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 #74
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Improving Social Interactions in Children with Autism: Clinical Applications of the “Conversation Box”
Saturday, May 23, 2009
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
North 124 B
Area: AUT/EDC; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: David M. Corcoran (Beacon Services)
Discussant: Matthew Howarth (BEACON Services)
CE Instructor: Katherine A. Johnson, M.A..
Abstract: Challenges in initiating, responding, and maintaining social language are one of the defining characteristics of PDD/autism. Visual supports such as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Frost & Bondy, (1994), have resulted in the acquisition of functional communication skills. In addition, these procedures have been shown to have positive collateral effects on the production of speech in many children. However, when speech emerges, for some children the speech may be limited to the use of mands and tacts. There is a critical need to expand the use of procedures used in language development for children with autism and other disabilities to teach and maintain intraverbal language. This symposium examines the use of a “conversation box” (Hahn, Filer, & Ross 2008) to support social interactions between children with PDD/ASD in a range of education settings. The interventions in this symposium took place in early childhood education settings, elementary schools and in middle school classrooms. Strategies for incorporating typically developing peers in to the conversation box routines, as well as procedure for fading materials to minimize intrusiveness in public school settings are also reviewed.
Social/Verbal Interaction between Children with PDD and Typical Peers
DAVID M. CORCORAN (Beacon Services), Stephanie Beard (BEACON Services), Robert K. Ross (BEACON Services)
Abstract: Many children with ASD demonstrate significant difficulty in production and fluent use of social language (Ricks & Wing, 1975). However, the use of a “conversation box” has been shown to support the acquisition and spontaneous production of social language (Hahn, Filer and Ross, 2008). The current study assessed the effects of visually cued conversation starters (asking a question and making a statement) as well as topic maintainers (answering a question and returning a comment), through the use of a conversation box, to support production of social language responses, in 5 elementary age children and 1 middle school child, with PDD, with their typical peers. The material used within this study was unique in that it incorporated a physical exchange, which assisted topic maintenance and shifting. When criterion for learning was met, generalization of social and verbal interaction was assessed with untrained topics of conversation, novel peers, and other settings. Fluency of responding was also directly trained and measured. Subsequent fading procedures included; reducing adult support (presence) and use of text scripts rather than the conversation box. Data demonstrate that performances were maintained in the assessed natural contexts.
Using a Communication Box to Increase Social Conversation Skills: A Replication
KAREN NAULT (BEACON Services), Robert K. Ross (BEACON Services)
Abstract: One of the core deficits in children with autism is social communication. A number of authors have found that prior to specific instruction social interactions are often quite limited (e.g., Hendrickson, et al. 1982, Krantz & McClannahan 1993) among others. In a previous study conducted with two preschoolers with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a communication box was used successfully to increase independent social conversation skills, including asking and answering questions and making statements (Hahn, Filer and Ross, 2008) in two preschoolers with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. The present study replicates the previous study, examining the use of a conversation box to teach initiation and maintenance of a topical conversation in three 5-year-olds with ASD. All three participants were in an inclusion program and participated in an after school social group. Each had programs targeting social conversation, but were dependent on verbal cues and modeling to initiate and maintain social conversations with peers. The use of the conversation box successfully decreased their dependence on teacher prompts, and increased the participants’ independence in beginning conversations, responding to questions, asking questions and waiting for the response. Collateral increases in appropriate eye contact, staying on topic, maintaining conversation and switching topics were also seen.
Use of a Conversation Box to Increase Social and Verbal Interactions in Children with Autism
LAURA D'ANTONA (BEACON Services), Joseph M. Vedora (BEACON Services), Robert K. Ross (BEACON Services)
Abstract: The spontaneous production of social language is a challenge for many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Ricks & Wing, 1975). Visual supports have been shown to facilitate language production in children with ASD (Sarokoff, Taylor & Poulson, 2001). The purpose of the current study was to assess the effects of visually cued social interactions for several children with autism. Specifically, a conversation box comprised of visual scripts was used to support production of social language during snack and centers in a reversed integrated preschool. The scripts facilitated initiation of an interaction and topic maintenance of the conversation. Once criterion for learning was met, generalization of social and verbal interaction was assessed with untrained topics of conversation, novel peers, and other settings. The results indicated successful acquisition of targeted social interaction skills and generalization to untrained conditions.



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