, significant importance. That is, it needs to be relevant to the individual and make a change that will impact and make their life, and the people surrounding them lives, better. This is were person centered planning, family centered planning, quality of life, and individualised programs come into play. Not to mention, ideas related to inclusion and accessing the local community, and in Australia, the NDIS, having an effect. It is a nice aspect of ABA, and provides the underpinning for meaningful services and interventions.

Behavioural – we are concerned with the observable. All behaviour is observable and measurable (until we get to private events, which I am not even going to begin to try and understand on here)! However, if we have clear, objective, observable and measurable behaviour, we can collect meaningful data, create interventions and test to see whether those interventions make a difference, and prove the effectiveness of what we have done.

Analytical – this is the part I feel I have the least experience in. I think, indirectly, I can be quite analytical in the work I do, however, I often struggle to have the time, or correct guidance to implement potential treatment plans and validate their analytical value. It requires manipulating antecedents and consequences to bring about (or decrease) a particular behaviour. I think I do a lot of the manipulating to decrease and then once the behaviour is decreased, we are all pretty happy so it is all good, however I wonder if we were able to control and manipulate further, and produce some sort of experimental design, we may gather further information about the behaviour and what is mantaining it over longer periods of time? Anyway … food for thought for another day.

Generality – this is such an important dimension. What is the point of doing what we do, if it only works in one place? Or with one person? Or with one material? Or only at a certain time of day? We need to ensure that was we do in one particular set up, can be generalised and maintained to another environment, person, object etc. This is definitely an area where I find it is often very hard to generalise and replicate educational based research and interventions from research, to classroom practice. I don’t really have any great ideas for how to go about making this easier, I just want it to be easier πŸ™‚

Conceptual – This dimension focuses on the need for techniques and interventions being related to some sort of theoretical base, and with applied behaviour analysis, that is definitely the case with a lot of the strategies used. In regards to the way this is used in ABA, it makes for more meaningful and effective interventions – they are not just being pulled out of nowhere, there is already some semblance of reasoning there.

Technological – this notion is similar to generality, in the sense of we want things to be expanded on, however it directly relates to specific components of ABA being replicable, particularly with research. If what you have done, has worked so well, then I should be able to a) understand how you did it, through your extremely detailed research and b) replicate your study and achieve similar results. This is something I hope to be able to do one day soon, and I apologise to all those poster presenters at conferences, whom I judged harshly and thought “Pft, I already knew that, do something new!” But this is an important aspect as it builds on research already about there, and provides first time researchers, a starting point πŸ˜›

Effective – save the best for last! Of course, why would we do all this, if it wasn’t effective. We constantly take data on what we are doing, and this is something I have stressed to many people I have worked with over the years, so we can see if what we are doing, is working. And if it is not working, then we can review and see what we need to change, and where, so that we can ensure we are not spending time, money and resources on something that is not working. Although, by using strategies and techniques with many, many years research behind them, we should hopefully be on the right track to start with … but as it will be evidenced in my soon to come science post, we need to constantly be checking in on ourselves and evaluating what we are doing.

This was actually a really good refresher for getting back into study!


 

References

Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition

Baer, D.M., Wolf, M.M., & Risley, T.R. (1968).Β Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91-97.

Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan – Seven Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis

The 7 Dimensions of ABA

The importance of being evidence-based.

Not necessarily earnest though.

Many years ago, when I was studying my Special Ed course, I remember having a very brief discussion with one of my lecturers in regards to “harmful” treatments. We were discussing the fact that there are some promising interventions out there (in regards to Autism interventions) however there just wasn’t as much research to support these treatments as there is in regards to behavioural interventions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely all in favour of behavioural based treatments. There is a long history and evidence base of behavioural interventions being highly effective in many different aspects. However I was just interested to see what the deal was with other interventions, and how could we really discount something, if it hadn’t been tested yet (another relevant blog post coming soon – I’m a Scientist!)

Her response was quite informative and I really learned something about science and research. In my mind, I was only considering ‘harmful’ interventions to be the ones that cause physical harm e.g. Students being rolled up into blankets and then suffocating. However she explained that ‘harmful’ interventions also could be interventions that were taking the time, money and place of proven interventions, and providing ineffective treatments, wasting the time and money that could have been spent on effective, evidenced-based treatments.

It was like a light switch. It made sense to me, and explained to me why some ABA providers were perhaps extremely vocal and adamant about the effectiveness of ABA.

I have been doing this for many, many years, and I am still learning to this day. By continuing my study towards becoming a BCBA, I am actually linking things together and things are falling into place even more. But this particular conversation has always stood out in my mind, and I take it with me in my work.

I wanted families to understand the importance of evidence-based treatments. And understand their rights and the types of questions they should ask when engaging with a service provider e.g. What are our goals? When do you review our goals? What measurement tools do you use to check the effectiveness of what you are doing?

I can completely empathise with families wanting to try anything and everything. And a lot of families have friends who may have tried different interventions, and have anecdotal reports about its effectiveness. I imagine I would be in the same boat as families, and want to try everything, and do everything in my power to help my children. Personally, I just want to be able to support families, and share with them the information I have learned over my time in this field, and hopefully provide them with good information.

I was always happy to be a consultant for families who had recently received a diagnosis, because I wanted to share with them the importance of evidence-based interventions, and the types of questions they should be asking service providers, and how if you aren’t happy with a service, you can move on to a different service (particularly if you are paying for a service).

I feel this type of information will be even more relevant in the future once the National Disability Insurance Scheme comes into play, and hope families can utilise the tools available to help them make informed decisions.

The importance of being evidence-based.