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 #290
Best Practice and Social Validity Issues in Providing Services to Children with Autism
Sunday, May 24, 2009
4:00 PM–5:20 PM
North 120 BC
Area: AUT/EDC; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Cammarie Johnson (The New England Center for Children)
Discussant: William H. Ahearn (The New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Identifying best practice intervention strategies for children with autism is a subject of considerable research. With an increase in autism diagnoses, educators are looking for program models and techniques that provide clear direction and demonstrate successful outcomes. Many factors must be considered when designing a treatment program. This symposium will examine a number of key features when designing and providing effective behaviorally - based programs for children with autism. The first paper presented by Renee Mansfield reviews social validity data on a set of high priority skills identified as core learning targets for children with autism. The second paper presented by Meghan Hinchey presents a meta-analysis comparing highly structured interventions with more naturalistic approaches used to teach spoken language. The third paper presented by Philip Hineline reviews behaviorally-based intervention techniques within publicly supported education models. Bill Ahearn, Director of Research at the New England Center for Children, will serve as the discussant.
Identifying Priorities for Teaching Children with Autism: Do we all agree?
RENEÉ C. MANSFIELD (The New England Center for Children), Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (The New England Center for Children), Cammarie Johnson (The New England Center for Children), Susan N. Langer (The New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Identifying and prioritizing skills to teach children with autism is a critical first step to providing effective treatment. Skill deficits are often present across all areas of adaptive functioning, with communication and social skills being areas of greatest need. Over the past several years a group of professionals at NECC has developed a Core Skills Assessment. This assessment includes 48 high priority skills across 7 domain areas. Each skill is evaluated using direct assessment methods. The assessment also includes protocols for determining learning objectives for a student’s Individualized Educational Program. To determine the social validity of these as high priority skills, a survey was conducted to assess agreement by other professionals and parents of children with autism. Results from 275 professionals across the United States indicated that a majority of the respondents agreed that the skills identified represented core or foundational skills. Results of the survey and the Core Skills Assessment will be discussed.
Meta Analysis for Autism Interventions
MEGHAN HINCHEY (Temple University), James Connell (Temple University), Melanie Pellecchia (Elwyn)
Abstract: Research and services continue to expand out to community-based programs serving individuals diagnosed with autism. A focus of great interest in those efforts is that of language acquisition and functional usage. A recent meta-analysis evaluated the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) literature for its reported effectiveness for mand initiations (Devis & Tincani, 2008). Using the percentage of non-overlapping data (PND) method, the authors reported that of the studies that were included, PECS proved to be effective in establishing mands (i.e., functional communication). The present meta-analysis focuses on interventions for children with autism that lead to acquisition of spoken language. Highly structured interventions, such as discrete trial instruction (DTI) were compared to more naturalistic approaches, such as pivotal response training (PRT), natural environment teaching, and incidental teaching. Intervention, maintenance, and generalization effects were measured by calculating the percentage of non-overlapping data (PND). The results suggest that both structured and naturalistic interventions are effective for teaching language skills to these children. However, the data indicate that naturalistic approaches result in greater maintenance and generalization than result from highly structured interventions. These observations have implications for generalization of acquired language skills, for the importance of treatment integrity, and for future research on effectiveness of autism interventions.
Best Practice in Interventions for Autism: A Moving Target
PHILIP N. HINELINE (Temple University)
Abstract: During the two decades since the ground-breaking Lovaas 1987 report documenting the extraordinary potential of a behaviorally-based intervention for autism, there have been substantial advances and developments in both basic and applied behavior analysis. As relevant to interventions for autism, these have ranged from specific principles and techniques, to “models” or “packages” of varying comprehensiveness, which have been evaluated to varying degrees. Appropriately, these innovations have been developed mainly within research and clinical settings, with adequate student/instructor ratios and well-qualified staff. We have been studying some of them as implemented within publicly supported education, where fewer resources are available, but where a lion’s share of interventions must ultimately be accomplished. We have been finding that, as implemented within these settings, features or techniques introduced as characteristic of one model often have come to be included within nominally different models. In addition, methods of promulgation and implementation (e.g. of staff training or of performance management), as distinct from instructional procedures and curriculum design, should be recognized as integral components of any comprehensive approach to intervention. These are important especially as they affect staff expertise and performance, which can strongly affect what actually occurs, and thus complicate systematic evaluations of the models.



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