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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #15
Strategies for Teaching Executive Function Skills to Children and Adolescents With Autism
Saturday, May 25, 2019
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom A
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Adel C. Najdowski (Pepperdine University)
CE Instructor: Adel C. Najdowski, Ph.D.

In cognitive and developmental psychology, executive function refers to repertoires related to goal-directed behavior such as attention, inhibition, working memory, flexibility, emotional self-regulation, problem solving, organization, planning, and time management; and skills deficits in these areas have been attributed to the frontal cortex of the brain. From a behavioral perspective, all executive functions involve behaviors which should be able to be strengthened using behavioral principles of learning. For example, according to Skinner, self-control involves two repertoires of behavior: (a) the controlled self, involving normal, ongoing behavior and (b) the controlling self, involving behavior one has learned to control normal behavior. Children with autism have been documented to display deficits in executive function skills. This symposium presents recent research related to teaching executive function skills to children and adolescents with autism. The first paper presents the effects of a treatment package on teaching planning skills. The second paper evaluates procedures for teaching adolescents with beginning time management skills, such as making, following, and adjusting their personal schedules. The final paper presents data investigating the effects of procedures for teaching problem-solving skills.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): executive function, planning, problem solving, time management
Target Audience:

BCBAs and other certified or licensed professionals

Learning Objectives: 1. Attendees will be able to identify behavioral strategies for teaching planning skills to individuals with autism. 2. Attendees will be able to identify behavioral strategies for teaching time management skills to individuals with autism. 3. Attendees will be able to identify behavioral strategies for teaching problem solving skills to individuals with autism.

Addressing Executive Functioning Deficits: Teaching Planning Skills to Adolescents With Autism

VALERIE R. ROGERS (The ABRITE Organization), M. Fernanda Welsh (The ABRITE Organization), Sara O'Brien (The ABRITE Organization), Adel C. Najdowski (Pepperdine University)

It has been demonstrated that many individuals with autism present with significant deficits as it relates to various executive functioning skills. Difficulties with planning in particular have been well documented in the literature; however, little research exists seeking to remedy such deficits in the behavioral repertoire of learners with autism. With the use of a nonconcurrent multiple baseline across participants design, the current paper examines the acquisition of planning skills with adolescents with autism. Participants with little to no planning abilities were taught to identify a desired outcome in relation to a given activity, the steps and materials needed to complete the given activity, his or her progress toward completion of the plan, and to subsequently complete the plan and specified activity across multiple exemplars. Results indicate the acquisition of planning skills by the participants and will be discussed in terms of the utility of the present procedures within research-practitioner settings. Suggestions for future research and interventions for individuals with autism will be provided.


Teaching Beginning Time Management Skills to Adolescents With Autism: Making, Following, and Adjusting Schedules

M. FERNANDA WELSH (The ABRITE Organization), Adel C. Najdowski (Pepperdine University), Randi Medeiros (The ABRITE Organization), Jesse Andrew Fullen (Pepperdine University)

A dearth of research exists for teaching adolescents with autism to engage in beginning time management skills. This study used a nonconcurrent multiple baseline across participants design to evaluate the effects of a treatment package consisting of multiple exemplar training, error correction, self-monitoring, and reinforcement for teaching adolescents with autism to make and follow schedules. Results from the first two participants demonstrated that they learned to make, adjust, and follow schedules. During posttraining, performance levels remained high even when various components of the treatment package were removed.


Bump Inspector: Teaching Problem-Solving Skills to Children With Autism

ERIN SILVERMAN (University of Southern California), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)

This study evaluated the effect of the “Bump Inspector” Treatment Package on conflict resolution skills in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Three children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ages 6 and 7, were selected for this study due to prior reports of conflict resolution difficulty and deficits involving flexibility. For this study, a multiple baseline design across participants was used to determine if the intervention increased conflict resolution skills and corresponding actions. Results from the one participant showed completed thus far show that the “Bump Inspector” Treatment Package increased conflict resolution skills in the participant. Findings from the social validity questionnaire revealed that parents of this participant saw clear increases in conflict resolution skills and corresponding action behaviors and that the child seemed to have more courage and independence in the scenarios requiring flexibility.




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