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 #189
CE Offered: BACB
Teaching Social Skills to Children With Autism and Related Disorders
Sunday, May 27, 2018
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom G
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Megan D. Aclan (Aclan Behavioral Services)
Discussant: Marianne L. Jackson (California State University, Fresno )
CE Instructor: Marianne L. Jackson, Ph.D.

The current symposium examines procedures for teaching social skills to children with autism and related disorders, including the utilization of group reinforcement contingencies, behavioral skills training, curriculum-based instruction, and the establishment of rules. The first paper is a data-based discussion regarding the use of an interdependent group contingency to increase the social interactions and motor skills of children with autism spectrum disorder and their typically developing peers during indoor rock climbing sessions. The second presentation examines the efficacy of behavioral skills training and group contingencies to teach various social skills to elementary-aged boys diagnosed with autism in a clinic setting. The third paper presents outcome data on the utility of curriculum-based, group training targeting age-appropriate social skills for children diagnosed with autism and related disorders. The second and third papers also will address data collection and experimental design challenges that may be encountered during group service delivery. The fourth paper is a literature-review, which will discuss recent research on rule-governed behavior in applied settings.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): BST, group contingencies, rule governance, social skills
Target Audience:

Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Registered Behavior Technicians, students in the field of ABA or related disciplines


Being a Social Climber: The Effects of a Rock Climbing Intervention on the Social Interactions and Motor Skills of Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
GEOFFREY BROWNING (California State University, Fresno), Marianne L. Jackson (California State University, Fresno)

Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are often less physically active and involved in the community than their typically developing peers. This is a concern given the many detrimental outcomes of a sedentary lifestyle, as well as the consideration that individuals with ASD may face challenges with many forms of physical activity. Indoor rock climbing may be a good option for children with ASD due to the sport's physical and social characteristics. A multiple baseline design across participants was used to examine the effects of an interdependent group contingency on the social interactions of children with ASD and their typically developing peers. The dependent variable was the rate of positive, negative, and neutral social interactions between the participant and peer; the independent variable was the group contingency, wherein reinforcement was provided for the participant and peer reaching predetermined climbing goals. The participant's motor proficiency was also measured. Results suggest that participants engaged in more positive and neutral social interactions during the interdependent group contingency, and a brief reversal showed some generalization to a new peer in the absence of the group contingency.


The Use of Behavioral Skills Training and Group Contingencies to Teach Social Skills to Elementary-Aged Children Diagnosed With Autism

(Applied Research)
ALLISON ROSE BICKELMAN (Autism Behavior Intervention, Inc.; Endicott College), Marla Saltzman (Autism Behavior Intervention, Inc.)

Children diagnosed with autism generally present with deficits in social skills, including talking and playing with peers, making eye contact, and appropriately responding to the emotions and preferences of others (Centers for Disease Control, 2017). Behavioral skills training (BST) and group contingencies are evidence-based interventions used in treatment (Hood et al., 2017; Peter & Thompson, 2015; Speltz et al., 1982). Six males diagnosed with autism participated in an eight-week social skills group in which BST (i.e., oral instructions and rules, adult modeling, and practice with feedback) and interdependent and independent group contingencies were used to teach a variety of social skills. Most participants mastered the skills taught and all participants demonstrated improvements on a post-intervention skill assessment. Social validity questionnaires completed by the children's parents demonstrated that parents thought the group was helpful for their child and resulted in meaningful progress. Issues and limitations associated with using group contingencies with young children, forming social skills groups based on client age and skill-level, and employing experimental designs in a service-delivery setting will also be discussed.


The Value of Curriculum-Based, Group Social Skills Training: A Behavior Analytic Perspective

(Applied Research)
PASHA BAHSOUN (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis), Rachel Taylor (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis )

Many individuals who demonstrate social delays participate in structured "play groups." Some play groups claim to target the development of social skills, but often are unstructured or over-reliant on contrived training opportunities. Unlike typical play groups, more formalized programs that aim to improve age-appropriate skills, are supported by Regional Centers and insurance agencies in California. There is a paucity of research on outcomes for these programs, however, and limited information about the extent to which they measure progress, promote generalization or maintenance, and provide caregiver training. Curriculum-based, group social skills training seeks to address these concerns across various domains including: having or joining conversations, using social media and the internet, or dealing with bullies. The purpose of this presentation will be to review the progress of 12 individuals with autism or related disorders who partook in a curriculum-based, group social skills program. Participants ranged in age from 6 to 16 years and demonstrated significant social delays. Outcome data from four groups will be presented, and the variables associated with group contingencies and rule governance also will be discussed.


A Review of Research on Rule-Governed Behavior: Implications for Future Research and Practice

VINCENT E. CAMPBELL (University of Southern California), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)

A substantial amount of evidence from basic research has shown that rules can effectively control behavior, even when they conflict with actual contingencies of reinforcement. However, relatively few studies have evaluated rule-governed behavior in applied settings. This presentation consists of a literature review of research on rule-governed behavior in applied settings. The effects of interventions incorporating rule-governed behavior will be discussed, as well as their potential for creating behavior change that is generalized across populations and settings. Given the potential power of rules, it is surprising that rule-governed behavior has not received more attention in the empirical literature. The presentation concludes with recommendations for both practitioners and researchers.




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