Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


Second Annual Autism Conference; Atlanta, GA; 2008

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #11
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Developing Active Learner Participation by Children with Autism: Capturing the Motivational Variables

Sunday, February 10, 2008
8:30 AM–9:30 AM
Regency Ballroom
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: James W. Partington, Ph.D.
JAMES W. PARTINGTON (Behavior Analysts, Inc.)
Dr. Partington is the director of Behavior Analysts, Inc., in Pleasant Hill, California. He is a licensed psychologist and a board certified behavior analyst (B.C.B.A.), and has 35 years of experience working with children with developmental disabilities. His expertise is in language-based intervention with children who are experiencing language delays as a result of autism and other related developmental disorders. Dr. Partington is the co-founder of a school that specializes in language-based instruction for children with autism (STARS School) and has helped several public school systems establish similar classrooms within their own districts. He has been a faculty member of several universities including West Virginia University, University of San Francisco and St. Mary’s College. Dr. Partington is a former President of the Northern California Association for Behavior Analysis and has served as a member of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Dr. Partington has received several professional awards including the Public Service Award for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis in Florida, presented by the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis and the Award for Effective Presentation of Behavior Analysis in the Mass Media that was presented by the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis. He has served on the editorial review boards of the Analysis of Verbal Behavior, Education and Treatment of Children, Behavioral Interventions, Behavior Analysis in Practice, and has served as a guest reviewer for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Dr. Partington has published several papers on teaching strategies for children with disabilities. Additionally, he has co-authored with Dr. Mark L. Sundberg the book, Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities. He is the author of The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (The ABLLS-R): An assessment, Curriculum Guide, and Skills Tracking System for Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities. He has also produced an instructional video, Teaching Verbal Behavior: An Introduction to Parents Teaching Language.

Two of the major defining characteristics of an autism spectrum disorder are qualitative impairments in language and in social interaction. Behavioral teaching strategies have been documented to be effective in helping children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to develop many critical skills. There is a considerable amount of information available regarding a variety of issues related to the selection of learning objectives and specific strategies to teach skills. However, parents and professionals often find it difficult to motivate a child to participate in learning activities to acquire those skills, to initiate social interactions, and to spontaneously use the skills in their everyday activities and interactions. Some of the most important concerns of those who interact with these children relate to the motivation to participate in learning activities and spontaneously use newly acquired skills outside of specific training sessions. Parents and professionals must address issues involving the evaluation and development of effective social reinforcers that will directly impact the motivation of the child to spontaneously interact with others. Why should a child want to participate in learning activities, to interact with us, or to tell us about something important to them? Answers to these questions are related to the issue of effective reinforcement. There are multiple sources of reinforcers readily available to children, many of which do not require their interaction with others, and can often be obtained with very little effort on the childs part. This presentation will provide an analysis of motivational factors that are involved in both structured teaching sessions and in everyday activities. Methods will be presented to help identify and capture effective motivational factors that influence the childs willingness to participation in structured learning sessions and lead to the child running to rather than running from those who are involved in instruction. Techniques for helping to create motivational conditions that will lead to increased spontaneous language and other social interactions will be reviewed. Additionally, methods will be presented to help praise, smiles and other subtle forms of social feedback from parents and instructors acquire reinforcing properties.

Target Audience:

Licensed Psychologists and/or Certified Behavior Analysts

Learning Objectives: N/a



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