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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #524
CE Offered: BACB
Engaging Complexity: Teaching Rule Governed Behavior and Problem-Solving Skills to Children With Autism
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Columbus Hall EF, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Lisa J. Stoddard (FirstSteps for Kids)
CE Instructor: Lisa J. Stoddard, M.S.

Behavior analysis was always intended as a comprehensive science of all human activity, and yet, relatively little behavior analytic research has been done on highly complex human behaviors, such as rule-governed behavior and the so-called "executive functions." This symposium brings together three presentations that have attempted to address complex repertoires, including rule-governed behavior and problem-solving. The first presentation, by Lisa Stoddard, consists of a study that taught children with autism problem-solving skills. The second presentation, by Sara Wymer, consists of a study that taught children with autism rule-deriving skills. The third study, by Dr. Thomas Szabo, also consists of a study that taught children with autism rule-deriving skills.

Keyword(s): executive function, problem-solving, rule-governed behavior

Teaching Problem-Solving Skills to Children With Autism

Jonathan J. Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids), LISA J. STODDARD (FirstSteps for Kids), Amanda Murry (FirstSteps for Kids)

Problem solving is a complex behavior that has been the subject of very little previous behavioral conceptual or empirical research. Skinner defined a problem as a situation in which a consequence would be reinforcing, if only the individual possessed the behavior needed to bring it about. Colloquially speaking, a problem is a situation in which one knows what one wants but one does not know what to do to get it. Skinner suggested that the behaviors one engages in that eventually result in making the effective terminal response available are, themselves, to be considered problem-solving behaviors. Children with autism have documented difficulties with problem solving and yet very little previous behavioral research has attempted address these deficits. In the current study, Problem solving was task analyzed and is currently being taught via multiple exemplar training to children with autism. The steps of the task analysis include identifying the problem, explaining why its a problem, analyzing the cause of the problem, creating multiple possible solutions, selecting the solution most likely to be effective, implementing the solution, self-monitoring the success of the solution, and altering the solution if it is not successful.


Teaching Children With Autism to Follow Rules Specifying a Behavior and a Consequence

SARAH WYMER (Marcus Autism Center and Georgia State University), Gracie Allen Beavers (Georgia State University)

Rule-governed behavior (RGB) is primarily controlled by contact with a verbal description of a contingency as opposed to prior contact with the contingencies. RGB is a unique class of behavior that Skinner described as essential to the existence of human civilization (Skinner, 1974). Despite its importance, the establishment of RGB in individuals who do not display the skill has only been evaluated in one study (Tarbox, Zuckerman, Bishop, Olive, & OHora, 2011). Tarbox et al. established a basic repertoire of rule following in children diagnosed with autism with rules specifying an antecedent and a consequence. We conducted a systematic replication of the Tarbox et al. study. Three boys diagnosed with autism were taught to follow rules specifying a behavior and a consequence (e.g., If you clap, then you get candy). The specified consequence alternated between preferred and non-preferred stimuli. In baseline, participants typically followed a given instruction regardless of whether the consequence was preferred or non-preferred. Following multiple exemplar training, all participants demonstrated the ability to respond correctly to novel rules. Results indicated that multiple exemplar training can be used to establish basic repertoires of RGB in individuals who have previously not demonstrated that ability.


Deriving Rules From Context: An RFT Approach to Teaching Problem-Solving Skills to Children With Autism

Brittany Monclus (Center for Autism and Related Disorders; Florida ), Gabriela Uribio (Center for Autism and Related Disorders; Florida ), THOMAS G. SZABO (Florida Institute of Technology)

According to Skinners analysis of problem solving, problem solving is operant behavior that is demonstrated when a needed response is not readily available in the learners repertoire. For Skinner, consequences are always in the form of direct contingencies. Relational Frame Theory (RFT) postulates a view that involves relationally framing responses, which can involve deriving new relations without previous training. This study consists of two experiments that evaluate multiple exemplar training procedures for teaching relational responding. Experiment One was a replication of Tarbox, Zuckerman, Bishop, and Olive (2011) where a child with autism was successfully taught to respond to rules containing if/then statements. The second experiment consisted of three participants trained to derive and vocalize an if/then rule from the environmental context to solve problems. One participant successfully derived novel rules in test and control phases indicating that multiple exemplar training using video models may be an effective intervention to teaching problem solving. Although two participants may have employed additional, untrained techniques to derive rules from context, results with one subject suggest that this strategy can be of benefit and may work when other skills are lacking. Further research should seek to identify the necessary and sufficient conditions for teaching children with autism to derive rules from context.




Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh