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 #389
CE Offered: BACB
Clinical Applications of Functional Analyses of Verbal Behavior for Children With Autism
Monday, May 31, 2021
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: VRB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Janet Sanchez Enriquez (The University of North Carolina at Charlotte)
CE Instructor: Lee L Mason, Ph.D.

Verbal operant analyses identify the environmental variables that influence verbal behavior. In addition to their utility in demonstrating which environmental relations compose the speaker’s verbal repertoire, these functional analyses are also able to identify how much control is exerted across different verbal operants. Assessing the relative strength of verbal behavior is critical when evaluating the speaking repertoires of individuals with autism spectrum disorder, who are more likely than typically developing speakers to display stimulus overselectivity (i.e., disproportionate levels of control). Specifically, verbal operant analyses demonstrate how stimulus overselectivity influences verbal behavior by comparing language domains that are related; that is, structurally similar yet functionally independent. Here we present different clinical applications to demonstrate how verbal operant analyses can be used to both document client progress over time and make data-based instructional decisions. In this symposium, we extend the use of functional analysis technology to examine a variety of related language domains that demonstrate how stimulus overselectivity affects the verbal behavior of children with autism, along with implications for intervention focusing on transfer of stimulus control.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): functional analysis, stimulus control, stimulus overselectivity, verbal behavior
Target Audience:

Applied behavior analysts who are familiar with incidental teaching procedures. Experience with the VB-MAPP is helpful, but not required.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify the conditions in a verbal operant analysis; (2) identify the conditions in a relational operant analysis; (3) explain how pretreatment functional analyses can be used to develop treatment objectives.

Assessing Derivational Stimulus Control Over the Intraverbal Behavior of Speakers With Autism

(Applied Research)
KIMBERLY JAMES-KELLY (Child Study Center at Cook Children's)

Assessing stimulus control over intraverbals, the operant class of social behavior, is a primary function of the verbal community. In clinical settings, however, addressing intraverbal deficits poses a challenge to both researchers and practitioners due to the lack of precise measures and the sparse literature on establishing discriminations between similar verbal stimuli. Applying a stimulus equivalence framework to intraverbal interactions, here we describe a series of experiments in which we extend functional analysis technology to assess derivational stimulus control. Our first experiment describes a relational operant analysis consisting of brief affordance narratives to evaluate the relative control of reflexive, symmetrical, and transitive stimuli over the intraverbal repertoire of speakers with autism. We compared responding across intraverbal fill-ins and Wh- questions, but results were difficult to interpret due to confounding variables. In the second experiment, we address the limitations of the first experiment by assessing Who, What, and Where questions across levels of reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity. Results of the second experiment show no meaningful differences across Wh- questions, while statistically significant differences were found across levels of derivational stimulus control. These findings suggest that relational operant analyses can enhance the assessment of intraverbal responding through experimental manipulation. Implications for teaching Wh- questions are discussed.


Assessment to Intervention Using a Pretreatment Functional Analysis of Verbal Behavior

(Service Delivery)
MARIA JOSE OTERO (Cook Children's Health Care System)

Here we present a clinical case study to describe the assessment to intervention process centered around a pre-treatment functional analysis of verbal behavior. The use of pretreatment functional analyses to identify the variable(s) maintaining behavioral excesses has been shown to increase both treatment precision and efficacy. Functional analysis technology has been used to identify nuanced environmental determinants undetectable through mere descriptive assessment. More recently, research has suggested that pretreatment verbal operant analyses may be beneficial for guiding the selection of treatment goals and instructional procedures. Here we demonstrate the use of pretreatment functional analyses to examine the verbal behavior of a 5-year-old girl diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and global developmental delay who communicated with a speech-generating device. After 18 months of early intensive behavioral intervention, this child continued to display severely limited tact and echoic control, along with an impaired mand repertoire. In this session we describe how we modified the verbal operant analysis for use with her speech-generating device, and explain how we used the results to create tailored interventions centered around converging control across the verbal operants. Pre-post data on VB-MAPP and SCoRE assessments were used to evaluate the outcome of this methodology.


Cochran’s Q Tests of Disproportionate Stimulus Control Over Verbal Behavior

(Basic Research)
LEE L MASON (Cook Children's Health Care System; Texas Christian University), Alonzo Alfredo Andrews (The University of Texas at San Antonio)

Cochran’s Q test is a statistical analysis frequently used to measure the proportionality of different populations. Here we demonstrate the use of Cochran’s Q to evaluate disproportionate levels of stimulus control over the verbal behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder. In contrast to balanced neurotypical stimulus control, disproportionate stimulus control is characteristic of speakers with autism. We reviewed the records of 181 participants whose language profiles met the assumptions for analysis with Cochran’s Q. Specifically, the relative strength of mand, tact, echoic, and sequelic relations were measured for each participant. Our results showed that 86% of participants demonstrated statistically significant disproportionality across these four verbal operants. Additionally, a large correlation was found between Cochran’s Q and the Stimulus Control Ratio Equation. Implications for the use of Cochran’s Q test as a measure of disproportionate stimulus control, and the extent to which statistical significance can be used to determine medical necessity for behavior-analytic language intervention are discussed.




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