Training Behavioral Therapists to Administer Brief Preference Assessments

In a recent study, CARD Researchers Dr. Michele Bishop and Dr. Amy Kenzer found group classroom training to be effective in teaching behavioral therapists to administer brief preference assessments to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A major component of applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment is the delivery of preferred stimuli as reinforcement. Therefore, preference assessments are conducted to identify highly preferred stimuli. Such assessments ought to be conducted frequently since a child’s preferences may change. For this reason, Dr. Michele Bishop and Dr. Amy Kenzer set out to evaluate the effectiveness of classroom training in teaching behavioral therapists to administer brief preference assessments to children with ASD during therapy sessions.

Participants included 11 behavioral therapists trained to provide ABA treatment to children with ASD. All participants underwent group classroom training involving lecture, video modeling, role-play, and feedback. Training covered topics including when to administer preference assessments, how to administer the assessments, and how to interpret the results. Treatment effectiveness was evaluated based on written tests administered before and after training, as well as observation of therapy sessions prior to and following training. If necessary, additional in vivo feedback was provided during post-training observation sessions to participants demonstrating inadequate performance levels.

All participants demonstrated poor performance levels during baseline; however, seven participants demonstrated adequate performance levels following group classroom training. The four remaining participants achieved adequate performance levels following additional in vivo feedback. Furthermore, eight participants maintained adequate performance levels during one-month follow-ups. Overall, participants assessed and identified more preferred stimuli following training. In addition, preference assessments took under 30 seconds to administer.

The findings suggest that group classroom training with additional in vivo feedback may be effective in teaching behavioral therapists to administer preference assessments to children with ASD. Furthermore, since the preference assessments require such a short time to administer, it is reasonable for behavioral therapists to conduct the assessments during their regular therapy sessions.

References

Bishop, M. R., & Kenzer, A. L. (in press). Teaching therapists to conduct brief preference assessments during therapy sessions. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2011.07.005

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