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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #399
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities
Monday, May 29, 2023
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 4C/D
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Amarie Carnett (Victoria University of Wellington)
Discussant: Rocio Rosales (University of Massachusetts Lowell)
CE Instructor: Amarie Carnett, Ph.D.

Individuals with developmental disabilities, such as Autism, who have complex communication needs are often candidates for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. However, when selecting intervention components, there is a need for both assessment of skills, as well considerations of specific intervention components utilized that may affect the individual’s communication outcomes. This symposium will present data from three empirical studies and one review of theoretical principles. For the review, authors will revisit concepts on topography-based and selection-based verbal behavior, and the implications for AAC users. The second talk will present data on teaching a interaverbal-mands with an SGD in the context of social routines for preschool children with autism. The third talk will present data on remote teaching of care staff to implement PECS with adults in a residential care facility. And the last talk will present on a comparative study of treatment options (i.e., SGD-self prompts and vocal prompts) for an individual with complex communication needs. Implications and future directions will be discussed by the discussant, Rocío Rosales.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): AAC, Autism, Developmental Disabilities, Verbal Behavior
Target Audience:

BCBAs, Newly minted BCBAs; practitioners, supervisors, and students currently enrolled in graduate programs.

Learning Objectives: Following the presentations, participants will be able to: 1. Describe topographic and selection-based responding and areas of overlap. 2. Describe treatment components involved in staff training for PECS. 3. Describe procedures that can facilitate the acquisition of SGD-based intraverbal responding. 4. Describe the components of a functional analysis of verbal behavior.

Revisiting Topography-Based and Selection-Based Verbal Behavior: Implications for the Selection of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Systems

EINAR T. INGVARSSON (Virginia Institute of Autism), Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University)

In topography-based verbal behavior, different antecedent stimuli control different topographies of responding, whereas in selection-based verbal behavior, different antecedent stimuli control the selection of visually distinct stimuli from an array of options. We discuss Michael’s (1985) distinction between topography-based and selection-based behavior, focusing on its implications for the selection of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. After considering how recent technological developments may blur the distinction between these two forms of verbal behavior, we discuss some variable characteristics of selection-based behavior that may affect its similarity to common forms of topography-based behavior. These characteristics include construction of stimuli from minimal units, the size and composition of the selection array, and the similarity of response-produced stimuli to verbal stimuli that are prevalent in the speaker’s verbal community.


Using Naturalistic Augmentative and Alternative Communication Intervention for Children With Autism During Social Routines

BRENNA R GRIFFEN (University of Arkansas), Christine Holyfield (University of Arkansas), Elizabeth R. Lorah (University of Arkansas), Nicolette Sammarco Caldwell (The University of Arkansas)

Because many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to replace or supplement vocal speech, practitioners need evidence-based strategies to teach these learners socially interactive communication. This study examined the effects of an intervention package using high-tech AAC with Naturalistic Instruction (NI), time delay, and prompting during social routines for young children with ASD. The primary dependent measure was a linguistic communication response, measured as independently pressing the icon on the AAC that completed the instructor’s fill-in-the-blank phrase related to the routine. This response also served as a mand (request for) the routine to continue. Prelinguistic communication, measured as a percentage of trials including vocalizations and smiling, was employed as a secondary dependent measure. Results indicated that linguistic and prelinguistic communication increased for all three participants with two participants meeting mastery criteria within the minimal number of sessions. All participants maintained performance at intervention levels throughout the maintenance phase. These results are significant in providing additional evidence in moving beyond teaching basic manding for objects to teaching more complex, socially interactive communication to children using AAC. Additionally, this study supports the use of color photo visual scene displays to promote social interaction.

Delivering the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) Indirectly via Telehealth
ANGELIKA ANDERSON (The University of Waikato), Melissa Svensson (Waikato University), Georgina Ingle (Waikato University)
Abstract: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) interventions such as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) have proved effective in providing individuals with functional communication deficits with a way to communicate. A small number of studies have explored whether caregivers can be trained to implement PECS for adult clients with a developmental delay. This presentation reports the results of two studies investigating the effectiveness of Behavioural Skills Training (BST), delivered remotely via video conferencing software, for training 1. direct support staff to implement PECS in a disability residential setting, and 2. parents to implement PECS in their home. Direct support staff and parents then also trained further support staff. The results of this research indicate that direct caregivers can be trained to implement PECS, including training additional staff participants (support workers), and maintain a high level of accuracy throughout training and implementation. The effect of PECS on functional communication for the two young adults are also reported. Training and implementation data showed increased functional communication acts for the client participants. This research provides evidence to support BST as an effective practice for training caregivers to implement PECS via telehealth.

Assessing Communication Functions of an Individual With Complex Communication Needs to Inform Treatment Options

AMARIE CARNETT (Victoria University of Wellington), Kelly Bush (Victoria University of Wellington), Jasmine Murphy (Victoria University of Wellington)

Individuals with autism who have limited speech production are often taught to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) modalities. Previous research has indicated that the use of AAC systems can also be used to promote vocal speech production. However, for older individuals with complex communication needs, it is less clear what considerations should be made when determining intervention components. The current research aims to provide a framework of analysis by utilizing a functional analysis of verbal behavior (FAVB), to help determine the communication needs and identify possible treatment options. Following the FAVB an alternating treatments design was utilized to identify which intervention options helped promote vocal speech production. The intervention comparison phase evaluated two treatment options, traditional vocal prompting and SGD-based self-prompting, to determine the best treatment option. Findings of this study provide support for the use of FAVBs and treatment comparisons to best facilitate individualize treatment plans.




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