Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis InternationalĀ® (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 #201
Advances in Teaching Conversation Skills
Sunday, May 26, 2019
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom CD South
Area: VRB/AUT; Domain: Translational
Chair: Stephanie A. Hood (California State University, Northridge)
Discussant: Corey S. Stocco (University of the Pacific)
CE Instructor: Stephanie A. Hood, Ph.D.
Abstract: Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder often have difficulty developing friendships and intimate relationships (Gantman, Kapp, Orenski, & Laugeson, 2012) as well as securing jobs (Kelly, Wildman, & Berler, 1980) and thus are often underemployed (Shattuck et al., 2012). This may be due, in part, to skill deficits or behavior excesses related to communication. This symposium highlights several innovative approaches to teach advanced communication skills with children, adolescents, and young adults with and without autism spectrum disorder. First, Stephanie Monroy will present a study on teaching individuals to tact and initiate conversation based on a common interest. Second, Marisa Goodwin will present a study on a computer-based training with covert audio coaching to teach conversation skills. Third, Dr. Rose Mason will also present a study on the use of covert audio coaching and prompting to increase conversation skills. Last, Dr. Amanda Karsten will present a study on vignette-based training on discriminated social initiations. The results of these investigations demonstrate the efficacy of these teaching procedures to increase conversation skills. In addition, data will be presented on generalization across novel conversation partners, maintenance, and social acceptability. The symposium will conclude with a discussion from Dr. Corey Stocco.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): adults ASD, conversation skills, social skills, verbal behavior
Target Audience: Clinicians working with children, adolescents, and young adults with conversation skill deficits.
Learning Objectives: 1. Attendees will identify examples of multiply-controlled social skills that may help people with ASD facilitate mutually reinforcing interactions with peers and faculty on a college campus. 2. Attendees will describe practical benefits of vignette-based training and follow-up under more naturalistic conditions for supporting the acquisition and transfer of social skills among college- or college-bound students with ASD. 3. Attendees will describe practical benefits of behavioral skills training to teach individuals to identify common interests. 4. Attendees will describe efficacy and generalized effects of covert-audio-coaching to teach conversation skills.
Teaching Individuals to Identify Common Topics of Interest
(Applied Research)
STEPHANIE MONROY (California State University, Northridge), Stephanie A. Hood (California State University, Northridge), Francesca Randle (Trumpet Behavioral Health), Jesey Gopez (California State University, Northridge)
Abstract: Individuals with social and conversation skills deficits often have deficits discriminating vocal and nonvocal cues of interest and uninterest from their conversation partner(s). In the present study, we taught individuals to converse about preferred and less preferred topics of conversation, discriminate when the conversation partner is no longer interested in the topic of discussion, to discriminate common interests, and to end the conversation using behavioral skills training. Stimulus generalization was assessed through conversations with novel conversation partners, similar aged peers in a one to one format, and additional novel conversation partners in a group format. We assessed the social acceptability rating from the participants and the conversation partners. We observed robust increases in following the conversation, changing the topic of conversation, ending the conversation, and tacting common interests with the trainer. In addition, we have observed high levels of stimulus generalization across all skills with novel conversation partners. However, we have observed over generalization of tacts of common interests with the trainer to tacts of common interests with the novel conversation partners, thus, we had to teach participants how to discriminate common interests with multiple conversation partners.

Acquisition, Generalization, and Maintenance of Conversation Skills in Adults With Autism Participating in a Group-Based Summer Training Program

(Applied Research)
MARISA CELESTE GOODWIN (University of Houston- Clear Lake), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Karlie Hinkle (University of Houston- Clear Lake), Justin Hunt (University of Houston- Clear Lake), Alexis Marcouex (University of Houston - Clear Lake), Victoria Fletcher (University of Houston- Clear Lake)

Five adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) participated in a 7-week summer training program that targeted conversation skills using computer-based training (CBT) and role-play with peers. Computer-based training provided the definition, rationale, and video demonstrations of one or two individualized targets for each participant (e.g., decreasing interruptions; increasing the duration of utterances). Participants then spoke with other participants during 5-min conversations and received delayed feedback from an experimenter who observed the conversations remotely through the internet. The experimenter used covert audio coaching (CAC) to provide immediate feedback if the initial intervention did not improve performance. The experimenter assessed generalization of the skills to novel adults and in novel settings throughout all phases and maintenance of the skills after the training concluded. Results were inconsistent across participants, suggesting that some conversation skills will require more intensive intervention.


Supporting Development of Social-Communication Skills of Young Adults With Autism in Natural Settings: Impact of a Telecoaching Intervention

(Applied Research)
ROSE A. MASON (PUrdue University), Emily Gregori (College of Education, Purdue University), Danni Wang (College of Education Purdue University), Howard P. Wills (Juniper Gardens Children's Project)

Impairments in social-communication for individuals with autism limits the ability to engage in meaningful and socially reinforcing social interactions leading to social isolation and loneliness. Unfortunately, research on effective social interventions for adolescents and adults with autism is limited. Further, typical interventions aimed at supporting social skill acquisition and maintenance while also fostering independence for adolescents and young adults with autism can be challenging and stigmatizing, particularly given the need for the close proximity of the interventionist. Yet, few studies have capitalized on the use of covert audio coaching (CAC) to deliver evidence-based practices within a natural setting. This study employed a multiple-baseline design across participants to evaluate the impact of CAC with prompting to increase social communication skills in typical social setting for four young adults with autism. Implementation of CAC resulted in increases in the targeted social skill(s) for all participants. Additionally, social validity measures indicate the intervention was viewed favorably by participants. Challenges as well as implications for practice and future research will be discussed.


Effects of Vignette-Based Training on Discriminated Social Initiations of College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
Charlotte Mann (University of St Joseph), AMANDA KARSTEN (Western Michigan University)

The purpose of the study was to evaluate effects of a multicomponent training package (scripted self-questions, modeling, and feedback) to establish appropriate stimulus control over social initiations. Participants were three college-age males diagnosed with ASD who were referred to the study based on a history of either initiating or avoiding conversations at socially inappropriate times. First, participants and a sample of typically developing peers completed assessments to inform the development of target scenarios and standards for scoring correct and incorrect performance. Second, we taught participants a self-questioning technique to classify written vignettes as either appropriate or inappropriate conditions to initiate a conversation. Finally, we assessed participants’ initiations under contrived (e.g., scripted interaction between trained research assistants) and naturalistic conditions (e.g., group activity in class). Results indicated that vignette-based training was efficacious for teaching participants to classify untrained written scenarios with preliminary evidence of generalization to interactions with faculty and peers.




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