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 #151
CE Offered: BACB
Teaching Complex Social Responses to Individuals with Autism
Sunday, May 28, 2006
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
Chicago A-F
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Dawn B. Townsend (Institute for Educational Achievement)
CE Instructor: Dawn B. Townsend, Ph.D.

Increased interest in the more complex social responses of individuals with autism has been evident recently. As a result, we have seen the advancement of behavioral accounts of the social deficits noted in individuals with autism and the development of teaching strategies to ameliorate such deficits. The papers in this symposium will address social deficits of individuals with autism with respect to joint attention, perspective taking, empathy, and sharing behavior. Through the use of single-subject experimental designs, the researchers have investigated strategies of teaching the above social responses to students with autism, ranging in age from pre-school to adolescence, and will demonstrate the effective use of such strategies to increase appropriate social responding in the presence of target discriminative stimuli. In addition, each presenter will define methods by which the generalization of these important social skills was targeted and the extent to which these responses were displayed under non-training conditions. Finally, each presenter will detail the acquisition and generalization of these responses through a learning-based account and comment on the importance of these skills in advancing the social repertoires of individuals with autism.

Using Scripts and Script-Fading to Promote Bids for Joint Attention.
JOYCE L. MACDUFF (Princeton Child Development Institute), Regina Ledo (Princeton Child Development Institute), Patricia J. Krantz (Princeton Child Development Institute), Lynn E. McClannahan (Princeton Child Development Institute)
Abstract: A multiple-probe design across subjects assessed the efficacy of using audio-taped scripts to promote the joint attention responses of young children with autism. A one-word script (“See”) was presented on a button-activated recorder, and separate recorders were attached to toys and photographs that were placed in areas of the school not typically used for instructional activities. Children were taught to activate the recorders, point to pictures and toys, orient toward a conversation partner, and comment about the objects or photographs. After they reliably made joint attending responses, scripts were removed from the recorders and finally, the recorders were removed. The results indicated that all three children learned joint attending responses and when the scripts were faded, bids for joint attention maintained and generalized to untrained materials and to settings in which no training had occurred.
Using Pretend Play to Teach Empathy Skills to Children with Autism.
JESSICA A. SCHRANDT (Queens College and The Graduate Center, City Unive), Dawn B. Townsend (Institute for Educational Achievement), Claire L. Poulson (Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Abstract: Many children with autism fail to display empathy skills. The purpose of this research was to assess the extent to which presentation of affective discriminative stimuli, graduated guidance, modeling through auditory scripts, and reinforcement were effective in teaching generalized empathy skills to 4 children with autism. A multiple-baseline-across-participants experimental design with an embedded multiple-baseline-across-response categories for one subject was used to evaluate effects of treatment. Instructors presented vignettes with dolls/puppets demonstrating various types of affect, and taught participants to perform pretend-play responses indicating a shared perspective (e.g., when a doll said “I’m sad,” to pat her arm and say “It’s okay”). The dependent measure was the number of empathy responses to affective discriminative stimuli per session. During baseline, the children responded infrequently to displays of affect. Increases in empathy responses occurred systematically with the introduction of treatment for each participant and response category. Furthermore, responding generalized from training to nontraining stimuli for all participants. For two participants, generalization occurred from dolls/puppets to people in a nontraining classroom. For the others, generalization was observed to the nontraining people and classroom, but subsequently decreased to baseline level. Brief introduction of treatment in the nontraining setting produced rapid acquisition of the target skills.
Increasing the Use of Empathy Statements in the Presence of Non-Verbal Affective Stimuli in Adolescence with Autism.
PAUL ARGOTT (Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York), Dawn B. Townsend (Institute for Educational Achievement), Peter Sturmey (Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York), Claire L. Poulson (Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Abstract: Previous studies have shown that children with autism do not show empathic responding, but that they do acquire social interaction skills with the aid of a script-fading procedure. This study included 3 adolescents with autism, 2 males and 1 female. A non-verbal affective stimulus was presented and students’ empathic responding was recorded. Data were collected on scripted and unscripted verbal statements of empathy in the presence of training discriminative stimuli. To assess generalization, data were collected on unscripted verbal statements of empathy in the presence of non-training discriminative stimuli. A multiple-baseline-across-participants experimental design was used to assess the effectiveness of a script-fading procedure on increasing verbal statements of empathy. With the successive introduction of scripts and a script-fading procedure across participants, the percentage of opportunities on which scripted and unscripted statements of empathy occurred, in the presence of the training stimuli, increased systematically. For two of the participants an increase in the percentage of opportunities on which an unscripted statement of empathy occurred, in the presence of the generalization stimuli, was observed. These data show that adolescents with autism can learn to differentiate non-verbal affective stimuli and display differential empathic responses via behavioral intervention.
Teaching a Generalized Sharing Repertoire to Children with Autism.
JAIME A. DEQUINZIO (Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York), Dawn B. Townsend (Institute for Educational Achievement), Claire L. Poulson (Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Abstract: Children with autism have severe deficits in social interactions, as characterized in part by the failure to engage in sharing responses. In this study, four children with autism were taught a complex three-step sharing response chain (motor and verbal responses of showing, giving, and playing) derived from observations of children of typical development (Rheingold, Hay, & West, 1976). Using a multiple-baseline-across-participants-experimental design, the treatment package (manual guidance, auditory modeling, and contingent access to toy play with the recipient instructor) was introduced successively across all four participants. None of the participants engaged in the three-step sharing response chain during baseline. With the introduction of the treatment package, systematic increases in responding occurred for all four participants in the presence of training stimuli associated with the treatment package. In addition, generalization measures indicated that all of the participants learned to engage in the three-step sharing response chain in the presence of non-reinforced probe stimuli. Pre- and post-test measures indicated that the participants demonstrated this skill in the presence of peers, in a classroom containing non-trained toys. The results are discussed in terms of discriminative stimulus control of complex social behavior.



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