A few weeks ago (October 1st through October 3rd) the 35th annual meeting of The Florida Association for Behavior Analysis (FABA) was held. FABA hosts an excellent conference each year showcasing some of the latest research and effective intervention in the field of behavior analysis. As part of our ongoing professional development several Lodestone staff members attended the conference both as consumers of the research and as presenters. One of our goals is to continue to promote the continued professional growth of our faculty in an effort to stay up to date with the latest the science has to offer. Ultimately, this will help ensure we are best serving our students.
Attendees of the annual conference (mostly local behavior analysts, but some parents and other professionals) have a number of presentations to choose from. In fact, one of the most difficult things about this conference is deciding between two interesting talks scheduled at the same time. There were quite a few topics that were relevant to what we do at Lodestone Academy; here are a few highlights:
Interventions for Educational Settings
Dr. Tara Loughrey presented in a symposium that is very relevant to education. In one of her studies she focused on helping students who engage in stereotypy (repeated physical movements or speech) which can often get in the way of learning important skills. In her study, she offered the students a choice in which intervention staff would use to reduce stereotypy and found that the students most often chose the intervention in which staff blocked the stereotopy during learning time, but then provided them free reign to engage in stereotypy at a designated time later. In another study she examined the impact of the size of a screen had on video modeling. This is important, as we use both iPad minis and the original iPad, so if we do video modeling, we know which screen might be best. Both of these studies, while very different, help us look at how we can tweak certain interventions for our students.
Ensuring we are following the science!
Dr. Amy Polick delivered an engaging and fun presidential address in which she discussed some techniques that seem to be common practice in much of behavior analysis but turn out not to be supported by the research literature. In other words, we have our own version of “old wives tales”. One common example is the delivery of behavior-specific praise. It turns out that saying “great job” is just as effective as saying “great job sitting in your chair” and is significantly less wordy! The take-away was that at Lodestone, we need to always question why we’re selecting our interventions and make sure that we have solid research driving our practices. One way we plan to incorporate this practice is to have Dr. Josh Pritchard review our protocols with the express purpose of questioning why and how we chose what we did. It is not always fun, but it is definitely worth it – we want our students’ families to know that we are providing the best our science has to offer!
Autism in education and safety
David Garcia from Behavior Analysis, Inc. described a study in which he examined the response of students with autism to a fire alarm. In typical education settings, students practice emergency drills on a monthly basis, and usually students with autism are prompted heavily through these exercises. Our science indicates that is probably not enough practice to teach the skill. In this study students were able to learn the process of the emergency procedure, and were able to generalize to another setting after a few practice sessions. However, this did not occur if the alarm sound changed. At Lodestone, we are looking to see how we can best teach these kinds of emergency procedures in a way that will serve our students in settings besides just our school.
We are very proud to have had two presentations by our team: Jason Lewis and Karli Silverman. It was Karli’s first professional presentation, and she really did an amazing job! Her study was examining ways to use complex learning theory to more efficiently teach chemistry. She found that by using a computer program that she created, she could potentially increase the efficiency of learning by 90%. It was a pilot study and she is continuing to conduct this research. This was Jason’s second presentation, and he also represented our school well. His presentation was about the theoretical underpinnings of the learning theory and also how it could be applied to teach music theory. Both of the presentations were well received, and make us proud. These studies, while not directly applicable to our student population, provide some groundwork on how we can leverage the science to best teach some academic skills that are in our students’ IEPs. More importantly, our staff members are engaging in the scientific method to better understand how learning works. This will help our students as we continually look for better ways to teach and enhance their quality of life.
We highly recommend that anyone interested in behavior analysis check out next year’s FABA (it will be in Fort Lauderdale). Happily, you don’t have to wait until then, as there are local chapters who have events throughout the year. For more information, visit www.FABAworld.org