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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #456
CE Offered: BACB
From Joint Attention to Social Referencing: Two Major Developmental Deficits in Autism
Monday, May 31, 2010
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Travis A/B (Grand Hyatt)
Area: DEV/AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Gary D. Novak (California State University, Stanislaus)
Discussant: Gary D. Novak (California State University, Stanislaus)
CE Instructor: Sophia Yin, Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDiplomate ACVB
Abstract: This symposium will address two significant hidden deficits in autism for a developmental perspective, and address procedures that can be used to build these skills. Holth will address the basic behavioral mechanisms involved in the development of joint attention and how these principles can be applied to developing joint attention in autism. MacDonald, Wheeler and Dube will show how an interactive play, discrete-trial situation can be used to establish joint attention in autistic children. Pelaez will describe social referencing responses as behavioral processes and relate them to deficits in autistic children. She will also relate social referencing to later development, especially the development of relational responding by children. The symposium will be discussed from the point of view of the relevance of these skills in the process of the development of autism, and to highlight the similarities and differences in the practical approaches taken to remediating them in autistic children.
Joint Attention and the Establishment of Generalized Conditioned Reinforcers
PER HOLTH (Akershus University College), Sissel Lork (Akershus University College)
Abstract: In an operant interpretation of joint attention, the establishment of typical generalized reinforcers, such as others’ nods and smiles seem crucial for the establishment and maintenance of peculiar joint attention functions. A series of studies have focused on (1) How early during infancy can typical generalized reinforcers, such as others’ smiles, be shown to function as reinforcers for the behavior of typical developing children? (2) If social stimuli do not function as reinforcers, how can we most effectively establish them as such? (3) How can a reinforcing effect of conditioned reinforcers best be maintained? and (4) Can these procedures be interpolated into effective joint attention skill training for children with autism such as to produce such skills that will endure in natural environments where such stimuli appear to be the core reinforcing consequence? Results indicate that when a reinforcing effect of social stimuli is lacking, a procedure in which such stimuli are established as SDs for positively reinforced responses is more effective than a classical conditioning or pairing procedure for establishing those stimuli as conditioned reinforcers. Also, the interpolation of a sequence of such procedures into a joint attention skills training program indicates that targeting such core social reinforcers directly can contribute to the maintenance of acquired joint attention skills that are otherwise quickly lost.
Behavioral Evaluation of States of Engagement During Play in Children With Autism
REBECCA P. F. MACDONALD (New England Center for Children), Emily E. Wheeler (University of Massachusetts Medical Center), William V. Dube (University of Maryland Medical System)
Abstract: In interactive play situations, children with autism were given discrete-trials training to produce specific joint-attention related target behaviors: gaze shifting between toy and play partner, pointing, showing, giving, and commenting. In free-play sessions that followed, additional dependent measures of interest were changes in percent of time in “states of engagement” originally defined in cognitive developmental psychology: unengaged, person engagement, object engagement, supported joint engagement, coordinated joint engagement. States were determined by coding videos of the play sessions, according to an objective coding protocol that defined these states in terms of explicit behaviors. Results showed increases in coordinated joint engagement immediately following discrete-trials training sessions, but attenuation when states were measured at other times.
Moving Beyond Joint Attention: The Analysis of the Social Referencing Response in Identifying Autism
MARTHA PELAEZ (Florida International University)
Abstract: Social referencing refers to the child?s search for cues in the facial, vocal, and/or gestural expression of another person, typically the mother, to determine how to respond to ambiguous events or novel situations. Referencing response is one of the earliest forms of communication and seems to be a precursor for derived relational responding (Pelaez, 2009). I will argue that behavior analysts have neglected the study of social referencing response (SRR). We should move beyond the examination of join attention (which is a requirement/prerequisite skill for social referencing) and track the development of the SRR. Whether affective and emotional or instrumental andcognitive cues are involved, those interested in the developmental trends and trajectories of children with autism and language disorders should examine the emergence of SRR or its deficits. Data from two experiments will be discussed to support these assertions.



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