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Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Applied Behavior Analysis Practitioner Perceptions: Influence of Occupational Therapy Training in Sensory Processing
Author Affiliations
  • Constellation Health Services
Article Information
Sensory Integration and Processing / Basic Research
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Applied Behavior Analysis Practitioner Perceptions: Influence of Occupational Therapy Training in Sensory Processing
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505134. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-PO3111
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505134. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-PO3111
Abstract

Date Presented 4/8/2016

With increasing demands for cohesive education plans, occupational therapy practitioners must collaborate with applied behavior analysis (ABA) practitioners for effective teaming and interdisciplinary understanding within schools. Training in sensory processing has the potential to enhance the perceptions and practices of ABA practitioners.

Primary Author and Speaker: Amy Burton

Contributing Author: Tara J. Glennon

The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of occupational therapy (OT) training in sensory processing on the perceptions and practices of applied behavior analysis (ABA) practitioners. Four research questions were generated:
  1. What OT training content is deemed valuable by ABA practitioners?

  2. Does an OT workshop change ABA practitioners’ perception regarding the benefit of sensory-based strategies in educational programs for children with ASD?

  3. Does an OT workshop change the likelihood of ABA practitioners implementing sensory-based supports?

  4. What do ABA practitioners believe are the barriers to implementation of sensory-based supports?

OT practitioners collaborate with team members to address sensory-related concerns in school settings. However, ABA practitioners are less likely to adopt recommendations from OT. With increasing demand for cohesive education plans, along with several professional barriers to collaboration, OT practitioners need to understand how best to educate ABA practitioners for effective teaming. A nonexperimental research design was implemented using pre- and post surveys to determine influential variables. A convenience sample of ABA practitioners was used.
Participants work in an ABA-focused, noninclusive school setting. Thirty-three noncertified ABA instructors, registered behavior technicians (RBT), and board-certified behavior analysts (BCBA) participated through the end of the data collection phase. An investigator-developed, pre- and post survey was used to explore the research question variables. Likert scales, multiple-choice questions, and an open-ended comment option were included. A 1.5-hr presentation in sensory processing was developed by the researcher using principles from adult learning and diffusion of innovations theories.
Data from the pre and post surveys were manually entered into SurveyMonkey to generate descriptive statistics comprised of weighted averages and percentages.
BCBA practitioners expressed more value in training when compared with the ABA instructor and RBT groups (referred to as the ABA/RBTs). BCBAs value presentations that share and apply research and theory, and ABA/RBTs value practical approaches that allow for review and discussion about specific sensory supports. OT training may help to improve ABA practitioners’ perception of sensory-based strategies in educational programs, especially for inclusion within behavior intervention plans (BIPs). Post survey data revealed that including sensory strategies in BIPs is necessary for children with autism spectrum disorder. OT training may also help to increase the likelihood of ABA practitioners implementing sensory-based supports in schools, especially for BCBAs using classroom-wide strategies and sensory equipment/materials. Participants identified limited background knowledge and experience with sensory approaches as barriers to implementation prior to the OT training.
These findings show potential for the use of OT training in sensory processing to enhance the perception and practices of ABA practitioners. It highlights the importance of audience-focused training. Also, because BCBAs have a lower tendency to use sensory strategies and they are responsible for leading ABA/RBTs, training should focus on educating this group of ABA practitioners, specifically on the integration of sensory strategies within BIPs.
Ongoing collaboration for the inclusion and modification of sensory strategies in BIPs should be considered.
IMPACT STATEMENT: Despite barriers to OT and ABA collaboration, OT practitioners must understand methods to team with and enhance behavior programs in order to effectively integrate themselves within an ever-evolving educational system.