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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #334
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluations of Emerging Verbal Skills in Children With or at Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sunday, May 29, 2022
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 257B
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kerri P. Peters (University of Florida)
CE Instructor: Kerri P. Peters, Ph.D.

The current symposium will focus on recent methodological developments in the area of emerging verbal behavior in children with or at risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The first presenter will discuss an evaluation of procedures teaching an 8-month infant to sign for “help” when preferred items were inaccessible. The second presenter will discuss research extending the literature on the various treatment components used to train the use of speech-generating devices (SGDs), an alternative communication modality for individuals who exhibit minimal speech. Finally, the third presenter will present research aimed at evaluating generative instruction for SGD users by evaluating procedures that can facilitate tact acquisition and evaluate the emergence of untaught associated tacts.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Autism, Infant, Sign language, Speech-Generating Devices
Target Audience:

Junior BCBAs, Behavior analysts within their first 5 years of practice, including practitioners, supervisors, etc. Currently enrolled in or recently completed graduate-level work

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe the delayed prompting and reinforcement procedure; (2) describe the treatment components involved in SGD training and whether they are all necessary, (3) describe procedures that can facilitate tact acquisition and evaluate the emergence of novel tacts.
Teaching an Infant to Mand for Help
CIOBHA A. MCKEOWN (University of Florida), Carley Smith (University of Florida; Florida Autism Center), Domenic Inskip (University of Florida; Florida Autism Center), Lindsay Lloveras (University of Florida ), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida), Kerri P. Peters (University of Florida)
Abstract: Teaching infants sign language is beneficial as it promotes early communication, improves socialization, and decreases interfering behaviors like crying and whining. Improving early communication may also reduce the probability of an infant engaging in dangerous behaviors like climbing. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury for young children and account for about 8,000 emergency room visits daily. As such, we sought to extend the current literature by teaching an 8-month infant to sign for “help” when preferred items were inaccessible. Using a reversal design, we evaluated the efficacy of the treatment package (i.e., delayed prompting and reinforcement) used by Thompson et al. (2007) in teaching signs for “help.” The teaching package resulted in acquisition of the targeted sign, reduced inaccurate signs for “more,” and generalized to dangerous situations that previously promoted climbing. However, we observed undesirable generalization of requests for help when the infant could independently access the items. We discuss strategies to reduce undesirable generalization of sign language with infants.

Further Evaluations of Icon Discrimination During Use of Speech-Generating Devices

JANELLE KIRSTIE BACOTTI (University of Florida), Audrey Milam (University of Florida), Yanelle Soto (Florida Autism Center), Brandon C. Perez (Trinity Christian College ), Ciobha A. McKeown (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

Speech-generating devices (SGDs) provide an alternative communication modality for individuals who exhibit minimal speech (Lorah et al., 2015; Tincani et al., 2020). SGDs permit individuals to select icons on a screen that produces vocal output, which allows a listener to respond effectively to the speaker's communication responses. Establishing icon discrimination during mand training has yielded successful outcomes in controlled and naturalistic settings when using a fixed progression through screen and prompting manipulations (Lorah et al., 2014, 2018). The current study extended the preparation of Lorah et al. (2014, 2018) by (a) evaluating the necessity for progressing through all icon manipulations and prompting procedures, (b) completing training during play, (c) probing the maintenance of icon discrimination in a larger array, (d) assessing skill performance before and after SGD training, and (e) completing within-session analyses that further characterize learner's differential performance during participation. To date, participants (i.e., children receiving early intervention services) have varied in their necessity for treatment or all treatment components described by Lorah et al. (2014, 2018) to acquire and maintain icon discrimination in a large array. We discuss our findings with relation to other analyses that further characterize behavior-change that occurred within the scope of participation.


Emergence of Untrained Language in Children With Autism Who Use Speech Generating Devices

VIDESHA MARYA (Endicott College; Village Autism Center), Alicia Seng (The May Institute), Haley Blake (Village Autism Center), Samuel Shvarts (The May Institute), Dominic Padgett (Village Autism Center), John Patrick Pruett (The May Institute), Caitlin H. Delfs (Village Autism Center), Alice Shillingsburg (May Institute)

Many individuals with autism remain non vocal and their lack of vocal speech is often supported with speech generating devices (SGDs). Majority of existing SGD studies focus on teaching mands and fewer studies evaluate more complex communicative repertoires involving other verbal operants. Furthermore, unlike the literature evaluating language for vocal individuals with ASD where several strategies are aimed at producing generative language and examining efficient learning practices, the SGD literature is focused on evaluating the effects of direct teaching strategies on the acquisition of target skills. The present study aimed to evaluate generative instruction for SGD users by evaluating procedures that can facilitate tact acquisition and evaluate the emergence of untaught associated tacts that received no direct instruction. Four categories with four items belonging to each category were chosen for each participant. At the start of the study neither participant emitted correct responses to any of the tact targets included in the study. Prompting and reinforcement strategies were used to teach two items from each category as tacts. Results showed that once the participants were taught to tact items from a category, correct tact responses to other associated items that belonged to the same category emerged without any direct training.




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