|Measuring Idiosyncratic Indices of Happiness in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Implications for Practice and Research
|Saturday, May 28, 2022
|10:00 AM–11:50 AM
|Meeting Level 2; Room 254B
|Area: AUT/EDC; Domain: Applied Research
|Chair: Leslie Neely (The University of Texas at San Antonio)
|Discussant: Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
|CE Instructor: Marjorie H. Charlop, Ph.D.
This symposium includes four studies in which internal emotional states of children with autism (ASD) were indirectly measured by monitoring observable behaviors likely correlated with specific emotional states. Study one demonstrated a process to operationally define idiosyncratic indices of happiness (IoH) and empirically assessed the accuracy of operational definitions within single case experimental designs for 4 children with ASD. The second study collected social validity data from parents and practitioners to assess the extent to which they consider systematic monitoring a child’s purported emotional state to be acceptable, useful, or practical. Study three, evaluated effects of a stimulus-stimulus pairing intervention on social approach, social engagement, and IoH for 6 toddlers with characteristics of ASD. Finally, study four measured parent treatment fidelity and IoH within parent-child dyads during a naturalistic caregiver-mediated play-based intervention. Parents’ implement fidelity improved, parent and child IoH increased, and a possible positive correlation in IoH was noted. Together, these studies suggest (a) IoH can be operationally defined and tracked in the context of single case experimental designs, (b) parents and practitioners value IoH data, and (c) IoH should be considered more often in practice and future research.
|Instruction Level: Intermediate
|Keyword(s): Autism Intervention,, Emotional States, Happiness, Social Validity
Behavior analysts and other practitioners with sufficient experience utilizing single case designs; understanding of the difficulty related to assessing internal states
|Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Identify complications related to identifying and measuring emotional states of children with ASD; (2) Describe a process to operationally define behavioral indices of happiness for individuals with ASD; (3) The practitioner will be able to determine if tracking indices of emotional states in children with ASD is appropriate and potentially useful in the specific professional context.
Empirical Support for Operational Definitions of Idiosyncratic Behavioral Indices of Happiness in Children With Autism
|STEPHANIE L WEBB (Clinic for Autism Research Evaluation and Support; Texas State University), Jessica Price (Clinic for Autism Research Evaluation and Support; Texas State University), Katy Davenport (Clinic for Autism Research Evaluation and Support, Texas State University), Russell Lang (Texas State University-San Marcos)
This study demonstrates a to operationally define idiosyncratic expressions of emotion (e.g., happiness) in children with ASD and then to empirically evaluate the accuracy of those operational definitions within single subject experimental designs. First, an iterative process involving parental interview, direct observation, and review of video recordings was used to operationally define observable behaviors that were purported to be indices of happiness (IoH) in four children with ASD by their mothers. The accuracy of the individualized operational definitions were then evaluated in an alternating treatment design wherein IoH data were compared during Higher Preference (HP) conditions and Lower Preference (LP) conditions. Three of the four participants consistently displayed more IoH in HP than in LP conditions, supporting previous research indicating IoH can be operationally defined and tracked in the context of single case experimental designs. Results are considered in terms of potential uses for IoH from a clinical perspective and in terms of directions for future research.
Parent and Practitioner Perspectives on Defining and Monitoring Child Indices of Happiness for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
|JESSICA PRICE (Clinic for Autism Research Evaluation and Support; Texas State University), Stephanie L Webb (Clinic for Autism Research Evaluation and Support; Texas State University), Katy Davenport (Clinic for Autism Research Evaluation and Support; Texas State University ), Russell Lang (Texas State University-San Marcos)
Previous research indicates that unobservable emotional states of children with ASD can be indirectly measured by defining and monitoring observable behaviors likely to be correlated with specific emotional states (e.g., measuring smiles and giggles to indirectly consider “happiness”). However, the extent to which parents and practitioners serving children with ASD consider systematic monitoring a child’s purported emotional state during behavioral services to be acceptable, useful, or practical needs to be considered. This study reports social validity data collected from parents of four children whose behavioral indices of happiness were defined and measured during the context of behavioral services as well as from parents and practitioners (e.g., special education teachers) who were informed regarding the process and purpose. A battery of social validity assessments focused on acceptability of procedures, validity of operational definition, usefulness of data, and open-ended questions designed to elicit reservations regarding systematic monitoring of emotional states in children with ASD were administered. Parents found the procedures to be acceptable and indicated that tracking IoH was a good use of clinical resources. Practitioners report… [data analysis in progress]. Results are discussed in terms of recommendations for practice and directions for future research.
Evaluating the Effect of Stimulus-Stimulus Pairing Procedures on Indices of Happiness With Toddlers At-Risk for Autism
|Leslie Neely (The University of Texas at San Antonio), KATHERINE CANTRELL (University of Texas at San Antonio ), Amarie Carnett (Victoria University of Wellington)
Delays in social communication, lack of social engagement, and repetitive/restrictive behaviors are core characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a developmental disability. Evidence-based interventions incorporating applied behavior analysis have been shown highly effective in treating observable symptoms of ASD. However, limited research has been conducted to evaluate the effect of those interventions on the participants indices of happiness or perceived enjoyment. This study evaluated the effects of a stimulus-stimulus pairing intervention on social approach behavior, social disengagement, and duration of social engagement, as well as indices of happiness for 6 young toddlers displaying characteristics of ASD. The intervention was play-based and followed participants’ lead with preferred items/activities incorporating shared engagement. The indices of happiness were individually defined based on caregiver report and researcher observation. Five out of 6 participants showed an increase in social approach and social engagement, with steadily decreasing levels of social disengagement. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of stimulus pairing as an intervention for young toddlers. However, data on the indices of happiness is still being collected and analyzed.
Effects of Caregiver Coaching on Caregiver and Child Indices of Happiness
|Leslie Neely (The University of Texas at San Antonio), SIERRA STEGEMANN (University of Texas at San Antonio), Katherine Cantrell (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Caregiver-mediated, play-based intervention programs have demonstrated positive effects for young children diagnosed with and at-risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Sunny Starts DANCE program (Decide, Arrange, Now, Count, Enjoy) is a naturalistic-behavioral based caregiver coaching model that incorporates the principles of operant conditioning to support closeness, mutual enjoyment, attending, and social responding. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of coaching on caregiver implementation of the DANCE model and subsequent impacts of DANCE on caregivers and their child indices of happiness. Indices of happiness (IOH) typically include overt behaviors such as smiling and laughing and can be helpful information when working with others who do not verbally describe their private emotional experiences. Four caregiver-child dyads were recruited to participate. A multiple-baseline across participants design was used to demonstrate the effects of coaching on caregiver fidelity and caregiver/child IOH. Although the study was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, caregivers did increase their fidelity of implementation of the DANCE. In addition, three out of the four caregiver-child dyads had an increase in their IOH. We will also discuss correlation between caregiver and child IOH as a measure of harmonious engagement.