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 #73
Naturalistic Teaching Strategies to Teach Social Skills to Children with Autism
Saturday, May 23, 2009
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
North 120 BC
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Marjorie H. Charlop-Christy (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: One difficult problem when treating children with autism is the population’s failure to develop functional skills. Although children with autism might acquire skills in the training environment, limited maintenance and generalization often means that these skills are not being used when it matters most: in the children’s natural environments, under naturally occurring situations. Naturalistic teaching strategies (NaTS) were developed to address the need to facilitate skill acquisition while promoting generalization in natural environments. The research presented in this symposium highlights the ease with which components of NaTS can be successfully applied to a variety of both treatments and target skills. The first study compared a structured prompt fading technique with a naturalistic intervention when teaching spontaneous eye contact to children with autism. In the second study, NaTS were used with siblings of children with autism to target joint attention. The third study used video modeling to teach a variety of social skills to children with autism. Lastly, the fourth study used a picture communication system to teach requesting behaviors to nonverbal children with autism. All four studies support the application of NaTS to a variety of interventions for children with autism, especially when addressing functional skills.
Teaching spontaneous eye contact to children with autism: Comparing naturalistic and prompting teaching programs.
ALISSA GREENBERG (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop-Christy (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Children with autism demonstrate deficits in eye contact, contributing to overall impairments in social interactions. Although previous research has demonstrated that children with autism can learn to make eye contact, the procedures used in these studies have been limited. The present study advances the literature in this area by comparing two frequently used interventions for teaching spontaneous eye contact: 1) a naturalistic teaching program that does not use prompts and 2) a prompting program that uses verbal prompts and prompt fading techniques. Preliminary results suggest that children in both conditions learn spontaneous eye contact. Furthermore, although children consistently generalize spontaneous eye contact across people, generalization across situations (i.e. to greetings and free play sessions) is limited. Results are discussed in relation to the potential problems associated with prompt dependency when targeting spontaneous behaviors.
Teaching Joint Attention to Children with Autism through a Sibling- Mediated Behavioral Intervention
SUZANNAH J. FERRAIOLI (Rutgers University), Sandra L. Harris (Rutgers, The State University of NJ)
Abstract: Severe deficits in socialization are intrinsic to the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders. A specific deficit in joint attention has been identified in this population; it appears to be universal and pivotal to the development of more complex social skills and language. Behavioral interventions targeting joint attention are evidenced to be effective in teaching these skills to young children with autism, but these treatments have traditionally been implemented by adults. In the present study three typically developing children were trained to implement a joint attention intervention to their siblings with autism. Gains in responding to joint attention were observed for all three targets; gains in initiations were observed in two targets. These differential results provide information about merits of conceptualizing joint attention as a set of specific skills rather than an individual construct. Siblings found the treatment to be acceptable, and parent ratings indicated high satisfaction with the procedures. The implications of these findings for treatments targeting joint attention and for siblings as interventionists are discussed.
Teaching Social Skills to Children with Autism with Social Stories and Video- Modeling: An Alternating Treatments Investigation
SARA J GERSHFELD (Scripts College), Debra Berry Malmberg (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Video Modeling has a great deal of research validating its use in behavioral treatment of children with autism (e.g., Charlop-Christy, Le & Freeman, 2002), whereas sound research studies on Social Stories are lacking. In the current study, an alternating treatment design with the additional control of a multiple-baseline design was used to compare the two interventions in teaching social skills to children with autism. The study assessed each child's individual needs and targeted specific social skills using the Video Modeling or Social Stories intervention. Video Modeling, which is based on the visual strengths of children, consisted of sessions where the child watched the video, then was observed to see if they engaged in the target behavior displayed in the video. The effectiveness of social stories was assessed after the child listened to the story, then was observed in a natural play setting to see if they engaged in the behavior described by the story. Results showed that Video Modeling resulted in faster acquisition of social skills than Social Stories and also showed positive findings of maintenance and generalization. Interobserver agreement was greater than 80%. Results discuss the importance of using empirical-validated procedures with children with autism.
A Visually Based Naturalistic Communication Intervention for Nonverbal Persons with Autism
GINA T. CHANG (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop-Christy (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Six nonverbal children with autism were taught to request six items using a visually based communication program. All participants met criterion during training and demonstrated generalization of target requests to their primary caregivers. In addition participants demonstrated generalization across additional stimuli, settings and persons. The results of the present study suggest a promising model of teaching augmentative and alternative communication to nonverbal children with autism. There are a number of components to the model that we hypothesize are responsible for the success of the intervention. Primarily, the intervention was implemented using a naturalistic strategy, Multiple Incidental Teaching Strategies (MITS). Multiple Incidental Teaching Strategies are characterized by implementation in the natural environment, child-directed interactions, the use of natural reinforcers, and the incorporation of rehearsal trials after the initial teaching has occurred (Charlop-Christy, 2008). In accordance with previous research that has implemented MITS (Charlop & Berquist, 2007; Charlop-Christy & Carpenter, 2000), this present study demonstrated high rates of acquisition and generalization for all six participants. This result supports the shift in the literature suggesting that more trials and a more structured environment do not equate to improved learning in children with autism (Delprato, 2001).



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