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 #293
CE Offered: BACB
Enhancements in Intervention for Verbal Behavior and Social Skills in Children with Autism
Sunday, May 24, 2009
4:00 PM–5:20 PM
North 126
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Carrie Kathleen Zuckerman (Center For Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.)
CE Instructor: Janet Yi, M.S.
Abstract: Behavioral intervention is a treatment of well-established efficacy for children with autism. While comprehensive behavioral intervention programs are well-validated as a whole, there are many details of such programs that remain unevaluated and may be amendable to improvement. This symposium consists of four presentations that describes studies which were targeted at improving behavioral intervention for verbal or social skills. The first paper attempts to establish a preliminary repertoire of rule-governed behavior in children with autism. The second paper evaluates the contributions of peer-mediated and self-management components in the treatment of social skills. The third study attempts to teach children with autism to predict what emotions others will feel, based on nonverbal events that have just transpired. The final paper examines beliefs and false beliefs in children with autism.
Rule-Governed Behavior: Teaching Children with Autism a Preliminary Repertoire of Rule-Following
Jonathan J. Tarbox (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.), CARRIE KATHLEEN ZUCKERMAN (Center For Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.), Denis P. O'Hora (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Abstract: The purpose of the current study was to evaluate a procedure for teaching basic prerequisite skills which may be necessary for developing a repertoire of rule-governed behavior. Specifically, children with autism were taught “conditionality,” by reinforcing compliance with instructions containing “if/then” statements. The emergence of untrained instances of following if/then rules is evidence for the formation of the generalized operant class of rule-following, rather than merely the acquisition of particular behaviors under stimulus control. A multiple baseline design across participants assessed the effects of multiple exemplar training on generalization to novel rules that specify antecedents and behaviors. Results will be discussed in terms of implications for autism intervention as well as the learning history which may lay the foundation for the development of a repertoire of rule-governed behavior.
Using Peer-Mediated and Self-Management Interventions to Increase Social Success of Children with Autism within Inclusive School Settings
Nicolette Nefdt (Support and Treatment for Autism & Related Disorde), Michelle E. Coulter (Support and Treatment for Autism and Related Disor), Maria F. Wynne (Support & Treatment for Autism & Related Disorders), Quy Tran (Support and Treatment for Autism & Related Disorde), LOUISE A. MCHUGH (University of Wales Swansea)
Abstract: While Applied Behavior Analysis has tremendous potential to address the social needs of children with autism, literature reviews on the efficacy of social skills training suggests that there are limitations that need to be overcome (Gresham, Sugai, & Horner, 2001). Three variables that appear to be important considerations to optimize the benefits of social skills training for children with autism are (1) teaching within the natural environment, (2) using peer mediated interventions, and (3) teaching the child with autism how to regulate their own behavior within social routines. The current study was designed to combine these approaches to increase the social skills of students with autism during typical peer interactions within school routines. A multiple baseline design across students was utilized to evaluate the impact of specific peer mediated and self-management interventions on the social success of three students with autism during school routines. Design features were added to contrast the relative effects of the peer mediated and self-management intervention approaches. Results are discussed in terms of (1) the benefits to participants, and (2) the importance of developing further empirical support for practical social skills training that can be readily applied in school settings.
Teaching Children with Autism to Predict Others’ Emotions
EMILY BARNOY (Center For Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.), Jonathan J. Tarbox (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.), Adel C. Najdowski (C.A.R.D., Inc.), Dennis Dixon (Center for Autism and Related Disorders)
Abstract: Autism is characterized by deficits in socialization, often including delayed development in the ability to understand and respond to the emotional states of others. In his analysis of private events, Skinner (1974) discussed the difficulty the verbal community faces in teaching its members to tact private events, both their own, and the private events of others. Specifically, in order to respond to the private events (e.g., emotions, thoughts, etc.) of others, one can only respond to overt stimuli and an accurate correlation between overt stimuli and private events is by no means guaranteed. In typical child development, children presumably learn to label the emotions of others by receiving reinforcement for stating emotions in the presence of multiple overt stimuli, such as a second person smiling and third person asking “How does he feel?” In developmental disabilities such as autism, this learning history may be delayed or absent altogether. Nevertheless, the ability to tact the emotions of others is likely crucial for successful social interaction in our culture. In this study, we used multiple exemplar training to teach children with autism to predict how others would feel, based on recent nonverbal overt events. That is, children were not taught to label emotional facial expressions, but were taught to respond to events that were common causes of particular emotions in our culture. Results are discussed in terms of verbal behavior intervention for children with autism and in terms of Skinner’s analysis of private events.
A Behavioral Examination of False Belief Tasks
ERIN SARGENT (NEU; NECC), Shayna L. Grindle (New England Center for Children), Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (The New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (The New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Previous research has examined false-belief tasks to evaluate development with respect to Theory of Mind (e.g., Baron-Cohen, 2002) in typically developing children, as well as those with autism and other developmental disabilities. Studies have examined various methods of teaching performance in false-belief tasks. These tasks have been modified in several ways and while some studies showed moderate success teaching false-belief skills with particular false-belief tasks, generalization to other, novel tasks has consistently failed to emerge in children with autism. This study focused on teaching children to perform false-belief tasks and examined whether generalization to untrained tasks could be produced. Pretest sessions were run on three false-belief tasks, followed by teaching sessions on one of the three tasks. Posttest probes were run on the remaining two tasks. Pretest pass/fail results among typically developing children showed a clear age divergence around 4 years of age. Pretest results for children with autism (ages ranging from 4 to 6) yielded no passing results. Two typically developing children under 4 years of age and all 4 children with autism were exposed to teaching sessions. The different discriminations comprising the test were analyzed and teaching procedures developed. These discriminations were subsequently taught. Posttest probes yielded mixed results. The 2 typically developing children did not pass either posttest probe. Two children with autism passed the same posttest probe, but failed the other, and the remaining two did not pass either posttest.



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