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Association for Behavior Analysis International

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42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #412
Children With Autism and Shelter Cat Volunteers Get Closer to Dogs, or Not
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Randolph, Hyatt Regency, Bronze East
Area: AUT/AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Joshua K. Pritchard (Florida Institute of Technology)
Discussant: Alexandra Protopopova (Texas Tech University)
Abstract: Should I approach this dog? Whether children with autism or animal shelter volunteers approaching a member of canis familarius, steps should be taken to reduce fear in and to recognize risk to homo sapiens. At least 29.8% of individuals diagnosed with autism are diagnosed with a clinical phobia such as a fear of dogs. Behaviorally, phobias may involve exposure to a highly aversive stimulus that elicits negative emotional behavior (e.g., crying, increased heart rate, etc.) and/or occasions excessive escape/avoidance. In this symposium, respondent and operant conditioning were used to teach three children with autism to approach dogs. In a different study, shelter volunteers that exclusively worked with cats, were taught using videos, then real dogs, to recognize dogs that, for safety’s sake, they should not approach.
Keyword(s): contact desensitization, discrimination training, dogs, shelter volunteers
Teaching Shelter Cat Volunteers to Discriminate Canid Ethological Correlates of Aggression
Abstract: Animal shelter volunteers typically spend time with the species of animal they prefer. However, they are continuously exposed to other species with whose ethological signals they are unfamiliar. If cat volunteers were more familiar with signs of dog fear and/or aggression, they could expand their volunteer capabilities and have increased safety as they moved though the shelter environment. Training each volunteer individually, or holding separate training classes costs shelter personnel precious time. Instead, in this experiment, cat volunteers were recruited to be trained in a pilot program whereby they learned canine body language via instructional video. After viewing a video containing 17 short clips of dog body language, they were asked to describe what they observed. They were then trained via photographs, textual descriptions, and videos to recognize 5 typical canid signals correlated with fear/aggression. They then observed the same series of videos and once again described what they observed. When they met the criteria of describing all clips correctly, they were tested on real dogs as to their ability to recognize these canid signals.
Contact Desensitization Plus Operant Reinforcement for Approach Responses in the Treatment of Dog Phobia With Children With Autism
SHANNON LEIGH TYNER (HOPE Foundation/Florida Institute of Technology), Adam Thornton Brewer (Florida Institute of Technology), Meghan M. Pangborn Helman (Project Hope Foundation), Yanerys Leon (Florida Institute of Technology), Joshua K. Pritchard (Florida Institute of Technology), Michael W. Schlund (University of North Texas)
Abstract: At least 29.8% of individuals diagnosed with autism are diagnosed with a clinical phobia (Van Steensel & Bogels, 2011). Behaviorally, phobias may involve exposure to a highly aversive stimulus that elicits negative emotional behavior (e.g., crying, increased heart rate, etc.) and/or occasion excessive escape/avoidance. In our practice, several groups of parents reported their child with autism avoided dogs and would often exhibit emotional behaviors. The childrens dog phobia prevented parents from going on walks with their child around the neighborhood, to the park, and to play dates with peers that owned a dog. Moreover, parents that expressed an interest in owning a dog could not do so until their childs dog phobia was treated. Using a multiple baseline design, we evaluated the effects of contact desensitization plus operant reinforcement on approach toward a dog in three children with autism. During baseline behavioral avoidance tests, none of the children approached the dog. Our results show that the treatment package produced clinically-significant changes in approach towards dogs; mean IOA was 100%. All three children interacted with dogs in analog and natural settings, and parents/caregivers provided high ratings of consumer satisfaction regarding the goals, treatment, and outcomes.



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