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 #382
CE Offered: BACB
Expanding the Social Reinforcer Repertoire of Young Children with Autism
Monday, May 25, 2009
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
North 124 A
Area: AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Cynthia G. Simpson (Sam Houston State University)
Discussant: Ruth M. DeBar (Sam Houston State University)
Abstract: One of the defining characteristics of children with autism is a narrow range of effective reinforcers, especially social reinforcers. Social reinforcers can be defined as an activity in which the interaction with another person is the source of the reinforcement. It is possible to teach young children with autism to find social interaction to be a source of reinforcement and there are many benefits to making it an integral part of an early intervention program. How to teach activity-based social reinforcers as well as different types of activity-based reinforcers will be discussed.
Teaching Young Children with Autism Activity-Based Social Reinforcers: A Case Study
BARBARA A. METZGER (Sam Houston State University)
Abstract: Children with autism often have a limited reinforcer repertoire, especially for social reinforcers. Two young children with autism, both involved in a home-based intensive early intervention program, were systematically exposed to a wide variety of activity-based, social activities. Tutors collected data on the child’s reaction to the activity, with a score of 1 indicating the child did not enjoy the activity and a score of 3 indicating that child greatly enjoyed the activity. Activities which received a consistent score of two or three were then used as reinforcers for table work. The data were analyzed according to the total number of new activities taught and those which were subsequently used as reinforcers. During the first year and a half of treatment, both children began treatment with a small repertoire of effective social reinforcers and showed large increases in the number and variety of effective activity-based, social reinforcers. These data suggest that it is possible to teach children with autism to find social interaction to be a source of reinforcement.
How to Teach Activity-Based, Social Reinforcers to Young Children with Autism
ANGELA L. POLETTI (Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District), Barbara A. Metzger (Sam Houston State University)
Abstract: One of the major characteristics of autism is the presence of deficits in social interaction; as a result these individuals often have very few social reinforcers without specific teaching. Reinforcers can be divided into those that are non-social and those that are social. A non-social reinforcer can be defined as an item or activity that the presence or interaction of another person does not increase the reinforcing value of that item or activity. Some examples of non-social reinforcers include food, drink, and watching television. The value of these items is not increased or mediated through interaction with another individual. A social reinforcer can be defined as an activity in which the reinforcer is dependent upon the interaction of another person. While many ABA practitioners use social reinforcers such as tickles, kisses or verbal praise, it is uncommon to see the use of activity-based social reinforcers because they often require teaching. Specific methods of teaching activity-based social reinforcers, data collection and the variety of possible activity-based social reinforcers will be presented.
Expanding the Reinforcer Repertoire of Children with Autism: Pretend Trouble as a Social Reinforcemer
CHARISH MAHONEY (Spring Independent School District), Barbara A. Metzger (Sam Houston State University)
Abstract: Teaching children with autism to find a wide variety of activities to be sources of reinforcement is an important component of an early intervention program. Four young children with autism were exposed to a variety of social activities, including pretend trouble. Pretend trouble includes reprimands from another individual, usually an adult, being directed towards inanimate objects like teddy bears and dolls. For example, an adult gives the inanimate object an instruction, and then manipulates the object so that it does not to follow the adult instruction. The adult then verbally reprimands, warns or scolds the inanimate object or the object is given a punishment such as sitting in time out. The child enjoys watching the inanimate object getting into trouble. The children were then exposed to a stimulus preference assessment in the form of a forced choice between pictures of the social activities. Finally, the children were exposed to a reinforcer assessment in the form of pressing a clicker for the opportunity to engage in the social activities. Inconsistent with previous studies, there were discrepancies between the results of the preference assessment and the reinforcer assessment. Although the children showed individual preferences, overall pretend trouble was the most effective reinforcer.



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