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 #48
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating and Improving Skill-Building Programs for Children and Adolescents Diagnosed With Autism
Saturday, May 25, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom B
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Julia Iannaccone (City University of New York Graduate Center; Queens College)
Discussant: Amanda Karsten (Western Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Amanda Karsten, Ph.D.

Many individuals diagnosed with autism demonstrate deficits in verbal, academic, and imitation skills. Various programs have been developed to improve these skills; however, it is important to ensure that these programs are effective, socially valid, and produce generalizable repertoires. Study 1 reviewed the literature on teaching imitation in 20 studies with a total of 166 participants with autism. The authors found that contingent imitation may improve skills adjacent to imitation including language, play, and joint attention. Study 2 addressed the adaptive skill of using a debit card with adolescents. After using multiple exemplars, the participants generalized the skill to the community over a four week period. Study 3 evaluated a recently developed error correction program for discrete trial instruction that involved losing opportunities to earn more-preferred items following a mistake. Not only was the program found to efficiently improve mastery of targeted tasks, it was also preferred by participants and caregivers. Instructor error during discrete trial instruction, such as delays to reinforcer delivery, can also impact skill acquisition of the student. In Study 4, the authors systematically manipulated different delays to reinforcement across multiple reinforcer classes to evaluate the effects of programmed treatment integrity failure. These studies provide evidence for multiple programs that can be used to build skills for those diagnosed with autism.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): contingent imitation, Discrete trial, error correction, generalized repertoire
Target Audience:

BCBAs, BCBA-Ds, BCaBAs, licensed psychologists, and other behavior analytic providers who need to learn different techniques for skill-building with clients diagnosed with autism.


A Review of Research Using Contingent Imitation to Teach Imitation Skills to Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

(Applied Research)
LESLIE QUIROZ (Caldwell University), Tina Sidener (Caldwell University), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University), Meghan Deshais (University of Florida, Caldwell University), David C. Palmer (Smith College)

Imitation training is a critical component of early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) programs for children with autism. While extensive research has informed procedures for teaching imitation under tight instructional control, there are not comparable empirically-derived procedures for teaching imitation in the natural environment. Contingent imitation (i.e., the instructor imitating the child’s behavior) is a naturalistic strategy incorporated in reciprocal imitation training (RIT). The present review evaluated the literature using contingent imitation to teach imitation in children with autism across 20 studies, published across 14 journals, with a total of 166 participants with autism. Effects reported include increases to imitation (i.e., vocal, motor, object), language, play behaviors, and joint attention. A nonoverlapping points (NAP) treatment analysis indicated this research has produced variable effect sizes. However, more research is warranted, and directions for future research on contingent imitation are discussed. This review will apply a conceptual analysis of generalized imitative repertoires to its discussion of whether contingent imitation may facilitate skill acquisition and influence motivating variables.


Teaching Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder a Generalized Repertoire of Using a Debit Card

(Applied Research)
EILEEN MARY MILATA (Caldwell University), Sharon A. Reeve (Caldwell University), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University), Chata A. Dickson (New England Center for Children)

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrate deficits in performing generalized responses that occur in natural environments. Previous research has discussed the importance of teaching adaptive skills to adolescents with ASD that generalize to the natural environment to increase independence throughout adulthood. To address such deficits, Horner and colleagues (1982) recommended using general-case analysis strategies to identify the full range of stimulus variations and required responses; then creating multiple teaching exemplars that facilitate for generalization of the target skill. To date, general-case analysis and multiple exemplar training have not been used to teach individuals with ASD to use a chip debit card. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to address limitations of previous studies that did not implement generalization strategies to teach adolescents with ASD adaptive skills. A multiple-probe design was used to demonstrate skill acquisition across teaching and generalization probe exemplars for three adolescents with ASD. Pre- and posttest probes were conducted at stores in the natural environment to assess generalized responding. All participants acquired the target skill following video modeling and multiple exemplar training, generalized their responding to the natural environment and maintained their responding during a four-week posttest probe.

Comprehensive Evaluation of the Losing Little, Gaining More Error Correction Program
(Applied Research)
SOPHIA MA (Queens College), Joshua Jessel (Queens College), Joanna Spartinos (Queens College), Adriana Arline Villanueva (Queens College), Kimberly Shamoun (Behavioral Intervention Psychological Services PC)
Abstract: We conducted this study to evaluate a recently developed form of error correction that incorporates rich-to-lean transitions following incorrect responses. This program has been termed Losing Little, Gaining More. We compared a traditional error correction procedure to the Losing Little, Gaining More program that included a transition to earning less preferred items during discrete-trial instructions. During traditional error correction, an incorrect response resulted in no reinforcement for a single trial but the participant still had the opportunity to earn more-preferred items during the following trials. During the Losing Little, Gaining More program an incorrect response resulted in no reinforcement for a single trial and the child lost the opportunity to earn more-preferred items during the following three trials (i.e., only less-preferred items were available). The Losing Little, Gaining More program often produced more efficient mastery of targeted tasks and was selected more often by the participants during a concurrent-chains preference analysis. The findings suggest that the aversive properties of rich-to-lean transitions might function to correct errors but did not affect preference for these procedures in the context of discrete trial instructions.
Further Evaluation of Treatment Integrity Errors During Discrete Trial Instruction: Assessing Errors Across Reinforcer Type
(Applied Research)
JACQUELYN N. MOLINA (Florida Institute of Technology), Yanerys Leon (Florida Institute of Technology), Kaitlynn Gokey (Florida Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Previous research has demonstrated that treatment integrity can impact treatment effectiveness during discrete trial training (DTT). Additionally, researchers have shown that integrity errors are fairly common even among highly trained clinicians. Carroll et al., 2013 evaluated implementation of DTT by 9 trained staff and showed that although some parts of the discrete trial were implemented with a high degree of integrity (e.g., establishes ready behavior), the reinforcement component was only implemented as planned on 20% of trials (i.e., delivered within 5 s of a correct response). This is especially troubling as even short delays can decrease the rate of skill acquisition (Majdalany et al., 2016). One potential limitation of Carroll et al. is that reinforcer deliveries were scored as correct or incorrect based on arbitrary criteria (5 s). Additionally, all classes of tangible reinforcement were collapsed into one measure (food, toys). However, recent research suggests that different classes of reinforcers may be differentially sensitive to delays (Leon et al., 2016). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to systematically replicate Study 1 of Carroll et al. (2013) and extend that line of research by evaluating obtained delays to reinforcer delivery during DTT by reinforcer class (i.e., tokens, food, toys).



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