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

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Symposium #406
CE Offered: BACB
Considering Discrimination Ability: Assessment of Stimulus Control in Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Columbus Hall EF, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: AUT/PRA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Michael D. Hixson (Central Michigan University)
Discussant: Tricia Corinne Vause (Brock University)
CE Instructor: Michael D. Hixson, Ph.D.

Despite demonstrations of treatment efficacy, research suggests some learners fail to make significant gains in Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) programs, particularly in the domain of language acquisition. A possible explanation for insufficient progress is that some children do not have the prerequisite skills to effectively benefit from language and social skills instruction. Discrimination ability and assessment of stimulus control are often overlooked when assessing and choosing intervention targets, and the failure to identify these important foundational skills can lead to the introduction of beginning targets that are too difficult for the learner. The following symposium examines the impact of discrimination ability, as assessed by the Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities-Revised, on rate of learning in EIBI, focusing on the role of auditory discrimination in echoic acquisition. In light of the above findings and an examination of learning trajectories of typically developing children, preliminary treatment modifications for early learners in EIBI will be discussed, with a focus on identifying prerequisite skill areas that are critical for a child to master prior to teaching language. By attending to discrimination ability and prerequisite skill acquisition, we can better teach early learners in EIBI settings important language and social skill repertoires.

Keyword(s): ABLA-R, Auditory Discrimination, EIBI, Stimulus Control
The Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities: Echoic Acquisition and Rate of Learning
TERYN BRUNI (Central Michigan University), Michael D. Hixson (Central Michigan University)
Abstract: The Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities-Revised (ABLA-R) measures the ease or difficulty with which a learner acquires simple motor, visual, and auditory discrimination tasks in a limited number of learning trials. This study evaluated the ability of the ABLA-R and AAIM/AANM tasks to predict acquisition of echoic behavior and rate of progress in Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) programs among children with ASD. Participants included 34 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder sampled from four EIBI providers across Michigan. Using prediction accuracy statistics, receiver operating characteristic curve, and correlation analysis, it was found that the ABLA-R was an excellent predictor of echoic responding in terms of sensitivity, specificity, positive prediction, classification accuracy, and AUC values. Data from participants’ EIBI programs revealed better participant performance on tasks at or below their ABLA-R level than on tasks above. Similarly programming identified as appropriate by the ABLA-R was positively correlated with progress ratings by service providers. The results have implications regarding the possible role of auditory discrimination as an important component skill or even a behavioral cusp for more advanced language. Future research should further examine the role of auditory discrimination training in the acquisition of important listener repertoires.
Matching Task Difficulty to Learning Ability Using the Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities-Revised
GENEVIEVE N. ROY-WSIAKI (Université de Saint Boniface), Garry L. Martin (University of Manitoba)
Abstract: The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (ABLLS-R) is used in many Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) programs. The Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities-Revised (ABLA-R) is a robust indicator of discrimination learning ability. Failed ABLA-R levels are difficult to teach and tasks mismatched to a client’s highest-passed ABLA-R level result in more aberrant behaviors than matched tasks. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the difficulty of the training tasks taught to children enrolled in an EIBI program matched the learning abilities of the children, using retrospective assessment data. First, observers who were knowledgeable about the ABLA-R reliably categorized 99 of the 544 ABLLS-R tasks into individual ABLA-R levels. For a random sample of those 99 ABLLS-R tasks, autism consultants averaged 90.5% agreement that those tasks were taught at their categorized ABLA-R levels. Additionally, across a sample of 14 children, 81% of their training tasks were mismatched to each child’s highest-passed ABLA-R level. Across their 31 maladaptive behavior assessments, 61% of the assessments had elevated levels of maladaptive behavior. Finally, rates of acquisition of new training tasks were lower for mismatched tasks than for matched tasks. These findings have important implications for potentially improving EIBI services.
The Effects of Auditory Matching Acquisition on Subsequent Echoic Performance: Two Case Studies
JORDAN P. BOUDREAU (Autism Centers of Michigan)
Abstract: There are many children enrolled in EIBI programs who are missing important prerequisite skills, impacting their ability to learn even the most basic language skills. Some studies suggest that auditory discrimination ability could be a critical prerequisite skill for learning basic verbal repertoires including echoics and naming. The following case studies examine the relationship between teaching auditory discrimination and echoic acquisition for two children attending an EIBI program in Michigan. The children included in this case study demonstrated minimal or zero progress with current intervention strategies for teaching echoics and had missing auditory discrimination skills as identified by the Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities-Revised (ABLA-R). Auditory-auditory matching was then taught directly to each participant while still engaging in regular echoic programming. Consistent with research findings, both clients made marked progress with their concurrent echoic programing, following successful acquisition of auditory matching. Implications for an assessment that allows for more effective and efficient guidance when choosing intervention strategy will be discussed.

Focusing on Early Developmental Discrimination Skills to Improve Treatment Outcomes for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

KRISTA M. CLANCY (University Pediatricians Autism Center)

When implementing intensive intervention plans for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), we tend to see two profiles of children, those who are in the best outcome group and those who are not. The typical profile of a child in the best outcome group is one with some basic language, imitation and a multitude of available reinforcers. Auditory discrimination has been linked to the development of these early learning skills. By using the Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities Revised (ABLA-R) to assess a childs ability to discriminate we can determine if they are likely to respond well to a typical ABA curriculum. If a child does not discriminate, it will be necessary to teach earlier developmental skills in visual and auditory discrimination, that when missing, are likely to hinder a childs response to treatment. This presentation will focus on preliminary treatment modifications aimed to teach early discrimination skills identified from comparison studies between children with ASD and those that are typically developing between the ages of 0-1. If these early developmental discrimination skills are targeted in treatment before working on language, imitation and play skills, children with poor discrimination skills may more readily respond to intensive ABA treatment intervention techniques.




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