By Fabio Tosolin
In 2020–21, AARBA was been actively involved in several initiatives, specifically regarding the ABA community and the growth and strengthening of our discipline in educational, political, research, and organizational areas. We are glad to share what we’ve accomplished to date, hoping to inspire other chapters and advance our goals for the future.
Dissemination & ABA Community
In 2020, members of the chapter took part in the ABAI 46th Annual Convention, which was scheduled to be at Washington, but due to the pandemic, had to be organized entirely online. During the event, chapter members had the opportunity to attend to several interesting symposia and panels, plus two events that involved AARBA representatives directly. During the morning of Saturday, May 23, our president—Fabio Tosolin—collaborated in a symposium that highlighted the importance of the development of a specific COVID-19 behavioral containment protocol. This presentation gathered elements of what has been studied and learned so far about the spread of the novel coronavirus and the effects of the COVID-19 in a variety of areas of behavioral inquiry. For the second intervention (25th), Dr. Tosilin delivered ad presetation titled, “Behavior-Based Safety Driving: Improve your Driving with the B-BS Protocol.”
In 2021, we hosted the 14th edition of our Scientific European Conference on Behavior-Based Safety (B-BS) and Performance Management (PM) in conjunction with the 16th edition of the Scientific European Congress on Applied Behavior Analysis. Initially, the event had to take place at the Palazzo Gran Guardia in the city of Verona, but due to the unexpected lockdown, we had to rearrange and organize the event entirely online. The main element that emerged throughout the interventions given by invited speakers, was management of the COVID-19 pandemic response and the resources that had been implemented by organizations and single entities to continue with work and provide necessary services. Most of the audience was OBM-related, with HSE managers, HR managers, consultants, and work psychologists, but also included many clinical psychologists and therapists, we decided to organize a concurrent session of symposiums and workshops focusing on the field of ABA in autism.
At the event, we had the honor to host several international guest speakers, such as Terry McSween (executive consultant at Dekra), Mike McCarthy (Sustain Leangains), Sigurdur Sigurdsson (full commissioner for the Behavior-Based Safety Accreditation Commission of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies), and other important pioneers in the field of OBM. As far as behavior analysis applied to clinical fields is concerned, Leasha Barry, Dayna Beddick (University of West Florida), and Robert Ross (senior vice president at the Behavioral Education Assessment and Consultation, Inc.) contributed with talks focusing on the adaptations and implementations of ABA strategies to provide support to families and clients even during the lockdown period. For the first time, the event concluded (June 27) with the creation of a Consensus Conference, both for the B-BS and autism conference, where leading experts in the field of behavior analysis discussed and approved a scientific protocol for the management of anti-contagious behaviors useful for productive and health purposes.
Specific to the area of organizational behavior management (OBM), the first version of the “Protocol for the management and the monitoring of the measurements for the COVID-19 containment” was developed during the month of April by Fabio Tosolin and Maria Gatti (general secretary and chief scientific officer of AARBA) and was subsequently shared with the international community. Moreover, during the Consensus Conference, several researchers and practitioners in the field of ABA and OBM (Sigurdur Oli Sigurdsson, Mark Alavosius, John Austin, Christoph Bördlein, Donald A. Hantula, Francesco Marella, Mike McCarthy, and Terry McSween) gathered. During this meeting, the OBM’ers discussed in detail the importance of the application and divulgation of COVID-19 protocol, along with recommended improvements and additional developments. The protocol focuses on changing individuals’ behavior through a structured and evidence-based approach based on behavior measurement and feedback providing. The adoption of a specific protocol can have an enormous impact in our societies. The use of measurable elements can indeed allow for the collection of useful data needed to make decisions in terms of prevention and intervention, increasing population health and wellbeing.
During the month of December, we renewed our commitment to Ambiente-Lavoro, the biggest Italian fair about environment and safety at work. Online, we held two presentations about the development of the protocol for the management and monitoring of measurements for COVID-19 containment and behavior-based safety for the development of safe behavior.
During the end of 2020 and throughout the pandemic period, we also had the opportunity to collaborate with various organizations located throughout Italy and to organize webinars focusing on the implementation of the specific COVID-19 protocols. What we are most proud of is that this happened not only in the industrial field, but even in schools, hospitals, and restaurants—showing the importance of a science of behavior devoted to solving human problems in all settings.
During the month of April, with the essential support of Dr. Leasha Barry and Dr. Dayna Beddick, we started with the first Verified Course Sequence (VCS) of the Italian Associate Chapter of ABAI. Given the lack of knowledge related to the adoption of ABA techniques and their spread throughout universities, we rely on structured international courses like this to bring knowledge and competence ito Italian health and learning facilities. Due to the importance and the continued divulgation of the science of ABA in Italy, during the month of April 2021—and with great enthusiasm—we started our second edition of the VCS. Support and collaboration from Italian associations that focus on the application of ABA in different environmental contexts has been an essential component to prepare for this new edition. We are very excited to have the opportunity to support Italian students to appropriately respond to families’ needs just like in other more ABA-focused countries.
Moreover, between the months of September and November 2020, we held the 39th edition of our 80-hours B-BS post-graduate course, where we trained another class of students and safety and operations professionals. During this course, individuals were not only trained on the theoretical background of behavior analysis and its implementation in the OBM field, but they were even exposed to its practical aspects (creating a checklist, presentation of data analysis, conducting safety meetings, etc.). With the new year, we had the opportunity to start with the 40th edition of the B-BS online course (February–April 2021) and with the creation of an intense 3-day online course during the month of January 2021, focusing on B-BS implementation, specifically in relation to the COVID-19 protocols.
On January 5, 2021, we had the final confirmation that AARBA has been accepted by the Federation of Italian Medical-Scientific Societies, which includes about 190 scientific associations. This allows us not only to collaborate with them, but to also play a meaningful role in influencing Italian State decision making—thanks to the greater prestige and power of medical societies compared to psychological societies.
As far as research is concerned, in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Milan, we dealt again with some master’s degree theses: In 2020, we supported one intern and for 2021; we are supporting two interns.
The purpose of the first thesis of 2021 was to assess the effectiveness of the scientific method of B-BS applied to contract workers. The use of an experimental multiple baselines design between behaviors was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the B-BS process and the use of a non-parametric test (c-test) to assess the significance level of the outcomes of the trial. The results demonstrate the effectiveness of the B-BS process, with a significant increase in the frequency of adoption of safe behaviors. Indicating that the integration of contract workers when implementing a B-BS process, would benefit both safety and the economy of scale generated by the unification of the safety process regardless of the functional dependence of all workers.
The second thesis, still in progress with a multiple baseline across subject design, focuses not only on the difference between baseline condition and intervention (feedback) condition, but also on the difference between immediate feedback and deferred feedback. In particular, the difference between 1-to-1 peer feedback delivered just after a behavioral observation with a checklist, and a biweekly department safety meeting feedback provided by a safety leader. This research is conducted in the region of Veneto, in an international papermill plant.
As far as major Italian and multinational companies’ support, we followed-up our commitment in the nation with some interventions based on training and OBM consulting.
Throughout the months of September, we started with two new projects, both based on the application of AARBA COVID-19 protocols, but in two different environmental contexts. The first one was taken forward in an academic context of an Italian School in Milan and the second one in the restaurant catering component of Milan Rotary Club. The main objective in both projects were data gathering through the design of specific checklists formed by safe hygiene behaviors and feedback-based interventions aimed to increase the frequency of safe behaviors. Several implementations of the AARBA COVID-19 protocols are currently involving a variety of firms and educational fields. The results up to now are encouraging and show a positive and stable trend in the improvement of safe hygiene behaviors. We are very happy to say that the COVID-19 protocols have been implemented not only by firms that already had an ongoing B-BS process, but also by ones that got to know behavioral safety during the pandemic.
As you can see, we are working hard on several fronts to promote applied behavior analysis knowledge and technologies in public and private institutions, with the hope of achieving further and greater results.