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 #291
CE Offered: BACB
Current Research on Evaluating Preference for and Reinforcing Effectiveness of Social Interactions Among Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sunday, May 26, 2019
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom D
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Patrick Romani (University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus)
CE Instructor: Patrick Romani, Ph.D.

Much research has shown the importance of evaluating stimulus preference as part of behavioral treatment for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The majority of this research has focused on preference for leisure activities. Less research has identified strategies to measure preference for social interaction. Thus, the current symposium will provide an update on research investigating evidence-based methods for evaluating preference for social interaction. Morris and Vollmer will present a study comparing assessment procedures (e.g., multiple stimulus without replacement, paired stimulus preference assessment) to measure preference for social interaction. Laureano, DeLeon, and Goldman will follow with a study evaluating a procedure to measure child preference for social and solitary play. Finally, Carrion and colleagues will present a study showing the reinforcing efficacy of social play versus leisure activities. Taken together, these three presentations will provide attendees with both practical and empirical suggestions for further developing this important area of practice.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Preference, Social Interaction, Tangible Reinforcement
Target Audience:

The target audience for this symposium will be practitioners and research who work with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Comparing Methods of Assessing Preference for Social Interaction
SAMUEL L. MORRIS (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Researchers have evaluated a variety of methods of assessing preference for social interaction and generally found that they produce accurate hierarchies. However, relatively few researchers have compared different methods of assessing preference for social interactions and none have done so with subjects across different skill levels. We compared the stability and validity of hierarchies produced by SIPAs, picture-based MSWOs, and Vocal PSPAs with 8 individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. We found that the MSWO and Vocal PSPA most often produced valid hierarchies for subjects that could match, identify, and tact pictures of social interactions and that the SIPA most often produced valid hierarchies for subjects that could not identify or tact pictures of social interactions. Considerations and recommendations for selecting a method of assessing preference for social interactions are discussed.

Preference for Social Versus Solitary Play in Children With Autism: Effects of Play Partner Type

BRIANNA LAUREANO (The University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida), Kissel Joseph Goldman (University of Florida)

A recent study (Goldberg et al., 2016) showed that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) placed greater value on play activities when those activities were embedded in a social context, perhaps contradicting conventional notions of diminished social motivation in this population. However, the social context exclusively involved playing with a parent. It remains unclear if similar results would obtain with other kinds of social partners. We first conducted preference assessments to identify the activity preferences of children with ASD. We then gave the children repeated choices to play with a highest-preference item either alone or with a social partner while varying the kind of play partner: a peer with ASD, an adult therapist, or a parent. Each choice resulted in 5 min of playing under the selected condition. Choices continued until: a) the child made 5 consecutive choices for one condition; b) cumulative choices for one condition exceed the other by 100%; or c) 15 choice opportunities transpired without a clear preference. The results reveal that our participants have idiosyncratic social preferences. Although the preference for playing with a parent over playing alone has largely persisted, results have been more varied when other kinds of social partner were involved.


Comparing Reinforcing Efficacy of Social Interactions and Leisure Activities in Children With Autism

DEVA CARRION (Marcus Autism Center), Nathan Call (Marcus Autism Center), Joanna Lomas Mevers (Marcus Autism Center), Chelsea Marie Rock (UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute), Ansley Reich (Marcus Autism Center), Warren Jones (Marcus Autism Center)

There is growing support for the theory that disruptions in the degree to which social interactions are reinforcing may constitute a root cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This paper will review several studies that have attempted to develop methods for quantifying the degree to which social interactions function as reinforcers for children with ASD as compared to children with developmental disabilities and typically developing children. This will include the results of a novel study that used progressive ratio (PR) schedules to compare the relative reinforcing efficacy of social attention and leisure items in children with ASD (n=14), children with developmental disabilities (DD; n=6), and typically developing peers (TD; n=6). Results demonstrated that participants in the TD group exhibited higher breakpoints and Omax for attention than for leisure items, whereas results for children in the ASD and DD groups were mixed. Results will be discussed in terms of how these methods compare to other approaches to quantifying the reinforcing efficacy of social interactions in children with ASD.




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