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We have some seats left in our back to school webinar on Ethics Related to Conducting the FBA and Developing the BIP. To join us, email info at applied behavioral strategies dot com or visit our website to register online. Scroll to the bottom and pay with PayPal.

Other Ethics Related Posts

It was incredibly awesome to meet so many behavior analysts at the National Autism Conference! If you have never been to this conference, you should add it to your “to do” list. I got to meet my hero, Dr. Perry Zirkel. He presents there every year so if you go for no other reason, go to see him! The other perk about this conference (besides seeing AMAZING behavior analysts such as Tim Vollmer, Nikki Dickens, Tom Zane, Bill Heward, & Janet Twyman present) is that you get to access all the handouts online. So if you are having conference FOMO, you can still see some of the posted content here. Click on the speaker and then access their handouts.

My session on SPED Law and Ethical Issues for Behavior Analysts was full of engaging participants with many questions. I really appreciate how everyone participated with my questions and case studies! Thank you all!!!

While we made it through all of our planned content, we did not get through all of the questions that BCBAs posted in our Menti.com interactive software. So I promised participants that I would work through the questions here on our blog.

Q1. If a student needs a positive behavior support plan (PBSP or BIP) based on the FBA, does a behavior IEP goal have to be developed or is implementation of the PBSP/BIP (with data, consult, fidelity) enough?

This is a good question. To my knowledge, there are no laws/regulations on this. Be sure to check in your state for certainty. With that said, it would make logical sense that goals in the BIP would align/feed into the goals in the IEP. I would include replacement behaviors, positive behaviors, and targeted challenging behaviors. Beware: it has been my experience that as a more severe behavior is addressed, the topography may change. So the IEP goal would be met (i.e., zero aggression) but another goal would be added to target the new behavior (e.g., verbal threats).

Q2. When writing IEP goals after an FBA has been conducted, is it required to develop goals for both increasing a replacement behavior and decreasing the problem behavior?

To my knowledge, there is no requirement for this. Be sure to check your state law/regulations. However, it is good practice to ensure that staff focus on appropriate/replacement behaviors.

Q3. When a student is being placed out of district, does the referring district need to conduct the FBA before the placement occurs? Sometimes we (placement) receive an FBA but it is very outdated.

Again, to my knowledge, there is no requirement for this. Be sure to check your state law/regulations. It would be best practice under the LRE to ensure that all supports and services have been attempted before moving the student to a more segregated setting. An FBA and appropriate BIP would be one such example of supports/services.

Q4. I work for an Intermediate Unit. Districts contract a specific number of hours that they will need for me to consult in their districts. To be clear, consent for all consults/observations?

Who is your client? Who is the PRIMARY beneficiary of your services? If you are observing in a CLASS and you are providing consultation to the teacher, the teacher is your primary beneficiary of services. Your contract is with the district and the teacher is giving assent/consent to your services. The second you begin focusing on Johnny’s behavior or Suzy’s behavior, the individual child becomes your PRIMARY beneficiary of services. The teacher and paras are the secondary beneficiary of services. That child is a MINOR. His parents deserve to consent to your services. Under your BACB Code of Ethics, you need to have a contract for services (the IEP serves as a contract. Without an IEP or 504, you have no contract). You also need written consent to assess Johnny or Suzy. What is an observation of Johnny and Johnny’s behavior if it is not an assessment? And you need to work with the parents as part of the assessment process.

Q5. I work with a funding stream that contracts for services after an FBA has been completed and does not want us to complete them at re-eval. What should we do if there are no consents to re-eval?

Well, we all know that under IDEIA and the BACB Code of Ethics that an FBA (or assessment of any kind) may NOT be conducted without written consent from the parents. If you feel that an updated FBA is needed, then it is your clinical responsibility to document the need for an updated FBA and request it from the parents and the district.

Q6. As a parent, what can I do when I walk into an IEP meeting that has been written already? As a professional consulting, what can I do in the same situation?

This is a great question. There are a couple of ways you can handle it. 1) You could be a total jerk, rip it up, throw it in the trash and announce that you are exercising your right to be an EQUAL team member. 2) Another, more socially appropriate response would be to reach out to the teacher BEFORE the IEP is due and ask to meet to plan/discuss the upcoming IEP. 3) Finally, you could thank them for supplying you with a draft for review but add that you have some additions/corrections/changes that you would like to be made. I like option 2 as it lends itself to be more collaborative. If you are a consulting professional, you have no rights. So……when asked, add your input that would be backed with a written report full of data and data-based recommendations.

Q7. How many possible meeting dates must the team extend to parents if they cannot make the first date(s) given for an IEP?

This is one of my favorite questions! In case you do not know, the parents are an equal team member AND meetings must be held on dates AND times that are convenient to all the team members. The law and the regs fail to stipulate how many attempts must be made to get these meetings scheduled. However, the regs are clear that MULTIPLE attempts must be made. These attempts must include different modes of correspondence (e.g, phone, mail, etc.) These days, we have technology that allows us to schedule among many busy people. I highly recommend using Doodle for families who are tech saavy. I recommend face to face visits with families to nail down a time to ensure attendance and participation. I also recommend telehealth to allow families to participate right from work. The federal government recently indicated that attending IEP meetings falls under the FMLA act! wooo hoo for families!

Q8. As a parent, I don’t feel that “teacher notes” are data that accurately reflect my child’s progress. What can I do?

You are 100% correct that teacher anecdotal notes are insufficient to reflect a child’s progress. Can you imagine a parent of a child in general education, where the child received a C and the parent went in to inquire about the C. How do you think the teacher could possibly use her notes to justify the C? She cannot. She must use class assignments that are GRADED correct and incorrect. She must use test scores (GRADED correct and incorrect). She must use a rubric on projects with points assigned to various components on the project. All of these things are also required in special education. Simply ask for measurable data outcomes.

Q9. Public school refuses to provide copies of raw data. Claim that data in that form can be misinterpreted. What can parent do?

In general education do you get to see your child’s spelling test? Do you see the individual items that led to the 50% score? Yes! you can do an item analysis to find out why your child is failing spelling. For reading, do you get to see the reading tests so you can better understand why your child is not progressing in reading? Yes! Why would you NOT be allowed to see the data for your child in special education? ANALYZING is an important part of what we do (that is the second A in ABA). Item analysis, response analysis, data analysis should be allowed—especially if a child is not progressing.

Q10. I’m a teacher. We contracted a BCBA to help in the class. When paras and staff asked clarification or why something is done. The response was always I have the certification that’s why. What do I do?

These are the things that we do not want to hear about fellow colleagues. I’m sad for a BCBA who responds in this way. He/she clearly learned this behavior from somewhere else and should be reminded that this is not in alignment with our BACB Code of Professional and Ethical Code of Conduct. Please have him/her read this! The BCBA should work with you (and the parent) to develop a plan that is understandable. The plan should be explained to you in detail. You should be given time to ask questions AND to receive training on the plan. Here are a few quotes from our code: For example, under 3.04 Explaining Assessment Results. Behavior analysts explain assessment results using language and graphic displays of data that are reasonably understandable to the client. Also under 4.02 Involving Clients in Planning and Consent. Behavior analysts involve the client in the planning of and consent for behavior-change programs. And under 4.05 Describing Behavior-Change Program Objectives. Behavior analysts describe, in writing, the objectives of the behavior-change program to the client before attempting to implement the program. As a teacher who is benefitting from the services provided to the client, you are also the client of the BCBA. Additionally, in the same 4.05 code, The description of program objectives and the means by which they will be accomplished is an ongoing process throughout the duration of the client-practitioner relationship. And finally, 7.0 Behavior Analysts’ Ethical Responsibility to Colleagues. Behavior analysts work with colleagues within the profession of behavior analysis and from other professions and must be aware of these ethical obligations in all situations. So, please help this BCBA understand his/her responsibilities to you and your paras.

Q11. You shouldn’t say you are doing Social Thinking if you aren’t doing it as prescribed though. So we should be saying ‘modified ST’.

So is Social Thinking a curriculum or an intervention? It sounds as if you view it as an intervention. Should we be doing this practice as BCBAs? As behavior analysts under the BACB Professional and Ethical Compliance Code, 1.01 Reliance on Scientific Knowledge. Behavior analysts rely on professionally derived knowledge based on science and behavior analysis when making scientific or professional judgments in human service provision, or when engaging in scholarly or professional endeavors. And also under 4.01 Conceptual Consistency. Behavior analysts design behavior-change programs that are conceptually consistent with behavior analytic principles.

Q12. If you are part of a child study (pre-eval) team, and parents were invited but do not show or answer calls, can we still not discuss the student with the team cause there is no consent?

This is a good question. First, cheers for your team for inviting parents to the pre-evaluation/pre-referral process. This is the first step in acknowledging that the parents know their child better than anyone. As a BCBA, you should not be making any recommendations about ANY child without first conducting an assessment (see your assessment code 3.01). Additionally, you cannot start the assessment without written consent (see your assessment code 3.03). And finally, you should only provide services as part of a defined, professional, or scientific relationship or role (see your code 1.05). Without an IEP or other contract for services, it would NOT be advisable to act as that child’s professional.

As you can see we had a very lively session! Thank you again to the NAC for inviting me to speak and thank you to everyone who participated in the session.

Check out some of our related posts on SPED Law:

We are thrilled to announce that we will now be serving the Flagler Beach area of Florida!

We have immediate openings for ABA therapy in homes, communities, and schools. We are also available to contract with schools for a variety of services.

If you are interested in receiving services in our new catchment area, please call our toll free number: 844.854.7400

Feeding Clinic

Check out this really cool video from our colleagues at the Munroe-Myer Institute Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program.

Video Link

Other Feeding Related Posts

We reviewed this study in our July 2019 Journal Club meeting. The full citation is: Jang, J., Dixon, D. R., Tarbox, J., Granpeesheh, D., Kornack, J., & de Nocker, Y. (2012). Randomized trial of an eLearning program for training family members of children with autism in the principles and procedures of applied behavior analysis. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 852-856.

For some background info…. staff at CARD in the R&D department as well as some of the staff in the Training Department (now known as the Institute for Behavioral Training) conducted this study on E-Learning. In full disclosure, I worked at CARD when staff conducted these studies.

We know that training parents to implement ABA is possible. (See some of Dr. Hancock (now Blackmon) and Dr. Kaiser’s vast work in the area of training parents to implement EMT and other language interventions).

I love this excerpt from the National Research Council’s book on educating children with autism (National Research Council 2001. Educating Children with Autism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10017.)

The committee recommends that families’ participation should be
supported in education through consistent presentation of information
by local school systems, through ongoing consultation and individualized
problem solving, and through the opportunity to learn techniques
for teaching their children new skills and reducing behavioral problems.
Although families should not be expected to provide the majority of educational programming for their child, the parents’ concerns and perspectives should actively help shape educational planning.

The introduction section of this paper builds the case for parent training. For example, see this statement, “Thus, it has become the consensus that all treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) should
include substantial parent and family training (Brookman-Frazee, Stahmer, Baker-Ericzen, & Tsai, 2006; Matson, Mahan, &​ ​Maton, 2009; McConachie & Diggle, 2007).​
“​ And while we have little data on the amount of parent training provided to parents as part of on-going ABA programs, we do know that insurance companies reimburse ABA providers for the service of parent training and for group parent training (when fewer than 8 parents participate)​​. Additionally, we know that E-Learning is an effective tool for teaching fact based knowledge regarding ABA concepts. Thus, the purpose of the study is logical: “evaluate the effectiveness of an eLearning program for training family​ ​members of children with ASD in the principles and procedures of ABA treatment​”​

The authors recruited 28 family members (mostly moms) to participate in this study. The majority of participants held a bachelor’s degree or higher.​ All participants spoke English and had access to high speed internet. 25 of the participants reported that their children currently received ABA services. The combination of these factors would suggest that the results of the study might not be generalizable to all populations but rather to those with higher education and SES.

The authors utilized a group design study and randomly assigned participants to one of two groups: treatment and waitlist. This design removed any ethical concerns regarding a no treatment group. Thus, the participants who were assigned to the no treatment group would ultimately receive training, just at a later date. In our online meeting, we discussed the limitation regarding the wait. Participants only had to wait one week after taking the pre-test before receiving access to E-Learning. We felt that a longer waiting period may have been better because participants may have been tested too much, too close together. Specifically, participants in the waitlist group took a pre-test, waited a week, took the pre-test, then started training and took the pre-test again.

The authors reported that the E-Learning resulted in improved performance on the test with the treatment group improving, on average, from 63% to 90% correct and the control group improving from 51% to 92% but only after they received training.

I think we can all agree that E-Learning is a viable option for teaching concepts. As the authors noted, having this technology available for parents is helpful to reach parents who live in rural areas. Using E-learning also allows families to proceed at their own pace. And finally, neither clinicians or parents have to travel to provide/receive the training.

​And while of these are advantages for E-Learning, our bigger struggle is the next p​​hase of training: application of principles.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy reading this article where the authors used the same E-Learning Program to train therapists. Here is the full reference: Granpeesheh, D., Tarbox, J., Dixon, D. R., Peters, C. A., Thompson, K., & Kenzer, A. (2010). Evaluation of an eLearning tool for training behavioral therapists in academic knowledge of applied behavior analysis. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4(1), 11-17.

Behavior analysts need 4 continuing education credits in Ethics every 2 years. This results in ethics credits being one of the highly sought out types of continuing education.

If you have found yourself in need of those ethics credits, we offer several opportunities through our online live webinars which we will now be recording and making available following each course.

Online continuing education offers some benefits but it also lacks one of my favorite things which is the socialization opportunities that go hand in hand with conferences. So, if you are needing some social time AND those ethics credits, you should check out the 7th Annual Ethics in Professional Practice Conference at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. And if you register BEFORE 7/15, you will receive the lower registration price.

Hope to see you there!

Related Posts on Ethics

Our FREE journal club met on Monday night. We discussed Fallagant & Pence 2017. You may access the article here or here.

The introduction to the paper consisted of a nice review of some of the work done to date in this area. The authors discussed why the Preschool Life Skills are so essential. 

The authors also discussed using a Response to Intervention (RTI) model for teaching these skills. You can learn more about RTI here or here. Essentially, in Tier 1, skills would be taught to a larger group or entire class. In Tier 2, small group instruction would be provided to the students who didn’t acquire the skills in Tier 1. Then in Tier 3, 1:1 instruction would occur for the students who didn’t learn the skills in Tier 1 or Tier 2.

The research was scientifically sound in terms of demonstrating experimental control. The authors used a multiple baseline across behaviors and then replicated that over 6 students. Like most research, a few flaws existed. For example, by using a multiple baseline across behaviors, experimenters lose a little bit of experimental control when the student demonstrates response generalization to an untrained behavior.

The participants in the study may have come from a convenience sample which was most likely a university affiliated preschool program. Each of the special education teachers in the school held master’s degrees in special education. The assistant teachers all held bachelor degrees.

The data in the study consisted of measuring the life skills being taught: responding to name, requesting/manding adult attention, requesting/manding adult assistance, delay tolerance, denial tolerance, and independent versus prompted responses. The authors indicated they also collected data on challenging behaviors but those data were not presented in the paper. The authors also reported high IOA data as well as high fidelity data (which is not always reported).

The authors provided a great description of the modifications provided to students who did not acquire the skills in Tier 1, 2, or 3. For these students, this included the use of an AAC device (i.e., proloquo).

One of our big discussion points occured around the author’s use of least to most prompting during Tier 1. We discussed if the results would have been different had they used most to least prompting and decided this should be a point of focus in a future study!

Another area of discussion for us revolved around the authors’ use of only 8 trials per session. This hardly seemed like enough practice for a preschooler, let alone a pre-k student with disabilities (the children had autism, Down syndrome, or DD).

We discussed, and the authors mentioned, the use of AAC and whether the students would have acquired the skills in Tier 1 had the AAC been available during that phase of instruction.

We also discussed the lack of preference assessments and whether the authors’ use of social reinforcement may have been potent enough to reinforce skill acquisition.

And finally, we discussed the limited generalization observed to peers. Some of the kids generalized skills to the adults who are obviously more skilled than the peers. But we also discussed the fact that with such few learning trials (N=8), that the kids may not have developed fluency in the skills thereby limiting their ability to readily generalize the skills. And of course, the authors mentioned that they did not program for generalization so this may have impacted generalization as well.

Bottom line, these seem to be some essential skills that we could easily teach in classrooms to increase the social skills of students.

I have identified a few extra resources. First because of all the tolerance discussion, we should look at some of the original tolerance studies. The following studies utilized FCT combined with Tolerance training.

  1. Bird, F., Dores, A. P, Moniz, D., Robinson, J. (1989). Reducing severe aggressive and self-injurious behaviors with functional communication training. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 94, 37-48.
  2. Brown, K. A., Wacker, D. P., Derby, K. M., Peck, S. M., Richman, D. M., Sasso, G. M., Knutson, C. L., & Harding, J. W. (2000). Evaluating the effects of functional communication training on brief functional analyses of aberrant behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 53-71.
  3. Carr, E. G., & Carlson, J. I. (1993). Reduction of severe behavior problems in the community using a multicomponent treatment approach. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 157-172. 
  4. Day, M. H., Horner, R. H., O’Neil, R. E. (1994). Multiple functions of problem behaviors: Assessment and intervention. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 279-289.
  5. Fisher, W. W., Thompson, R. H., Hagopian, L. P., Bowman, L. G., & Krug, A. (2000).  Facilitating toleraance of delayed reinforcement during functional communication training. Behavior Modification, 24(1), 3-29.
  6. Hagopian, L. P., Wilson, D., & Wilder, D. (2001). Assessment and treatment of problem behavior maintained by escape from attention and access to tangibles. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 229-232.
  7. Harding, J., Wacker, D. P., Berg, W. K., Barretto, A., & Ringdahl, J. (2005).  Evaluation of relations between specific antecedent stimuli and self-injury during functional analysis conditions.  American Journal on Mental Retardation, 110(3), 205-215.
  8. McConnachie, G., & Carr, E. G. (1997). The effects of child behavior problems on the maintenance of intervention fidelity. Behavior Modification, 21, 123-158.
  9. Symons, F. J., Fox, N. D., & Thompson, T. (1998). Functional communication training and naltrexone treatment of self-injurious behavior: An experimental case report. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 11, 273-292.

And here are some extra resources on Preschool Life Skills

  1. Hanley et al 2007
  2. Luczynksi & Hanly (2013)
  3. Luczynski, Hanley, & Rodriguez (2014)
  4. Beaulieu, Hanley, & Roberson 2012
  5. Beaulieu, Hanley, & Roberson 2013
  6. Hanley, Fahmie, & Heal 2014 (in headstart)
  7. Francisco & Hanley (2012)
  8. Robison, Mann, & Ingvarsson (in press)
  9. Dogan et al 2017 (training parents)
  10. Halfdanardottier, Sveinbjornsdottir & Ingvarsson (in process but looking at life skills in older students)
  11. Ala’i-Rosales et al 2018
  12. Fahmie & Luczynski 2018 (review of studies)
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