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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #362
CE Offered: BACB
Challenges to Establishing Joint Attention and Social Referencing Repertoires in Children with Autism
Monday, May 26, 2014
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
W183b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald, Ph.D.

Deficits in both joint attention and social referencing are core to a diagnosis of autism and remain the most challenging skills to teach in this population. In this symposium we will present data from 3 studies illustrating procedural variations in establishing these skills. The common element across studies is the use of multiple exemplars in training and generalization. This appears to be a critical variable in the demonstration and maintenance of these skills. In the first study Sng assessed and taught children to orient to distressful social stimuli using a variety of scenarios and using social interactions as reinforcers. Her results showed that all children acquired the social orienting response and 2 of the participants generalized to untrained distress scenarios. The second study examined a procedure for establishing the affective behavior of an adult as a discriminative stimulus. Children acquired the discrimination and demonstrated the new skill across untrained stimuli and environments. The third study showed the effectiveness of teaching joint attention using multiple exemplars and script fading. The target population was adolescents who could read. Their findings showed that the training package resulted in acquisition and generalization of initiating joint attention.

Keyword(s): joint attention, social referencing

Teaching Children with Autism to Orient to Social Stimuli

SYLVIA SNG (The New England Center for Children), Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (The New England Center for Children)

One of the hallmarks of autism is a failure to orient to social stimuli that are present in the natural environment, and an important implication of this is the failure to attend to distress. The purpose of this study was to teach three 2-year-old children with autism to orient to distress using a multiple baseline across participants design. Orienting to distress in "Hurt," "Spill," and "Choke" scenarios was taught using social reinforcers in a multiple exemplar training format. Mastery of one distress scenario was followed by generalization probes across settings, untrained distress scenarios, and experimenters. Interobserver agreement was collected in 33% of sessions. Results showed that all participants acquired orienting to the Hurt scenario, and that 2 of the 3 participants showed generalization of skills to a different setting, untrained distress scenarios, and to a different experimenter. Results have implications for the use of the multiple exemplar training procedure and identified social reinforcers to teach social orienting and other social behaviors.

Teaching Children with Autism to Respond to Facial Expressions within a Social Referencing Paradigm
JAIME DEQUINZIO (Alpine Learning Group), Bridget A. Taylor (Alpine Learning Group)
Abstract: Responding to the affective behavior of others (i.e., facial expressions), is an important component of the development of social behavior. One type of social interaction that relies heavily on the ability to respond to the facial cues of others is known as social referencing. During social referencing, infants as young as 6 months of age look to others when confronted with unfamiliar or unexpected events in the environment as a means of determining how to respond to such events. Typically, approach or avoidance responses are learned by responding to positive and negative affective cues of the parent or caregiver (e.g., smiling and frowning). Unfortunately, social referencing repertoires are limited or completely lacking in children with autism. Despite these documented social deficits, little research has focused on ameliorating social referencing deficits. The current study evaluated procedures for establish the affective behavior of others as discriminative stimuli within the social referencing paradigm. One of the three participants learned to discriminate between two facial expressions using manual guidance implemented using a constant time-delay procedure (i.e., 0s delay for the first three sessions of intervention, followed by 3s delay for the remaining sessions). Two of the participants required modifications to the manual guidance procedure (i.e., blocking trial types and pairing verbal instructions) in order to learn the discrimination between facial expressions. Generalization across stimuli and environments was demonstrated by all three participants once acquisition was made during training sessions. This study demonstrate the challenges of teaching social referencing responses to young children with autism.

Teaching Joint Attention Skills to Adolescents and Young Adults with Autism Using Multiple Exemplar Training and Script-Fading Procedures

ERIC ROZENBLAT (Caldwell College), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell College), Dawn B. Townsend (Institute for Educational Achievement), Sharon A. Reeve (Caldwell College), Ruth M. DeBar (Caldwell College)

Joint attention is defined as coordinating attention between an object and person in a social context and may include such responses as shifts in eye gaze and the use of gestures. Researchers who have taught initiating bids for joint attention have primarily taught it to children with autism between 3 and 8 years of age. The purpose of the current study was to teach four adolescents and young adults with autism to initiate bids for joint attention using multiple-exemplar training, written prompts, and script-fading procedures. Three training categories of stimuli and one probe category were assigned to each participant. A multiple-baseline across participants design was used to examine the effectiveness of the treatment procedure. The results demonstrated that all four participants learned to initiate bids for joint attention under training conditions using both scripted and novel language. Bids for joint attention also generalized to stimuli not used during training.




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