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 #68
CE Offered: BACB
Early Identification and Treatment of Autism Symptomatology in Infant Siblings
Saturday, May 23, 2020
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 2, Room 207B
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (New England Center for Children)
Discussant: Jane S. Howard (Therapeutic Pathways/The Kendall Centers)
CE Instructor: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald, Ph.D.

While there is a growing body of research examining early symptoms of ASD, the point at which this pattern of atypical social responding begins to deviate in children who are later diagnosed with autism is unclear. Researchers are now identifying early behavioral markers in children 6-12 months of age (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005), however, more recent data suggest emergence of symptoms before 3 months of age (Graupner & Sallows, 2017). The first paper in this session describes data obtained using a newly developed research tool, the Early Markers of Autism, on infants under 6 months of age. Assessment data using the EMA reveal the presence of five key early markers in infant siblings and the accurate assessment of each using this tool. The second paper in this session describes the use of telehealth technology to train parents to implement treatment protocols in their young children with autism. Caregiver fidelity of implementation of treatment techniques and changes in child specific behaviors showed the effectiveness of these training procedures. These findings have implications for the early identification and treatment of autism in infants, leading to long term positive outcomes for infants and families.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Researchers and BCBA clinicians

Learning Objectives: 1. The participant will be able to describe the research on early identification of symptomatology in infant siblings. 2. The participant will be able to describe the early social deficits in children with autism. 3. The participant will be able to describe how to provide telehealth parent training to treat infants with autism
Early Markers of Autism in Infant Siblings
REBECCA P. F. MACDONALD (New England Center for Children), Kathryn Couger (New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: While a preponderance of evidence indicates that autism symptomatology emerges at 6 to 12 months of age (Zwaigenbaum et. al, 2005), a recent study by Graupner and Sallows (2017) suggests that symptoms of autism can emerge in infants as early as 3 months of age. The purpose of the current investigation is to document the early emergence of autism symptomatology in high-risk infant siblings younger than 6 months of age. The second purpose of this study is to pilot the Early Markers of Autism (EMA) assessment tool for young infants, developed by the authors. Currently 42 high-risk siblings and 10 low-risk babies under 6 months of age are participating in this study They receive bi-weekly developmental screenings in addition to the EMA. Data to date reveal that there are five key early markers of autism in infants, and each can be effectively assessed using the EMA. Interobserver agreement on the data obtained using the EMA averaged 94%. Data will be presented on the presence of these markers and the specific behavioral profile configuration of these infants. These findings have implications for the early identification of autism in infants, leading to long term positive outcomes for infants and families.

Component Analysis of a Parent-Mediated Telehealth Intervention Designed for Infants With Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

SARAH A. DUFEK (UC Davis), Meagan Talbott (University of California Davis), Sally Rogers (UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute)

This project was designed to conduct a multiple-subject component analysis study of treatment to ascertain the “active ingredients” that lead to symptom improvement in infants with early signs of ASD. Six infants (6-12 months of age) exhibiting early signs of ASD and their primary caregivers participated in this study. A multiple-baseline-design across subjects was used with counterbalanced introduction of three treatment techniques (Step into the Spotlight, Imitation, Talking to Baby). Treatment sessions occurred three times per week for one month for a total of 12 sessions. Treatment techniques were introduced weekly to the caregiver and allowed for caregiver practice with immediate feedback. Caregiver fidelity of implementation (FI) of treatment techniques and child ASD-specific behaviors were coded from 10-minute caregiver-child dyad intervention video-recorded probes. Caregivers met FI requirements quickly, with interobserver agreement (IOA) of 88% overall. Since time is of the essence when presented with an infant with early signs of ASD, identifying which key treatment techniques to teach first that produce the most change quickly in infant behavior is ideal. In addition, learning more about the successes and challenges of using telehealth technology to coach caregivers will inform future clinical practice and research efforts in this area.




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