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 #178
Direct Instruction (DI) for Individuals With Autism- Can We Just (D)o (I)t?
Sunday, May 26, 2019
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom C
Area: AUT/EDC; Domain: Translational
Chair: Joel L. Vidovic (The Autism Model School)
CE Instructor: Joel L. Vidovic, M.A.

Although Direct Instruction (DI) has been shown to be an effective teaching method for building a variety of critical skills (language, reading, spelling, and mathematics) across a variety of populations (general education students, economically disadvantaged students, and special education students), the most recent reviews from The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (2015) and The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT, 2018) do not yet identify DI as an Evidence-Based Practice for individuals with autism. As such, are behavior analysts and behavior-analytically oriented schools missing out on a valuable tool? This symposium will include three presentations that will 1) provide a review of the published research evaluating the effectiveness of DI programs for individuals on the autism spectrum, 2) describe a single-subject study evaluating the effectiveness of the Language for Learning program for individuals with developmental disabilties who use high-tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) speech generating devices as a primary mode of communication , and 3) review lessons learned following 5 years of a site-wide implementation of DI programs at a public charter school serving youth and young adults with autism.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): AAC, Autism, Direct Instruction
Target Audience:

The target audience for this presentation is Master's level (or above) Board Certified Behavior Analysts and School Psychologists

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to 1) describe the current peer-reviewed evidence-base regarding the use of Direct Instruction for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2) describe the feasibility and effectiveness of using the Language for Learning Curriculum with individuals who have a developmental disability and use high-tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) speech generating devices as a primary mode of communication, and 3) describe components (including outcome data) of a school-wide implementation of Direct Instruction curricula at a public school serving youth and young adults with autism.

Review of Direct Instruction as an Intervention for Individuals Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorder

MELINDA GALBATO (The May Institute), Sarah Frampton (May Institute, Inc. ), M. Alice Shillingsburg (May Institute)

Direct instruction (DI) is an intensive fast-paced instructional method that can be used to teach skills to students including those with learning and developmental disabilities. Direct instruction incorporates behavioral principles including concise sequenced instructions, immediate reinforcement, and error correction (EC) procedures (Head, Flores, & Shippen, 2018). DI curricula include several academic areas such as reading decoding, reading comprehension, language arts, and math among others. Although DI has been shown effective across various age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, and presenting disabilities, less is known about the utility of DI for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The following review of the literature summarizes 9 experiments published between 2000 and 2018 that use DI with children with a diagnosis of ASD. Studies were analyzed across various participant and procedural variables. Results suggest that DI can produce improvements in targeted skills for individuals with ASD. Recommendations are provided for future researchers about information to report and future research endeavors.


Using the Language for Learning Curriculum With Augmentative and Alternative Communication Learners: A Feasibility Study

(Applied Research)
PAUL J. SIMEONE (The May Institute), Sarah Frampton (May Institute, Inc. ), M. Alice Shillingsburg (May Institute)

The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of using Direct Instruction-Language for Learning (DI-LL; Engelmann & Osborn, 1976; Engelmann & Osborne, 1999) curriculum with children (10 to 15-years-old) with developmental disabilities who use high-tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) speech generating devices as a primary mode of communication. Overall performance of three students was evaluated using identical pre- and post-test measures in a concurrent multiple probe design across participants. Additionally, we evaluated the feasibility of DI-LL with AAC learners by evaluating: 1) responses to target exercises (independent, error), 2) number of repetitions needed to complete lessons with fluency, 3) average duration of exercises, 4) and participant affect during DI-LL exercises. Results show increased correct responding on the post-test measure, lending preliminary support for the effectiveness of this approach. Results for measures1-4 further support the feasibility of the intervention for this population. These preliminary findings have implications for the use of DI-LL with students utilizing AAC in a classroom setting.


Adventures in Direct Instruction at a Public School for Children With Autism

(Service Delivery)
MARY CORNELL (The Autism Model School), Joel L. Vidovic (The Autism Model School)

The Autism Model School, located in Toledo, OH, is a public charter school providing educational services to approximately 110 students with autism- ranging in age from 5 to 22 years of age. In 2013, the school initiated a site-wide implementation of Direct Instruction programs in the areas of oral language, reading, writing, and mathematics. Specific programs forming the core of the academic portion of the school’s curriculum include Language for Learning (Engelmann & Osborn, 2008) , Language for Thinking (Engelmann & Osborn, 2002), Language for Writing (Engelmann & Osborn, 2002), Headsprout Reading® , Reading Mastery (Engelmann & Bruner, 2003), Corrective Reading (Engelmann et al., 2008), Reasoning and Writing (Engelmann et al., 2001), Connecting Math Concepts (Engelmann et al., 2014), and Read-To-Achieve (Marchand-Martella & Martella, 2010) . Five years after the initial roll-out, this presentation will describe the experiences and lessons learned of those who lead, and continue to lead the implementation. Results of annual outcome testing of students using the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement-Second Edition- Brief Form as well as the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals- Fifth Edition will be shared.




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