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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #49
CE Offered: BACB
Response Modalities in Early Mand Training and Prerequisites for Vocal Communication
Saturday, May 24, 2014
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
W185bc (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: VRB/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University)
Discussant: Sarah A. Lechago (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
CE Instructor: Anna I. Petursdottir, Ph.D.

In language interventions for children who have severe language delays due to autism or other developmental disabilities, clinicians must often make decisions regarding an appropriate verbal response modality (e.g., vocal speech, manual signing, or picture-based communication). Establishing vocal speech has obvious advantages, but may be complicated by limited prerequisite repertoires, such as low frequency of speech sound vocalizations and lack of echoic control over vocalizations. Thus, the benefits of vocal communication may, at least initially, be outweighed by a need for quickly establishing efficient mand repertoires for minimally verbal children. The first two studies in this symposium describe assessments developed to identify an optimal response modality for early mands on an individual basis. The third and the fourth study addressed prerequisites for vocal communication by comparing procedures for increasing free-operant speech sound production and establishing echoic control over vocalizations, respectively.

Keyword(s): communication, echoic, mand, vocalizations
Evaluation of Mand Modalities for Individuals with Limited Verbal Repertoires
CATHERINE BAKER (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities (DD) often display limited communication, and new technologies are being adapted to accommodate this deficit, such as the iPad®. Additionally, many studies have evaluated assessments and various aspects of the teaching procedures, which play a role in the acquisition of effective verbal repertoires. However, there is a paucity of research that includes the use of new technologies in the aforementioned research. The purposes of the present studies were to a) evaluate the rate of mand modality acquisition, to b) evaluate the relative preference across modalities, and to c) extend the modality literature to the new iPad® technology. Subjects included individuals diagnosed with DD aged 3-21. In experiment 1, a multi-element design was used to compare rates of acquisition across modalities (vocal, sign, picture cards, and iPad®). Following the acquisition assessment, in experiment 2, a concurrent operant assessment was conducted in which subjects could select which modality to use, given the availability of multiple modalities. Results indicated that mands were acquired at different rates, depending on the communication mode, and these differential rates were idiosyncratic across subjects. Additionally, choice of modality varied across subjects, but generally favored the iPad® or picture cards.

Using a Pre-requisite Skills Assessment to Identify Optimal Modalities for Mand Training

AMBER VALENTINO (Trumpet Behavioral Health - Monterey Bay), Linda A. LeBlanc (Trumpet Behavioral Health), Paige Raetz (Trumpet Behavioral Health), Lauren A. Weaver (Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders  )

Mands have been successfully taught to children with autism and intellectual disabilities using many response modalities. A few studies have compared the effectiveness of modalities such as the Picture Exchange Communication System and sign language. Some of these studies have found that the usefulness of either modality varied across students without a clear indication of the relevant child characteristics that might predict effectiveness. Thus, one modality is unlikely to prove optimal for all children. This study examined the utility of an assessment of prerequisite skills for three response modalities (i.e., vocal, sign language, exchange based communication) to determine if performance on the skills assessment predicts the rate of mand acquisition in each modality. The three pre-requisite assessments (motor imitation, vocal imitation, matching) each consisted of 20 trials. Subsequently, three equally preferred items were selected from a preference assessment and one item was assigned to each condition. The speed of acquisition during mand training was evaluated using a multi-element design. If one response modality was acquired more quickly than the others, the other two responses were trained in the successful modality. Four 2-year-old participants were included in the study and data illustrate typical response patterns and the assessments predictive value.

Effects of Response-Contingent Pairing, Response-Independent Pairing, and Differential Reinforcement on Vocalizations of Children with Autism
TRACY L. LEPPER (Texas Christian University), Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University)
Abstract: For Experiment 1, an adapted alternating treatment design was used to compare the effects of a response-contingent (RC) pairing and a response-independent (RI) pairing procedure on the vocalizations of 3nonverbal boys with autism. During RC pairing, adult-delivered sounds that were either paired with a preferred item (i.e., target sound) or not followed by a programmed consequence (nontarget sound), were presented contingent on the participant making a button-press response. During RI pairing, the timing of sound presentations (either target or nontarget) was determined by the interstimulus interval (ISI) being yoked to the resulting ISI in a preceding RC condition. Preliminary data for 2 participants show substantially higher levels of vocalizations in the RC than in the RI pairing condition. Experiment 2 used a multiple baseline across sounds design to evaluate the effects of differential reinforcement of target vocalizations while fading the number of presentations during RC pairing. During baseline, RC pairing was conducted as in Study 1. During differential reinforcement and fading of presentations, RC pairing continued to be conducted as in baseline, however, target vocalizations resulted in delivery of a preferred item and resetting of the 15-ISI. Preliminary data suggest that it may be possible to increase the rate of RC pairing-induced target vocalizations via direct reinforcement while fading the RC pairing procedure.

A Systematic Comparison of Commonly Used Echoic Teaching Procedures

CATIA CIVIDINI-MOTTA CIVIDINI (New England Center for Children), Nicole Scharrer (The New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (New England Center for Children)

There is limited investigation of procedures for establishing echoic responses. This study evaluated three commonly used teaching procedures for establishing an echoic repertoire with three students with autism or related disabilities. Preference assessments were conducted to identify highly preferred items, including edibles, tangibles and social stimuli. At least two sets of three target sounds were then selected for each participant. Stimulus-stimulus pairing, echoic training and a mand-model procedure were compared. Data were collected on the percentage of correct vocalizations during training sessions and on the frequency of target vocalizations during play sessions completed prior to and after training sessions. These data, in addition to the participants performance during probes assessing the function of their vocalizations were compared to assess the efficacy of each teaching procedure. Interobserver agreement data were collected on over 33% of all sessions above and have averaged above 90% agreement. The results of this study suggested that the most effective teaching procedure may differ across participants thus supporting the need for additional research focusing on the development of assessment tools to identify learning profiles instead of generally effective teaching methods.




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