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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #103
CE Offered: BACB
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Interventions: Experimental Research to Improve Communication Outcomes in Children With Complex Communication Needs
Saturday, May 26, 2018
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Harbor Ballroom AB
Area: DDA/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Jennifer Ganz (Texas A&M University)
Discussant: Joe Reichle (University of Minnesota)
CE Instructor: Joe Reichle, Ph.D.

Communication is central to most major life activities. Children with complex communication needs and developmental disabilities frequently benefit from implementation of augmentative and alternative communication interventions, which provide them with means of supplementing conventional communication modes. This symposium includes 4 presentations and a discussant -- renowned, experienced researcher teams spanning the fields of communication science, behavior analysis, and special education and from 5 Carnegie-classified Doctoral Universities, Highest Research Activity. These teams will present findings from their work on topics such as parent coaching interventions for families with children with autism spectrum disorder, functional communication training and schedules of reinforcement, promoting peer interaction in preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder, and using technology to improve language outcomes in young children. Findings will provide researchers with direction to fill research gaps and practitioners with empirically-supported strategies for improving communication for children with complex communication needs, their families, and their peers. The discussant will provide a synthesis of and potential future research directions for the use of augmentative and alternative communication for people with autism spectrum and other developmental disabilities.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): AAC, augmentative communication, CCN, single-case design
Target Audience:

Researchers Graduate students Practitioners


The Persistence of Augmentative and Alternative Mands During Functional Communication Training Following Fixed and Variable Reinforcement Schedules for Two Children With Autism

(Applied Research)
JESSICA J. SIMACEK (University of Minnesota), Jennifer J. McComas (University of Minnesota), Adele F. Dimian (University of Minnesota), Brittany Pennington (University of Minnesota), Joe Reichle (University of Minnesota)

Functional communication training is a robust intervention to decrease challenging behavior. The implementation of this intervention often includes a continuous reinforcement schedule arrangement for the targeted appropriate replacement behavior, including mands; potentially impacting the persistence of mands when introduced to the thinned and variable reinforcement schedules often encountered in the natural environment. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effects of functional communication training intervention delivered with fixed ratio (FR1) and then variable ratio (VR3) reinforcement schedules on the targeted mands with adapted reversal designs with embedded extinction probes (Wacker et al., 2011). During the intervention, parents conducted all functional communication training interventions with remote coaching via telehealth. Both participants improved use of the targeted mands, including with augmentative and alternative communication, and experienced reductions in challenging behavior. Implications from this study support increased responding of the mands under variable schedules. Both participants displayed increased responding of mands in the extinction probes following variable reinforcement schedules; however, one participant also experienced slightly elevated levels of an untargeted typography of challenging behavior.


Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Peer Interaction: Supporting Preschool Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
MICHELLE THERRIEN (Florida State University)

Purpose: Social interaction has been shown to have a positive impact on relationship development, health, and academic success. For children with autism spectrum disorders who use augmentative and alternative communication, evidence-based intervention to support peer interaction is needed. Method: 5 dyads of children (child with autism spectrum disorder and peer) participated. A multiple probe across dyads design with a partial replication was used to evaluate the effects of intervention on the frequency of communicative turns expressed by children with autism spectrum disorders when interacting with peers. Frequency of peer turns, percentage of turns taken by peers, and joint engagement were collateral measures. The intervention included: (a) provision of a communication app on an iPad and (b) dyadic turn-taking training. Results: For four participants with autism spectrum disorders, the intervention had a strong effect on the frequency of turn-taking. The fifth participant showed increased turn-taking during training, but little change in independent turn-taking. All peers increased turn-taking with no negative impact on the turn balance between participants. Average joint engagement increased for all dyads.


Teaching Five-Year-Olds to Build Sentences via Aided Augmentative and Alternative Communication Modeling With a Communication App

(Applied Research)
JENNIFER KENT-WALSH (University of Central Florida; Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology), Cathy Binger (University of New Mexico), Nancy Harrington (University of Central Florida; Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology), Carolyn Buchanan (University of Central Florida; Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology)

Estimates indicate that more than 4.05 million people in the United States have such severe speech disabilities that they require the use of augmentative and alternative communication. Since the advent of mass market tablet technologies like the iPad, increasing numbers of families and clinicians are reportedly considering augmentative and alternative communication options for preschool-age children with complex communication needs. However, even when early access to augmentative and alternative communication technologies is available, accompanying access to evidence-based augmentative and alternative communication services -- particularly during the critical early language learning years -- often is not. This puts these children at further risk for the poor expressive language outcomes that have been reported in the augmentative and alternative communication literature. This investigation was designed to evaluate the impact of an aided augmentative and alternative communication modeling intervention on: (a) the productive use of a range of linguistic structures by 5 year olds using an augmentative and alternative communication iPad app, and (b) generalization to productive use of non-targeted linguistic structures. Single case experimental design (multiple probe across three participants) indicated that the intervention is effective in increasing participants' expressive productions of the targeted linguistic structures using an augmentative and alternative communication iPad app, and that participants are able to generalize to non-targeted linguistic structures.


The Effects of Parent Coaching in a Multimodal Communication Intervention for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
CHING-YI LIAO (Texas A&M University - College Station, TX), Jennifer Ganz (Texas A&M University), Sanikan Wattanawongwan (Texas A&M University), April N. Haas (Texas A&M University), Sarah Ura (Texas A&M University), Kristi Morin (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

This single-case experimental study was to evaluate the effects of coaching the parents in a multimodal communication intervention via behavioral skills training to parents of children with autism spectrum disorder to increase children's social communication skills in natural contexts. The participants included 2 parent-child dyads and 1 parent-child triad. The child participants ranged in age from 5 years to 15 years at the time of data collection and were identied as having autism spectrum disorder, two of whom also had complex communication needs. A multiple-probe design was used and data were collected on the proximal effects of the parent-coaching protocol on the parents' use of the intervention and the distal effects on communication behaviors in children. There were three phases in this study, including baseline, intervention, and generalization/maintenance. After collecting baseline data, the initial parent training session was provided in a group webinar, and the remaining 10-12 coaching sessions were provided individually with the parents and their children. Researchers implemented parent coaching, collected data via video recording, and provided weekly feedback to parents. The multimodal communication intervention was used to promote that each child's communication skills, and developmentally and behaviorally-based strategies were used to expanded new communication skills in children with autism spectrum disorder. The presenters will report results on the parents' fidelity of implementation and children's communication outcomes and will discuss limitations, suggestions for future research, and implications for practice.




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