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 #275
CE Offered: BACB
Supporting College Students With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sunday, May 30, 2021
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Area: AUT/EDC; Domain: Translational
Chair: Christopher Manente (Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services, Rutgers University)
Discussant: Amanda Karsten (Western Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Amanda Karsten, Ph.D.

The transition from high school to higher education presents a variety of challenges and pitfalls for many students both with and without autism. Being a successful college student often necessitates that an individual be a versatile and fluent communicator able to collaborate with peers and faculty across a wide range of settings and contexts. Failure to develop the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with others while in college can have long-term implications far beyond the classroom which can include social isolation and unemployment. Students across the nation routinely report that they do not feel as though they are well prepared for success in college. To date, there has been a limited focus within the behavior analytic research on developing approaches for effective support for college students with and without ASD. This symposium provides several models of explicit coaching and instructional strategies related to being a successful communicator across settings and contexts within a college setting.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Autism, College Students, Communication Skills, Virtual Coaching/Instruction
Target Audience:

Practitioners working with adolescents and adults. Educators/Administrators working in higher education. Prerequisite Skills: Strong foundation of understanding of basic behavior analytic concepts. Familiar with behavior analytic terminology. Familiarity with common behavior analytic research designs and ability to quickly interpret data presented via tables and figures.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1) Identify common challenges associated with the transition to higher education settings for students with and without autism and evaluate the utility of a behavior analytic model for intervention in these settings. 2) Describe a variety of behavior analytic strategies for encouraging successful outcomes through the use of virtual coaching and instruction. 3) Describe specific behavior analytic strategies for supporting the development of fluent communication skills for adolescents and adults pursuing higher education across contexts related to successful academic performance, employment, and public speaking.

Eco-Behavioral Assessment of Instructional Responding of College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder in Active Learning Classes

(Applied Research)
Catharine Lory (Purdue University), Sungwoo Kang (Purdue University), Courtney King (Purdue University), HANNAH CROSLEY (Purdue University), Rose A. Mason (Purdue University), Brandon Keehn (Purdue University)

An increasing number of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are pursuing postsecondary education at 4-year institutions. Research has shown that typically developing (TD) college students often experience stress and difficulties in transitioning to higher education, and the extent of these difficulties tend to be exacerbated by core characteristics of ASD among college students diagnosed with ASD. Moreover, many higher institutions are beginning to push for a transformation of instructional methods from the conventional lecture approach to an active learning approach, which often involves group discussions and activities with peers. In this context, weaknesses in social and communication skills may create additional barriers for students with ASD if they are frequently required to initiate and respond to social exchanges and collaborate with peers. To identify the needs of college students with ASD in active learning college classes, we conducted an ecobehavioral assessment study through direct observations of students with ASD and TD students to examine their instructional responding in active learning classes. Preliminary results from age- and IQ-matched ASD (n = 6) and TD (n = 17) samples indicate that there are no statistically significant differences in measures of instructional responding. Implications of study findings will be discussed.


An Individualized Approach to Teaching Adults With Autism to Successfully Navigate Job Interviews via Remote Instruction

(Applied Research)
SungWoo Kahng (Rutgers University), COURTNEY BUTLER (Rutgers University), Faris Rashad Kronfli (Rutgers University), Christeen Scarpa (Rutgers University), Brianna Boragi (Rutgers University), Joseph Scott (Rutgers University)

Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience challenges securing employment, which may partially explain overall underemployment or unemployment in this population. One of the first steps to obtaining employment is participating in a job interview. However, social communication deficits may interfere with an individual with ASD’s ability to participate in a job interview. The current study evaluated the use of behavioral skills training delivered via remote instruction to teach interview skills to four college students diagnosed with ASD. Results showed overall improvement during interviews as well as post-training generalization probes with a career development expert. These data suggest that an individualized approach to training may be an effective strategy to help adults with ASD successfully navigate job interviews.


Effects of Telecoaching on Conversation Skills for High School and College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
EMILY GREGORI (University of Illinois at Chicago), Rose A. Mason (Purdue University)

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty engaging in conversations with same-age peers. Deficits in conversation skills can hinder one’s ability to sustain friendships and may lead to social isolation. Research has shown that technology-based interventions can improve conversation skills and reduce the social stigmatization of individualized interventions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of telecoaching and online instructional modules on conversation skills for four high school and college students with ASD. A component analysis was conducted to determine the critical components of the intervention package. Results showed that telecoaching was associated with the most significant improvements in conversation behavior for all participants. Future directions and recommendations for clinicians are discussed.

Decreasing Nervous Habits During Public Speaking: A Component Analysis of Awareness Training
(Applied Research)
STEPHANIE ORTIZ (Caldwell University), Meghan Deshais (Caldwell University), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University), Raymond G. Miltenberger (University of South Florida)
Abstract: Habit reversal is a well-established treatment package for decreasing a wide range of undesirable motor and vocal responses. Recent research indicates that awareness training, one phase of the habit reversal package, can produce decreases in undesirable vocal responses during public speaking (Montes et al., 2019; Spieler & Miltenberger, 2017). Awareness training can consist of multiple components including response description, video response detection, and in-vivo response detection. To date, no studies have assessed the independent effects of awareness training components. This study sought to evaluate the independent, additive effects of the components of awareness training on undesirable vocal responses during public speaking with college students. The introduction of the three components of awareness training was staggered according to the typical order and in order of least to most response effort (Woods et al., 1996). This study also sought to further investigate the effects of awareness training components on untargeted responses, long-term treatment effects, and generalization of treatment effects. The clinical implications of our findings and avenues for future research will be discussed.



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