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Ninth International Conference; Paris, France; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #54
CE Offered: BACB/QABA
Establishing Early Social Skills in Young Children At Risk of Autism and Developmental Disorders via Operant Learning Procedures
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Forum Auditorium, Niveau 1
Area: AUT/DDA
CE Instructor: Hayley Neimy, M.S.
Chair: Martha Pelaez (Florida International University)
Discussant: Per Holth (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)
Abstract: We have initiated, replicated, and extended a programmatic line of research for establishing operant procedures to investigate infant learning and to help young children who are at risk for developing autism or other developmental disorders acquire social repertoires. Infant engagement responses such as vocalizations, eye contact, joint attention, and social referencing are critical developmental milestones that serve as prerequisites for early communication and social skills (Pelaez, 2009). The emphasis in this symposium is that operant learning procedures can be successful in establishing early social-learning repertoires. The first presenter identifies the early behavioral indicators of at-risk infants. She examines the typical infant operant responses studied (e.g., vocalizations, gaze, kicking, smiles, gaze away) and the social conditioned reinforcers used (e.g., adult smiles, touch, nods, cooing, imitating, picking up) in the study of infant social learning. The presenter highlights the operant-learning procedures that have been useful in investigating infant phenomena like mother-infant attachment, acquisition of fears, joint attention, social referencing, and early communication. The second presentation analyzes previous research on behavioral procedures used to establish infant eye contact using a synchronized reinforcement procedure. The third presentation reviews existing research on procedures using two forms of social reinforcement (adult vocal imitation and motherese speech) for increasing early vocalizations among infants and young children. The fourth presentation examines the acquisition of joint-attention and social referencing repertoires via the operant-learning paradigm among typically and atypically developing infants and toddlers. The discussant will comment on these ongoing programs of research and future directions and implications of the research.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): at risk, child development, infants, social skills
Operant-Learning Procedures With Infants
(Applied Research)
MARTHA PELAEZ (Florida International University)
Abstract: Operant conditioning procedures have been used very effectively to investigate infant social learning (Gewirtz & Pelaez, 1992; Novak & Pelaez, 2004; Pelaez, Virues, & Gewirtz, 2011, 2012). Infants and young children who are at risk of developing autism or other developmental disorders can benefit from early interventions that use operant principles and procedures (Neimy, et al., in press). In this presentation we will identify the early behavioral indicators of at-risk infants; examine the typical infant operant responses studied (e.g., vocalizations, eye gaze, kicking, smiles, gaze away) and discuss the conditioned social reinforcers often used in the study of infant social learning (e.g., adult smiles, touch, nods, cooing, imitating, picking up). We will highlight the infant phenomena that has been studied, including mother-infant attachment, the effects of maternal depression on infant learning, the acquisition of fears, joint attention, social referencing, and early learning of imitation.
Improving Eye Contact Among Infants and Toddlers at Risk of Developmental Disorders With Synchronized Reinforcement Procedure
(Applied Research)
JACQUELINE MERY-CARROW (Caldwell University), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Jonathan J. Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids; University of Southern California)
Abstract: Parents can successfully increase engagement behaviors such as eye contact and positive affect with young children at risk of autism and other developmental disorders. This presentation reviews and discusses a synchronized reinforcement procedure, described by Pelaez and colleagues (1996), that can strengthen infant eye contact. The procedure includes brief parental training where mothers are taught to provide simultaneous behaviors such as smiling, verbal praise, and rhythmic touch contingently to reinforce infant eye contact in the natural environment. The assumptions is that establishing eye contact in young children can aid the learning of other foundational skills required to build social communicative behaviors. The current presentation stresses the importance of establishing contingencies of reinforcement during mother-child interactions.
Promoting Early Vocalizations Among Infants and Toddlers Using Contingent Social Reinforcement
(Applied Research)
HAYLEY NEIMY (Shabani Institute), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Jonathan J. Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids; University of Southern California)
Abstract: The emission of vocalizations during early infancy serves as the preverbal foundation for the development of subsequent functional language skills later in childhood (Novak & Pelaez, 2004). Research that facilitates the acquisition of these preverbal skills is presented. The research illustrates the use of two forms of contingent social reinforcement (maternal vocal imitation and motherese speech) as effective means for increasing the rate of infant vocalizations (Pelaez et al., 2011a; 2011b, Neimy, et. al., in press). The current presentation reviews, analyzes, and extends previous literature on the use of both contingent and noncontingent vocal imitation and motherese speech on increasing the rate of infant vocalizations among typically and atypically developing infants through a parent-training model. The presenter concludes that establishing pre-verbal vocalizations may help facilitate the development of subsequent verbal vocalizations among at risk infants and potentially mitigate language delays in later childhood.
Establishing Joint Attention Skills to Facilitate Social Referencing Repertoires in Infants and Toddlers via Operant Learning Procedures
(Applied Research)
KATERINA MONLUX (Stanford University), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Jonathan J. Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids; University of Southern California)
Abstract: Deficits in social engagement are among the main developmental problems observed among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In particular, joint attention and social referencing skills are critical for the development of more complex social interactions. The use of behavioral techniques and brief parent-infant engagement training has shown to be successful in promoting these social skills. Our assumption is that targeting joint attention and social referencing skills in the natural environment by using caregivers as therapists can potentially mitigate and prevent the development of later onset behavior language problems commonly associated with ASD. The current presentation reviews and extends previously published procedures for the training of joint attention and social referencing modeled after Pelaez and colleagues’ (2012) operant learning paradigm. Further, a model for expanding previous findings to the natural environment is proposed where joint attending skills can be taught first to aid in the acquisition of social referencing. While very similar social behavior chains, joint attention and social referencing have functional differences. Specifically, social referencing adds another component to the joint attention chain where the learner reacts to the novel stimulus in a manner that is in accordance with another’s facial expressions or emotional cues.
 

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