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 #247
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Advances in Teaching Social and Communication Skills to Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sunday, May 27, 2018
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom G
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Sarah J. Pastrana (University of British Columbia)
Discussant: Lorraine Otte (Endicott College)
CE Instructor: Sarah J. Pastrana, M.S.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by repetitive and invariant behaviors and impairments in social communication skills (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Deficits in social communication skills among individuals with ASD often affect both vocal and nonvocal communication. Social communication deficits can interfere with an individual's ability to develop and maintain relationships (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). This symposium will include four presentations related to social and communication skills in individuals with ASD. The first study conducted an assessment of conversation skills with college students diagnosed with ASD and provided intervention based on the three most significant deficits identified. The second study evaluated the effects computer-based training and role-play with peers on the conversation skills of adults diagnosed with ASD. The third study evaluated the effects of joint video modeling on the vocalizations and play actions of preschool children diagnosed with ASD. The final study compared the effects of response-contingent stimulus pairing and operant discrimination training on conditioning neutral vocal stimuli as reinforcers for children diagnosed with ASD. We will discuss the implications of the studies in terms of teaching social and communication skills to individuals diagnosed with ASD.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Computer-based instruction, Conditioning procedures, Conversation skills, Social skills
Target Audience:

Clinicians, practitioners, researchers


College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Assessing and Teaching Conversation Skills

CHRISTINE STIEHL (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Taylor Custer (University of Houston Clear Lake), Brittany Zey (University of Houston Clear Lake), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake)

Many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) currently attend college, and increasing numbers of students with ASD are expected to enroll in the upcoming years. Within this population, pragmatic language and behavior is often a primary deficit. However, limited investigation of assessment and intervention for social language deficits in postsecondary students with ASD has resulted in a paucity of evidenced-based support for this population. In this study, we extended an assessment of conversation skills initially administered to a child and two adolescents with ASD (Hood, Luczynski, & Mitteer, 2017) to college students with ASD and provided intervention based on the three most significant deficits identified. Intervention consisted of Behavioral Skills Training (BST) with additional in-situ training if the skill did not initially generalize to novel conversation partners and settings. Results for one participant thus far suggest that extending the modified assessment to adults with high-functioning ASD may be appropriate as an initial evaluation of weak pragmatic abilities. Results also provide empirical support for implementing BST to improve conversations skills with this population.


Improving Conversation Skills of Adults With Autism in a Group Setting via Computer-Based Training

TAYLOR CUSTER (University of Houston Clear Lake), Christine Stiehl (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake)

Previous research has demonstrated that behavioral skills training (BST) is highly effective in teaching new skills to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but implementation may be challenging in a group format. In the current study, we combined computer-based training (CBT) and role-play with peers to simultaneously target the conversation skills of five adults diagnosed with ASD. Experimenters initially identified three unique conversation skill deficits for each participant. During training, participants received the definition, rationale, and video demonstrations of their individualized target behaviors via CBT. Participants then practiced the skills by speaking with other participants during 5-min conversations while receiving delayed feedback from the experimenter. Generalization probes with non-training peers and typically developing adults were conducted throughout all phases. Three participants mastered all three target skills, one participant mastered two target skills, and one participant mastered one target skill across eight, 2-hour sessions. Eleven of the total 12 skills targeted during the training generalized to novel peers and typically developing adults. Maintenance was assessed 6 weeks following the training conclusion. Ten of the 12 skills maintained at the 6-week follow-up session. Results have implications for developing effective, practical approaches for teaching conversation skills in a group format.


Effects of Joint Video Modeling on Verbalizations of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

ANA DUENAS GARCIA (Michigan State University), Josh Plavnick (Michigan State University)

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) require explicit interventions that target pretend play behaviors with their peers (Ingersoll, 2010; Hume, Bellini & Pratt, 2005). In Joint Video Modeling (JVM) researchers present a video model to both a typical peer and a child with ASD simultaneously, and contrive opportunities to imitate behaviors observed in the video. JVM has been demonstrated effective for teaching scripted responses but gains in unscripted responses have not been observed. The present investigation, evaluated the effects of JVM with three preschool children with ASD in an inclusive preschool setting. A multiple probe across participants design was used to evaluate the effects of JVM on scripted and unscripted verbalizations and play actions during baseline, intervention and generalization probes. The participants demonstrated an increase in scripted and unscripted verbalizations during pretend play with typically developing peers. Consistent with previous investigations (MacDonald e 2009; Maione & Miranda, 2006) JVM may be an effective intervention for increasing novel pretend play among children with ASD.

Comparison of Response-Contingent Stimulus Pairing and Operant Discrimination Training to Establish Vocal Stimuli as Reinforcers
SARAH J. PASTRANA (University of British Columbia), Laura L. Grow (Garden Academy)
Abstract: Conditioned reinforcers are used frequently in behavioral interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities. It is common to use several reinforcers in behavioral interventions to account for changes in preference over time and to reduce the likelihood of satiation (Moher, Gould, Hegg, & Mahoney, 2008). Conditioning procedures are effective for increasing the number of stimuli that function as reinforcers. Although a number of studies have evaluated the effects of different conditioning procedures, additional research is needed to identify the most effective method(s) of establishing conditioned reinforcers. The purpose of the current study was to compare the effectiveness of response-contingent stimulus pairing (RCSP) and operant discrimination training (ODT) to condition vocal stimuli as reinforcers. Five individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder between the ages of 6 and 12 years old participated in the study. An adapted alternating treatments design was used to evaluate the effects of RCSP and ODT on neutral vocal stimuli. The effects of the conditioning procedures on neutral vocal stimuli were idiosyncratic across participants; both conditioning procedures were effective in increasing responding to previously neutral vocal stimuli for three of the five participants. Clinical implications of the study outcomes will be discussed.



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