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.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #204
CE Offered: BACB
Addressing the Challenges of Autism: Functional Approaches to Social Skill Development
Sunday, May 24, 2009
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
North 121 BC
Area: EDC/AUT; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Jennifer M. Asmus (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Discussant: Todd G. Kopelman (University of Iowa - Hospitals and Clinics)
CE Instructor: Paula Braga-Kenyon, Master's
Abstract: Promoting social skills acquisition and peer interaction constitute primary educational goals for most elementary, middle, and high school children with ASD. Presently there is limited empirical guidance available to educators on how to most effectively and efficiently tailor intervention strategies to meet the highly individualized social and behavioral needs that characterize this segment of the school population. This symposium will focus on functional approaches to social skill acquisition for children and teens with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. First, Lindsay Stangeland and Bridgid Carbo will present on a methodology to identify environmental variables and activities that would increase the conversations between children with disabilities and same-aged peers. Jennifer Copeland will present on extending peer training to improve social interactions to older teens with disabilities. Finally, Sara Christianson will present on an application of descriptive and structural analyses to the examination of social interaction and communication for early elementary students with autism spectrum disorders. Todd Koppelman will discuss the papers in terms of their strengths and limitations as well as directions for future work.
Matching Learner Needs to Social Skill Instruction
Jennifer E. Copeland (Melmark), LINDSAY STANGELAND (Grant Wood Area Education Agency/St. Cloud State University), Brenda J. Engebretson (University of Iowa), David P. Wacker (University of Iowa)
Abstract: Research is needed to identify effective programs for teaching social skills to children with autism. The majority of social skills curricula available to teachers of children with autism do not account for the individual contingencies that have shaped the interactions children have with their peers. In the current study, we attempted to identify two things; environmental variables that would motivate individual students to use appropriate speech with their peers, and therapeutic classroom activities that could be employed to facilitate more skillful conversations among same-age peers. Four special education students ranging from pre-school to fourth grade participated in a series of test conditions in which same-age, neurotypical peers were trained to deliver programmed consequences. Access to social attention, preferred tangible items, brief escape from conversational demands, and time alone away from peers were contingent upon any utterance of speech. Each test condition was scored according to utterances of appropriate and inappropriate speech. Results defined individual deficit and strength areas for each student. A shaping program was then designed for each student by matching learner needs with individualized instruction. Inter-observer agreement ranged from 73% to 89% with a mean of 80% agreement across all participants and behaviors.
Matching Peer Qualities to Social Skill Instruction
JENNIFER E. COPELAND (Melmark), Brigid Carbo (Melmark), Lindsay Stangeland (Grant Wood Area Education Agency/St. Cloud State University), David P. Wacker (University of Iowa)
Abstract: Copeland et al. (2006) showed that students with disabilities could be trained by their peers to engage in therapeutic social interactions. To extend our previous research, we implemented the same analysis procedures with three older students with limited verbal abilities, ranging from 17-20 years old. Each individual’s behavior was previously evaluated via functional analysis. We selected peers to serve as communication partners during a series of sessions in which the target students could request the consequence that had previously reinforced the most frequent occurrences of communication. Three different peer groups were selected according to age, IQ and verbal skills. Peer groups evoked differentiated responses from each student. Variances of behavior were observed in peer enthusiasm and the qualities of peer-delivered reinforcement. Treatment consisted of daily 10-minute sessions with the most productive peer using individualized procedures for each student. Inter-observer agreement ranged from 67% - 100% with a mean of 93% during 30% of sessions across all behaviors and participants.
Use of Descriptive Assessment and Structural Analysis to Evaluate Social Behavior in Children with Autism
SARA CHRISTIANSON (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Jennifer M. Asmus (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Laura Mulford (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Julie A. Horner (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Cara Vaccarello (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Abstract: There is little empirical guidance for educators in identifying appropriate individualized interventions to improve prosocial behaviors of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Interventions targeting social skills are typically selected without systematic assessment procedures. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) procedures, specifically descriptive assessment and experimental analysis, have been effective at identifying antecedents and consequences that maintain challenging behaviors in children with ASD. With the assessment information, interventions are developed that target the function of the problem behavior and are therefore effective at reducing or eliminating the target behavior. The purpose of the current study was to adapt descriptive assessment and structural analysis methods typically used to treat challenging behaviors to examine the antecedent variables that maintain appropriate social behaviors with three early elementary aged students with ASD. A case example will be presented highlighting the antecedent variables in the natural environment that promoted positive, peer-related interactions and how they were identified. Data was collected on target and peer prosocial initiations, responses, and sustained social interactions. IOA was collected on at least 25% of sessions and agreement exceeded 85% across measures.



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