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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #49
CE Offered: BACB
Comparisons and Innovations in Teaching Verbal Behavior to Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Saturday, May 23, 2020
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon I
Area: VRB/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Haven Sierra Niland (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Sarah A. Lechago (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
CE Instructor: Haven Sierra Niland, M.S.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may exhibit deficits in language and social communication; therefore, behavioral intervention needs to ameliorate deficits in verbal behavior and expand relevant repertoires. Continuous refinement of procedures to assess and teach these skills is needed to promote efficacious and efficient intervention strategies, which should produce meaningful outcomes for clients. This symposium will present empirical data from research projects aimed at identifying efficacious and efficient procedures to teach and expand the verbal repertoires of children with ASD. Chance, Cividini-Motta, and Livingston will present on a comparison of methods used to condition echoic behavior as reinforcers to increase vocalizations. Niland et al. will describe the results of a comparison of isolated and compound stimulus presentations to teach auditory tacts. Scott et al. will describe the results of a comparison of different antecedent verbal stimuli on the acquisition and emergence of bidirectional intraverbals. Finally, Guerrero et al. will report on a comparison of procedures to teach multiply-controlled verbal behavior, short story recall. Presentations will be followed by a discussion of applied implications and future directions.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): echoics, emergent learning, tacts, verbal behavior
Target Audience:

Applied researchers and applied practitioners

Conditioning Vocalizations as Reinforcer: A Comparison of Observational Conditioning and Response-Contingent Pairing
SYDNI CHANCE (University of South Florida), Catia Cividini-Motta Cividini (University of South Florida), Cynthia P. Livingston (University of North Florida)
Abstract: Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often display impairments in communication. More specifically, children with ASD may have difficulty developing language skills, for e.g., delay in verbal behavior, limited echoic skills, and/or lack of functional communication. A common way to combat this deficit is by increasing vocalizations in these children. Previous research has used various procedures to attempt to condition vocalizations as reinforcers, such as stimulus-stimulus pairing, response-contingent pairing (RCP), and operant discrimination training. Another procedure for conditioning stimuli is observational conditioning (OC), which is a type of observational learning. However, OC has not been assessed as a procedure for conditioning echoics as reinforcers. As such, the current compared the effects of two conditioning procedures, RCP and OC, to determine their efficacy in conditioning vocalizations as reinforcer and their effect on rate of vocalizations of children with autism. Three children, age 5-10 years old, participated in this study. For two participants, both procedures resulted in an increase in vocalizations, however, a conditioning effect was only observed for one of the participants.

Teaching Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Tact Auditory Stimuli: A Comparison of Isolated and Compound Stimulus Presentations

HAVEN SIERRA NILAND (University of North Texas), Samantha Bergmann (University of North Texas ), Valeria Laddaga Gavidia ( University of North Texas), Maria Jose Otero (University of North Texas ), Tiffany Kodak (Marquette University)

Tacts are verbal operants evoked by some object, event, or stimulus feature, and tacts should occur in the presence of stimuli across all five senses. An example of an auditory tact is saying “siren” upon hearing the high-pitched noise of an ambulance. We replicated and extended a study by Hanney, Carr, and LeBlanc (2019) by examining the efficacy and efficiency of three different stimulus-presentation conditions including: (a) isolated, (b) compound with known visual stimulus, and (c) compound with unknown visual stimulus. We evaluated the acquisition of auditory tacts with an adapted alternating treatments design embedded within a nonconcurrent multiple-baseline design across sets with two children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). All three conditions were efficacious with at least one set of stimuli for each participant. However, the compound conditions were more likely to lead to mastery in the least amount of time. In transfer probes, isolated stimuli were presented as compound stimuli and compound stimuli were presented in isolation; correct auditory tacts emitted throughout probes indicated appropriate control of auditory stimuli persisted. Implications for future applied research and application to practice will be discussed.

The Use of Intraverbal Chains on the Emergence of Reverse Intraverbals
ALYSSA P. SCOTT (Marquette University ), Mary Halbur (Marquette University), Tiffany Kodak (Marquette University), Jessi Reidy (Marquette University), Lauren Debertin (Marquette University), Courtney Lyn Meyerhofer (Marquette University)
Abstract: Intraverbal behavior plays an important role in day-to-day interactions while providing the foundation for advanced communication skills. Previous researchers have suggested it is important to identify teaching procedures that result in efficient acquisition as well as emergent verbal responses (e.g., Allan, Vladescu, Kisamore, Reeve, & Sidener, 2015). The purpose of the present investigation was to evaluate the acquisition and emergence of bidirectional intraverbal relations by using varied lengths of antecedent verbal stimuli to children with autism spectrum disorder. A nonconcurrent multiple baseline across sets with an embedded adapted alternating treatment design was used for each of the two participants. Three conditions were compared; intraverbal chains (e.g., “What do you do with a [target]?”), no intraverbal chains (i.e., a one-word antecedent verbal stimulus), and a control condition. Ongoing results suggest that the use of intraverbal chains lead to slightly quicker acquisition and greater emergence. However, minimal emergence was observed across both conditions Our discussion will analyze, (a) the possibility of client specific history to trial arrangements, (b) the consideration of echoic repertories, and (c) how to set-up learning trials to design future interventions that promote generalization to untrained verbal relations while increasing intraverbal skills.

Teaching Children With Autism to Recall Short Stories: A Replication and Extension

LISA GUERRERO (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Daniel E Conine (Georgia State University), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida), Cindy Cahill (Florida Autism Center), Erica Jones (University of West Florida), Tina Smith-Bonahue (University of Florida)

Reading comprehension is an important early academic skill that may pose challenges for some children with autism. Prior research (Valentino, Conine, Delfs, & Furlow 2015) has reported effective methods for teaching children with autism to retell short stories that were previously read to them, as a possible first step in establishing a reading comprehension repertoire. We replicated and extended this prior work with three school-aged children with autism using a multiple baseline across stories and a non-concurrent multiple baseline across participants. Participants were exposed to an initial baseline, a reading with reinforcement condition (treatment 1), and a backward chaining with textual prompts condition (treatment 2). All three participants emitted mastery-level recall of stories more rapidly and under less complex intervention procedures than in prior research. Improvements in story recall were associated with increases in correct answers to basic comprehension questions, and intervention also resulted in generalized improvements in recall across multiple stories. We also conducted standardized reading assessments with all participants before and after completion of the study. These data have important implications for behavior analysts and educators providing reading intervention to children with autism and suggest several possible avenues for future research on reading comprehension and recall.




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