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.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

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Symposium #52
CE Offered: BACB
Increasing Advanced Interpersonal Skills in Children with Autism
Saturday, May 27, 2006
2:30 PM–3:50 PM
Centennial Ballroom III
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
Discussant: Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
CE Instructor: Gerald E. Harris, Ph.D.

Early behavioral intervention has often demonstrated the ability to instill or increase basic social and interpersonal skills in children with autism. However, there remain many more advanced skill areas where programming is less evolved. This symposium presents data based procedures for ameliorating deficits in stranger safety, assertiveness and joint attention skills. These skill areas are often more challenging to develop than basic language, academic, and self-help behaviors. As behavioral interventions become more widespread and effective, increased numbers of children need assistance with the more subtle social skills. The first presentation reports on a program designed to improve childrens ability to protect themselves in high risk situations in the community. Child abduction is a real threat in todays world, and previous research has shown that children with autism are vulnerable. The second presentation describes an intervention to help children protect themselves from less severe mistreatment by peers in their environment. Being assertive is a positive social skill, and may also reduce resorting to aggressive behavior for self protection. The third presentation tells about a behavioral intervention to increase joint attention in children with autism, thus allowing the shared awareness and experience that makes social interaction so rewarding.

Stranger Safety Training for Children with Autism.
FRANK B. CARLE (Texas Young Autism Project), Sanjuanita Pedraza (Texas Young Autism Project), Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
Abstract: Current literature suggests that children with autism are more susceptible to lures provided by strangers than typical developing children. The current study provided behavioral intervention to participants who displayed susceptibility to lures presented by a stranger. The intervention consisted of 3 phases. Phase 1: learning to discriminate between familiar people (i.e., family members) versus unfamiliar people (i.e., strangers). The child was taught to receptively and expressively label pictures either by the familiar person’s name, or as a “stranger.” Phase 2: a video in which a stranger presented various types of lures, the video was immediately paused and the child was taught the correct verbal response (stating “No!”) and motor response (e.g., running away). The child moved to Phase 3 contingent upon meeting the mastery criteria (90%) for Phase 2. Phase 3:Testing the children in the natural environment to observe if the safety skills taught in phases 1 and 2 maintained and generalized. Interobserver agreement for the dependent variables of verbal and motor response averaged 90% across sessions. The results of this study demonstrate that children with autism can emit correct verbal and motor responses in a risky situation when Behavioral Skills Training (BST) is imposed.
A Comparison of Two Different Approaches for Teaching Assertiveness to Young Children with Autism.
LAUREN HARRINGTON (Texas Young Autism Project), Maureen Childs (Texas Young Autism Project), Maritza Cervantes (Texas Young Autism Project), Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
Abstract: Previous research has shown differential effects for various procedures used to teach assertiveness to children with autism. The present study used a multiple baseline design to compare two procedures for teaching assertiveness. The dependant variable for this study was assertiveness, defined as the ability to verbally and physically maintain possession of a preferred item. Four children participating in a discrete trial ABA program were randomly assigned to one of two conditions; each consisted of a well-established behavioral method for teaching assertiveness. The first method, a role-play approach, taught children using confederates. The second method shaped assertiveness using sequencing cards. After five months of implementing the assertiveness training, each child was placed in an experimental analog scenario to elicit learned assertiveness skills. Tests to evaluate maintenance of these skills were administered approximately two weeks later. The children were then placed in a novel scenario to determine if learned assertiveness skills generalized. A follow-up assessment was conducted six weeks after treatment was discontinued to further assess skill maintenance and generalization. Results suggest that although the role-play approach yielded faster skill acquisition, the sequencing card approach lead to broader generalization. Inter-observer agreement was found to be above 80% for all phases.
A Behavior Analytic Intervention and Programmed Generalization of Joint Attention Skills in Children with Autism.
TREA DRAKE (Texas Young Autism Project), Alexis Hyde-Washmon (Texas Young Autism Project), Jennifer Shen (Texas Young Autism Project), Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
Abstract: Joint attention has been identified as an essential element of a functional social repertoire. Deficits in joint attention often serve as discriminative behavioral markers in children with autism. This study evaluates a treatment protocol developed by the Texas Young Autism Project designed to mitigate the joint attention deficits of children with autism. Three children from the project’s Day Treatment Center participated in the study. Each child’s ability to respond to the joint attention bids of others and to initiate joint attention exchanges was assessed utilizing components of the Early Social Communication Scale (ESCS) and natural environment observations of parent and peer interactions. The treatment protocol emphasized generalization of the skills to the child’s home environment. All participants reached mastery criterion in both responding to the joint attention bids of others and initiating joint attention. Assessment of joint attention skills in the natural environment revealed that the skills generalized following programmed natural environment training. Inter-observer agreement was evaluated for 30% of the sessions revealing an average agreement of 95%.



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