[The conference was held at the beautiful Gideon Putnum Resort]
Applied Behavior Analysis is an approach that was taken from the learning theory. In behavior analysis, the goal is to find out what is exactly causing or maintaing the behavior through the environment. The "behavior" could be anything from throwing a football, talking out in class, or eye contact. The "environment" is all the physical or social events that might have an affect on the behavior. In Applied Behavior Analysis, a behavior is targeted to be changed and is done so through different techniques. One of these techniques is called "positive reinforcement" which adds a reward to the environment after the correct behavior is done. A very cool example of this was shown on the first day of the conference:
We went into a room where Dr. Luyben, a certified behavior analyst showed a video illustrating the impact of positive reinforcement to a child with autism. The desired behaviors the man was attempting to teach her was sitting down and to reduce tantrums. The child had tantrums whenever she was given instruction. She would cry, flail her arms, and yell. After they found out what made her have tantrums, they found out what was reinforcing to her which was drink, snack, and verbal praise (A reinforcer is something that will make the desired behavior occur again). Through the use of Applied Behavior Analysis, the man had her sitting down in 18 minutes on command without showing any signs of tantrums. He did this by having her stand up, would tell her to sit down, and when she did the correct behavior a reinforcer would be given. Although she would have extreme tantrums in the beginning, the man was able to have her sit down on command without providing a reinforcer by the end of 18 minutes. It was very remarkable. This is just one example of how effective and simple Applied Behavior Analysis can be.
[Me on the left with Brian Iwata, Ph.D]
Meeting Brian Iwata was a very cool experience. He is the professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Florida and received his Ph.D in Psychology at the State University of Florida. At the conference he was described as the "Father of Applied Behavior Analysis." He has done incredible research and work on severe behavior disorders. At the conference he was a keynote speaker and did a presentation on Prader-Willi Syndrome which is a disease where the person never feels full and continues to eat and eat. Through working with subjects for an extended a period of time using Applied Behavior Analysis, the average weight loss was 70 pounds/31% of body weight. Very incredible.
The reason Applied Behavior Analysis is very important to a Physical Education major like myself is because this can be used in a classroom setting to decrease negative behaviors or even increase athletic performance on a sports team. I recommend that anyone involved with teaching, coaching, or even working with people take a serious look at Applied Behavior Analysis because of how effective it is and how easy it can be to implement!