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.


Fourth International Conference; Australia, 2007

Event Details

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Symposium #57
CE Offered: BACB
Addressing the Needs of Low Functioning Children with Autism: Developing and Assessing Social Skills Programs
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
L2 Room 4
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Discussant: Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
CE Instructor: Marjorie H. Charlop, Ph.D.

Low functioning children with autism (LFA) have few social skills programs developed to address their specific needs. LFA have often been considered to be recipients of social overtures, but not initiators. In the present symposium, several new social skills interventions have been designed and empirically validated with low functioning children with autism. In presentation 1, LFA were taught social initiations via Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Multiple Incidental Teaching Sessions (MITS), with a robust assessment of generalization of the social initiations. The results suggested that the MITS procedure was effective with LFA in terms of acquisition and generalization of social initiations. In presentation 2, a functional analysis was performed to determine whether LFA demonstrated inappropriate behaviors that served social functions. After the functional analysis revealed social intent, appropriate social initiations were taught as replacement behaviors. Finally, in presentation 3, a new social skills training procedure, Steps to Social Success was developed, empirically validated, and then compared with the Social Stories procedure. The social skills procedures presented in this symposium will be discussed in terms of creating socials skills protocols that are modifiable for all levels of functioning and provide both empirical evidence and hope for lower functioning children with autism.

Teaching Low Functioning Children with Autism to be Social Initiators: An Assessment and Comparison of a Naturalistic Based Teaching Strategy and Traditional Discrete Trial Training.
KARI BERQUIST (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Few empirical research studies have attempted to teach low functioning children with autism to be social initiators, thus suggesting that their ability to learn such complex social behaviors is questionable. However research shows that low functioning children with autism have acquired a vast amount of skills, from imitation to speech. To address the needs of low functioning children and the noticeable gap in the literature, this study was conducted to teach nonverbal social initiations (e.g., greetings, sharing) to three low functioning children with autism. Children were taught two different social initiation behaviors, using two empirically validated teaching techniques, Modified Incidental Teaching Sessions (MITS), a Naturalistic Teaching Strategy (NaTS), and Discrete Trial Training (DTT). An alternating treatments design was used to compare the effectiveness of MITS and DTT in terms of acquisition and generalization. Results show that low functioning children were able to acquire behaviors using either treatment (MITS or DTT); however rate of acquisition occurred more rapidly with target behaviors taught using MITS. In addition, results show that only behaviors taught using MITS successfully showed rapid acquisition and evidence of generalization and maintenance. Results are discussed in terms of evaluation of different treatments and performance of low functioning children.
Social Functions of Inappropriate Behaviors: Increasing Social Initiations in Low Functioning Children with Autism through Functional Analysis and Communication Training.
ALISSA GREENBERG (Claremont McKenna College), Katherine K. Byrd (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Previous social skills programs have failed to recognize that low functioning children with autism may already possess social intent, expressed through their aberrant behaviors. This two experiment investigation uses an innovative approach to teach low functioning children with autism how to initiate social interactions by taking advantage of the socio-communicative functions of their preexisting aberrant behaviors. In Experiment 1, a functional analysis was performed to classify aberrant behaviors (e.g., grabbing and stereotypy) of three children in terms of their social function. Results indicated that these behaviors served as social initiations. In Experiment 2, appropriate social behaviors that served the same socio-communicative function were chosen as replacement for the children’s inappropriate behaviors. Two children successfully learned appropriate social initiating behaviors through the use of functional communication training in the children’s natural environments. Furthermore, the learned social behaviors replaced the previously identified inappropriate behaviors and the children demonstrated some generalization and maintenance of the target skills. These findings suggest that it would be negligent for social skills programs to continue to ignore the needs of low functioning children. Low functioning children with autism can learn to perform social initiations and identifying the social function of their inappropriate behaviors may facilitate this process.
Social Skills Chaining with Children with Autism to Form Complex Social Interactions.
DEBRA BERRY MALMBERG (Claremont Graduate University), Sabrina D. Daneshvar (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Steps to Social Success (SSS) is a social skills training program based on the chaining of smaller social skills as steps, until each of the smaller skills forms a more complex social interaction. The SSS procedure also included facilitators for motivation, generalization and maintenance of skills. The present study compared this new social skills program to a widely-used program, Social Stories (Gray & Garand, 1993). Whereas the new SSS procedure was based on the empirical literature of chaining and facilitation of motivation and generalization, the few studies on the effectiveness of Social Stories have focused on maladaptive behaviors rather than teaching appropriate social behaviors. An alternating treatments design with a multiple baseline across children was used to empirically assess and compare the effectiveness of Social Stories and the SSS program in teaching social skills to four children with autism. Results found that SSS program was effective in teaching complex social behaviors (e.g., sharing, initiating conversation) to all children, whereas Social Stories did not result in any increased social behaviors. Results also showed greater ancillary increases in spontaneous social behavior (e.g., initiations, eye contact) and decreases in inappropriate behavior in the SSS condition. Comparisons of the two strategies will be discussed.



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