Behavioral Engineering @ Louisiana State University
The term ‘Behavioral Engineering‘ has been used to describe the work conduct in the Gilroy Lab. Various others have used this term in the past and its use here is to highlight a combined emphasis on both technology and behavioral science. Technology is now deeply rooted in both behavioral intervention and research, despite a relative dearth of research on what technology adds (or removes) from the therapeutic process.
Students are NOT expected to have an interest in computer science nor in the development of software. Rather, technology is a common element of practice and a topic of research in the lab.
Training Experiences in the Lab
Applied Behavior Analysis
Assessment and intervention in the Behavioral Engineering lab is rooted in Behavior Analysis and established principles of behavior. Students in the lab have the opportunity to work under behavior analysts and pursue certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Students can expect to be exposed to behavior analytic practice across a range of school, clinic, and related hospital settings.
Students in the lab often become involved with the Emerge Center of Louisiana (link), a center that provides both diagnostic services for developmental disorders, early intervention for autism, and related parent training for children with developmental and behavioral disorders (e.g., communication training, feeding therapy).
Experiences: Functional AnalysisSkills TrainingCommunication TrainingStaff TrainingSocial Skills TrainingBehavioral Assessment
School-based practice is a central feature of work in the lab. Students working in the lab can expect to be involved in a range of school-based activities, such as academic screening, behavioral assessment, classroom consultation, and academic/behavioral intervention. The lab has partnerships with local schools and students routinely support both general and special education classrooms.
Work in the lab is decidedly behavioral and students have the opportunity to assess and develop academic interventions consistent with behavior analysis. Experiences typically involve assessing educational needs, matching teaching protocols to those needs, and using single case designs to develop and evaluate interventions.
Experiences: Teacher ConsultationFunctional Behavior AssessmentClassroom InterventionAcademic AssessmentAcademic Intervention
The Gilroy lab routinely provides diagnostic assessment and intervention through the LSU Psychological Services Center. Students supporting the lab have the opportunity to perform diagnostic assessments for common presenting issues (e.g., autism, learning disabilities, anxiety). Experiences in this setting complement school-based experiences to support a broader scope of practice and preparation for work as a licensed psychologist.
Intervention experiences in the lab range across the three waves of behaviorism. Students should expect a heavy emphasis on first-wave approaches (e.g., behavior analysis) with additional exposure to the second and third waves. The types of needs typically supported include learning disorders, developmental disorders, anxiety, depression, and other common disorders of childhood.
Experiences: Diagnostic AssessmentDevelopmental DisordersADHDLearning DisabilitiesMental Health
Selected Areas of Study in the Lab
Academic screening and intervention are areas of strong interest in the lab. School resources are finite and technology assists in scaling from small-group to class- and school-wide initiatives. This is particularly the case for school-wide screenings and the Response-to-Intervention framework.
The lab has partnered with expert School Psychologists and Behavior Analysts researching academic behavior to develop and evaluate more sophisticated tools for research and practice. The Math Fact Fun program is a web-based tool designed to support math fact screening in K-8 as well as provide intervention for math fact accuracy and fluency.
Interested graduate and undergraduate students in the lab have the opportunity to be involved with school-based consultation and research.GitHub Repository MIT
Technology for Clinical Practice
Teachers and clinicians regularly collect data that needs to be visualized and interpreted to provide recommendations (e.g., changing intervention dosage). Spreadsheet-based systems do not scale efficently when data from multiple classrooms and schools require interpretation.
The lab has been developing software to assist graduate students and consultants in performing visual analysis at scale (e.g., across multiple classrooms). The FXL package was developed in-house to flexibly support the types of data and experimental designs commonly used in school-based practice and research.
Students in the lab learn to use the R Statistical Program both to perform statistics as well as perform visual analysis using modern software.GitHub Repository GPLv2+
Assistive Technology for Exceptional Learners
School Psychologists and Behavior Analysts working in early childhood are often called on to support learners in acquiring early social and communicative behavior. For those working with autistic youth, technology may be required to provide a means for these individuals to effectively communicate their needs and preferences.
The Behavioral Engineering lab does a great deal of work evaluating how adding technology influences socialization and the related outcomes of therapy. The Gilroy lab supports an open-source AAC app designed for early communicator; Specifically, those who have display difficulty making early conditional discriminations. This app has been used successfully in two behavior analytic randomized-control trials and is currently being re-designed to further explore linguistic and cultural factors related to communication training.GitHub Repository MIT