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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #483
CE Offered: BACB
Three Examples of Referent-Based Verbal Behavior Instruction for Early Speakers With Autism
Monday, May 31, 2021
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Area: VRB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Lee L Mason (Cook Children's Health Care System)
CE Instructor: Lee L Mason, Ph.D.

Language deficits are characteristic of individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder according to both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, and the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision. In particular, the language of individuals with autism shows “stimulus overselectivity”, or disproportionate levels of strength across the environmental relations that control their verbal behavior. For educational and clinical service providers, the provision of services is contingent upon demonstrating an educational or medical necessity for intervention. Incidental teaching has been shown to be effective for expanding the language skills of children with autism spectrum disorder. Referent-based instruction is a particular type of natural environment training that aims to balance the strength of the verbal repertoire across mand, echoic, tact, and sequelic control. Referent-based instruction emphasizes transfer of stimulus control through continuous, systematic prompting (i.e., convergent multiple control) and fading (i.e., divergent multiple control) across operants. Elements of precision teaching may be embedded to monitor language development and enable data-based instructional decisions. Here we present three implementations of referent-based instruction across different settings: clinic, school, and home.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): incidental teaching, precision teaching, telehealth, verbal behavior
Target Audience:

Practicing applied behavior analysts who work with children and adolescents with autism and other language orders.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify examples of stimulus overselectivity in the language of speakers with autism; (2) explain the importance of developing proportionate levels of stimulus control over verbal behavior; (3) explain how referent-based instruction differs from other forms of incidental teaching.
Clinical Implementations of Referent-Based Instruction
(Service Delivery)
Alonzo Andrews (The University of Texas at San Antonio), Lee L Mason (Cook Children's Health Care System), JANET SANCHEZ ENRIQUEZ (The University of North Carolina at Charlotte)
Abstract: The current study evaluates the use of precision teaching to address the verbal behavior deficits of children with autism and other language disorders through a free, university-based ABA clinic. Across six years, Forty-nine participants received 13 weeks of intervention for 90 min a day, four days a week. Referent-based instruction is a treatment package that combines both natural environment training and frequency building to strengthen verbal behavior. Referent-based instruction emphasizes transferring of stimulus control across the verbal operants within the context of shaping novel responses. The overarching goal of referent-based instruction is that for every item of interest, the child should be able to request it, label it, name it, and identify it by its primary feature(s). Results of pretest and posttest comparisons show that a large effect size was found within the verbal behavior gains of participants who received precision teaching. Implications for implementing referent-based instruction as well as future areas of research will be discussed.
Classroom Implementations of Referent-Based Instruction
JANET ENRIQUEZ (The University of North Carolina at Charlotte)
Abstract: Across two academic years, nine San Antonio area school districts were funded by the Texas Education Agency to provide verbal behavior training to preschool and kindergarten students with autism. At the start of the year we assessed participants using the verbal behavior SCoRE to determine the extent to which mands, echoics, tacts, and sequelics exerted disproportionate levels of control over each participant’s verbal behavior. The results of the SCoRE were then used to develop individualized verbal behavior treatment plans for each student to be carried out in his/her home classroom. We subsequently trained more than 100 teachers and paraprofessionals to implement referent-based verbal behavior instruction, with a goal of balancing out the relative strength of these four primary verbal operants. In addition to providing direct classroom-based services for students with autism, the project included ongoing parent training conducted by district behavior analysts throughout the academic year. At the end of the year, students were reassessed with the verbal behavior SCoRE to analyze language gains. Here we present an overview of the project, implications for its application in public school settings, and the results of our grant activities.
Telehealth Home-Based Implementations of Referent-Based Instruction
(Service Delivery)
MARIANA DE LOS SANTOS (Bloom Children's Center), Tania Catalina Catalina Pasillas Salazar (Bloom Children's Center)
Abstract: This session presents a case study in which a young girl with autism spectrum disorder in Monterrey, Mexico received referent-based verbal behavior instruction via synchronous distance delivery. Over the course of six months, the child received 30-60 minutes per week of language instruction that combined natural environment training with discrete trial training. Each session was video recorded. For this presentation, we aim to describe the intervention used in replicable detail, and show the child's development overtime through a series of video clips across the six months of intervention. Here we describe the modifications that were necessary to make referent-based instruction effective for telehealth delivery, along with the outcomes of the child who participated in this case study. Participants of this session will be able to identify elements of successful web-based verbal behavior instruction, participant characteristics, prerequisite skills, and what we learned from this pilot study. Our discussion will focus on implementation in rural settings.



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