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

Previous Page


Symposium #184
Advances in Teaching and Assessing Conversation Skills With Adults
Sunday, May 30, 2021
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Carissa Basile (Marquette University )
CE Instructor: Carissa Basile, M.S.

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities often demonstrate deficits in conversation and professional skills, and thus may have difficulty developing friendships and finding employment. The growing literature on social skills has evaluated teaching conversation and professional skills as well as using normative data to determine what skills should be taught. This symposium will begin with Sylvia Aquino presenting descriptive data on how individuals respond to preferred, neutral, and nonpreferred topics of conversations. The authors found that the frequency of comments and length of utterances changed depending on the type of conversation topic. The second presenter, Whitney Pubylski-Yanofchick will discuss teaching adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to initiate and respond to professional emails. As a result of a sequential training progression from group instruction to individualized training with feedback and error correction, all participants learned to compose professional emails. Last, Brandt Kail will discuss teaching adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to use virtual platforms and interact with others in a virtual setting. Using behavioral skills training, feedback, and reinforcement, all participants acquired the necessary requisite skills to be successful in virtual meetings.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Adults, Conversation Skills, Professional Skills, Social Skills
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: 1) Attendees will be able to identify how individuals respond to conversations on topics with neutral, preferred, or aversive properties. 2) Attendees will be able to describe the importance of conducting descriptive assessments of social skills. 3) Attendees will be able to describe the use of behavioral skills training for teaching professional email writing skills. 4) Attendees will be able to identify important components of professional emails. 5) Attendees will be able to identify some basic skills important for successful interactions in virtual settings. 6) Attendees will be able to describe the use of behavioral skills training and virtual reinforcement for teaching skills via video conferencing.
A Descriptive Assessment of Active Listening and Topics for Initiating Future Conversations
SYLVIA AQUINO (Marquette University ), Stephanie A. Hood (Marquette University )
Abstract: In conversations, active listening is an important skill for developing and maintaining meaningful relationships. Little research exists on how to teach someone how to actively listen and then use this information in subsequent conversations. Listeners must discriminate between topics the conversation partner is interested in and enjoys discussing, and topics that may be aversive. We conducted a descriptive assessment to identify how individuals respond to their conversation partner when they initiate conversations on topics with neutral, preferred, or aversive properties. Individuals make less comments related to a topic they find aversive and ask more follow up questions when preferred topics are discussed. On average, individuals engage in longer utterances during preferred topics and change the topic faster when aversive topics are discussed. These data may inform research and practice for teaching complex social skills to individuals that contribute to an established speaker and listener repertoire that may impact their overall interactions and quality of life.

Teaching Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Interact Successfully With Others in a Virtual Format

BRANDT KAIL (Texana), Rachel Callahan (Texana Center), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Katherine Miriam Johnson-Patagoc (Texana Center), David E. Whitcher (Texana Center Behavior Improvement Center)

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where social and professional interactions are more likely to occur in a virtual setting than ever before. In this study, 4 adults with ASD were taught skills to improve participation in virtual meetings. Participants learned how to use their microphones and cameras more appropriately and to make encouraging statements to one another while discussing current events and vocational-based lessons via Zoom™. The experimenter used a multiple baseline design across behaviors to evaluate the effects of behavioral skills training, feedback, and reinforcement in the form of praise, virtual tokens, and gift cards to increase the targeted behaviors during 2-hour virtual sessions. Skills increased and maintained at levels substantially above baseline even after the experimenter faded the contingencies for appropriate responding and delivered reinforcement solely for attendance. Tests for generalization across instructors and activities yielded promising results. These findings suggest that adults with ASD can benefit from group-based telehealth ABA services to improve skills needed to interact successfully with others in a virtual format.


Teaching Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Write Professional Emails to Support Employment

WHITNEY PUBYLSKI-YANOFCHICK (Rutgers University), Christeen Scarpa (Rutgers University), Declan Butler (Rutgers), Jonathan Oflazian (The College of New Jersey), SungWoo Kahng (Rutgers University)

Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience challenges securing and maintaining employment. One requisite skill to employment is professional conduct. Although there are a cluster of behaviors related to professional conduct, one skill in which unprofessional behavior can become apparent is writing and responding to professional emails. The purpose of this study was to teach adults with ASD to initiate and respond to professional emails. Our participants were five adult males diagnosed with ASD. All participants attended a university-based employment support program. We rated their emails on the level of professionalism. We used behavioral skills training to teach the participants via remote instruction to initiate and respond to professional emails based on vignettes. BST training components were systematically introduced from most efficient (i.e., group instruction) to most intensive (i.e., individual training with feedback and error correction). Following the BST group training, one of the five participants met criteria on responding to professional emails. Individualized training with feedback was conducted for all five participants for one or both type of email. At least two of the participants required a more intrusive, individual training with error correction, under which one participant met mastery criterion for both types of emails. The results of this study showed that it is possible to teach adults with ASD to initiate and respond to emails in a professional manner. This is one, of many, skills that individuals of ASD will need to master in order to obtain and maintain employment.




Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh