Clinical Research Reports - Beacon ABA Services

Clinical Research Reports

Beacon is proud to contribute to the latest evidence based strategies in the field of ABA therapy. We regularly analyze clinical research reports to support our core value of utilizing evidence-based strategies that lead to functional treatment outcomes for clients, children and families.

October 2023

A major barrier that families and caregivers face is the potential to misunderstand the technical terminology that behavior analysis professionals use when trying to effectively communicate their valuable expertise.

In this study by Marshall, Weiss, and Critchfield, they evaluated the effect that technical terms have during parent training. Seventeen parents of individuals with disabilities were taught to implement discrete trial teaching via individualized instructions that contained high or low percentages of jargon. The jargon that was utilized was individually determined for each participant based on a pre-evaluation. It was discovered that parents who encountered more jargon benefitted significantly less from the training, and the jargon damaged the professional-stakeholder relationship in several ways. These findings support the idea that technical terminology has a negative impact on the effective sharing of evidence-based practices. Professionals should limit jargon whenever possible and discuss with parents and caregivers which technical terms (such as “reinforcer” or “stimulus”) are understood at the outset of services.

At Beacon, we recognize the importance of having constructive and collaborative discussions with families and stakeholders to provide the best services for children with Autism. Skills instruction and coaching must be easy to understand and implement. Be sure to ask your BCBA or behavior therapist to explain any terminology that is unfamiliar to you.

If you would like to read the report:

Marshall, K.B., Weiss, M.J., Critchfield, T.S. et al. (2023). Effects of Jargon on Parent Implementation of Discrete Trial Teaching. Journal of Behavioral Education.

September 2023

As a provider of services to young children with Autism, Beacon uses compassionate interventions and state-of-the-art services to improve and support the development of children.

Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have restrictive eating patterns, which is why it’s important that we teach them to eat a variety of healthy foods. Identifying successful methods that don’t involve restrictive procedures, such as not removing a new food, is a demonstration of using compassionate interventions.

In this study by Gover, Hanley, Ruppel, Landa, and Marcus, it was discovered that rewarding a child for eating small bites of food could be successful when using an individualized approach and providing frequent choice making opportunities. Standard feeding programs can be unpleasant for the child (and caregivers), so this type of intervention can be more reinforcing, enhancing effectiveness.

If you’d like to read the report:

Gover, H.C., Hanley, G.P., Ruppel, K.W., Landa, R.K., & Marcus, J. (2023) Prioritizing choice and assent in the assessment and treatment of food selectivity, International Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 69:1, 53-65.

August 2023

When your child is expressing challenging behavior, the goal is to replace that behavior with communication skills that meet the same purpose. For example, a child who wants their parent’s attention may scream or hit because that “works” to get their attention. By teaching the child to ask for attention vocally or by handing over a picture, screaming and hitting should decrease.

As a part of this process, parents may be asked to ignore challenging behavior and only react to appropriate attempts to communicate. This article by Lloveras and McKeown caution that we should be careful in how we interpret “ignoring.” Ignoring challenging behavior shouldn’t mean not providing care to the child or standing by when unsafe behavior is occurring. When ignoring challenging behavior is recommended, it is important to ask your Beacon BCBA, “what specifically should I do?”. It might be that just limiting highly emotional responses to your child such as “WHAT DID YOU DO?” is what is necessary while continuing to provide calm care and attention. During parent training, work with your Beacon BCBA to determine how best to limit attention while being responsive to all attempts to communicate.

If you would like to read the report:

Lloveras, L.A., McKeown, C.A., Lichtenberger, S.N. et al. (2023). Recommendations Regarding Use of the Term “Ignore” in Applied Behavior Analysis. Perspectives on Behavioral Science.

July 2023

For parents and caregivers of children with autism, pica, the ingestion of non-food items, can be an especially dangerous behavior. Sources (CDC, 2019) report that while pica only occurs in about 4% of preschool children without disabilities, it occurs in 14% of autistic preschool aged children without intellectual disabilities and in 28% of those with autism and intellectual disabilities. While there are many different treatments for pica, prevention is the most important. This article by Thomas and O’Connor demonstrates the successful use of a safety checklist as a tool to remind caregivers to remove unsafe items that could be ingested.

If your child engages in pica, it’s important to speak to your Beacon BCBA to identify what items are most likely to be ingested, as well as the settings and activities that may trigger the behavior. Identifying the function or the “why” of the behavior is important, as some children ingest items because of the way they taste while others may do so to get your attention. Different functions require different strategies to treat the behavior. In this study, it’s suggested that if you and your BCBA develop a safety checklist, you’ll be less likely to leave unsafe items accessible to your child.

If you’d like to read the report:

Thomas, B.R., O’Connor, J.T. (2023). Parent Use of a Safety Checklist to Prevent Their Child’s Pica. Behavior Analysis in Practice.

June 2023

For some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it can be a struggle to know when they are feeling happy or sad. Communication challenges lead to children that can’t verbally report their feelings, which can add to parents’ frustration. In this study done by Ramey, Healy and McEnaney, they found that for children with ASD, happiness and unhappiness could be best identified by unique behaviors that they engaged in during enjoyable and unenjoyable conditions. For example, if the child flaps their hands and jumps when playing with bubbles, those behaviors may be their indicators of happiness. In these conditions, they also found that the children were not able to accurately self-report their feelings.

It’s important to understand what contributes to a child’s happiness. This study shows that for children with ASD, we may need to look for unique things that they do as signs of happiness. For Beacon parents and caregivers, this requires working closely with your BCBA to identify and measure these behaviors. While many preschools use emojis, emotional thermometers, or other visuals to identify emotions; children with autism may need explicit instruction to learn how to express these feelings and answer these questions.

If you’d like to read the report:

Ramey, D., Healy, O. & McEnaney, E. Defining and Measuring Indices of Happiness and Unhappiness in Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Behavior Analysis in Practice 16,194–209 (2023).

March 2023

Providing clients with a choice of behavioral intervention is an important component of administering compassionate, trauma-informed care. In this study by Huntington and Schwartz, it was found that participants with Autism/ADHD all had clear preferences for a specific intervention package, and that the intervention package was successful in reducing target behaviors and in increasing on-task behavior.

There may be more than one treatment option for a particular behavior. If that is the case, your BCBA could ask you to choose the intervention that is preferred. When working with younger clients, choice can be inferred from assent, defined as willing participation, or the absence of challenging behavior when an intervention is applied.

If you’d like to read the report:

Huntington, R. N., & Schwartz, I. S. (2022). The Use of Stimulus Preference Assessments to Determine Procedural Acceptability for Participants. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 24(4), 325–336.

February 2023

Beacon’s Clinical Services department is constantly reviewing current publications to identify state-of-the-art services. This month focused on Mckeown, Vollmer, Cameron, Kinsella, and Shaibani’s (2022) research report that detailed the impact of considering the needs of the whole client – including the input of the client’s family as well as other professionals.

In their report, they recognized the importance of when working with clients, especially those that are children, always considering the possibility that they are experiencing pain, which may factor into their clinical profile.

Best practice involves collaborating with medical personnel and the client’s family to investigate if pain plays a role in the causes of challenging behavior. As a compassionate caregiver, Beacon’s BCBAs will consider the impact of your child’s communication challenges, especially regarding the possibility of your child experiencing pain. By defining and measuring behaviors, your BCBA plays an essential role in identifying signs of pain that your child may be unable to communicate vocally.

An early and comprehensive response to pain by caregivers enhances your child’s health and happiness. If you’d like more information, ask your BCBA.

If you’d like to read the report:

McKeown, C.A., Vollmer, T.R., Cameron, M.J. et al. Pediatric Pain and Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Implications for Research and Practice in Behavior Analysis. Perspectives on Behavioral Science, 45, 597–617 (2022).