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 #139
CE Offered: BACB
A Behavioral Approach to Play: Analysis, Assessment, and Applications
Sunday, May 25, 2014
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
W185d (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Linda A. LeBlanc (Trumpet Behavioral Health)
CE Instructor: Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D.

Playing is generally considered synonymous with having fun because it can provide a steady and rich form of reinforcement, with a relatively low response effort. This form of reinforcement can also contribute to many elements of human development, such as language acquisition, social behavior, and visual perceptual skills. However, some children, especially those with autism, do not engage in play activities in a manner commensurate with their typically developing peers, or their play activities are too excessive and may disrupt the development of other important skills. For these children, a specific intervention program may be necessary to develop age-appropriate play skills. Behavioral approaches to autism treatment are often criticized for failing to adequately incorporate play into their intervention strategies. While this may be true for some older forms of ABA programs, it does not reflect the approaches of more current ABA programs. This symposium will provide a behavioral analysis of what constitutes play, along with ways to assess a child’s play skills, and ways to systematically make use of play to teach other important behaviors, especially verbal and social behaviors.

Keyword(s): automatic reinforcement, natural environment, play skills, video modeling

A Behavioral Analysis of Play

MARK L. SUNDBERG (Sundberg and Associates), Cindy Sundberg (Parenting Partnerships)

There are a number of behavioral principles and concepts that are relevant to an analysis of play. The current analysis will suggest that motivating operations, socially mediated reinforcement, and automatic reinforcement are significant variables responsible for establishing and maintaining play skills. There are also a number of additional principles and concepts involved such as stimulus control, generalization, chaining, imitation, conditional discriminations, and verbal behavior. It will be suggested that a behavioral analysis of play can improve our ability to assess and teach the many variations of play behavior. In addition, demonstrations will be provided of how play activities can be used to directly and indirectly teach a number of important skills.


"Let's Have Some Fun!": Embedding Mixed Verbal Behavior Trials in Social Play Contexts

CRISTIN JOHNSTON (Castro Valley Unified School District)

It is often thought that ABA approaches to teaching children with language delays can be dull, repetitive, and sterile, as discrete trial teaching often occurs outside of the natural context. However, developing ways to contrive language opportunities within the context of play can increase overall social engagement and decrease the aversive properties of instructor led teaching. This presentation will provide examples of how to set up fun and engaging play situations that include verbal behavior trials to increase language and develop social play skills.


Increasing Verbal Compliments during Games for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Kevin MacPherson (Claremont McKenna College), MARJORIE H. CHARLOP (Claremont McKenna College)

Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders demonstrate numerous social skills deficits. One notable deficit is a failure to give compliments. A multiple baseline design across participants was used to examine the extent to which a portable video modeling intervention on the iPad was delivered during athletic group play affected the verbal compliments exhibited by five children with autism. Participants were 4 boys and 1 girl between the ages of 8 and 11 years old who played kickball with other children with autism, neurotypical peers, and other volunteers. In baseline, the participants gave few or no compliments to their peers. During intervention, an iPad was used to show participants short video clips of a model demonstrating verbal compliments (e.g., That was a great kick!) in the natural environment during a game of kickball. The portable video modeling intervention quickly increased participants demonstration of verbal compliments. Further, participants used a variety of different compliments and compliments that were not portrayed on the video. These findings provide evidence that portable video modeling, shown within their natural environment, can affect the social behaviors demonstrated by children with autism. The study also provides evidence of the yoking of play and the teaching of verbal behaviors.




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