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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #231
CE Offered: BACB
Interventions to Improve Response Variability in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Sunday, May 24, 2015
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
217B (CC)
Area: AUT/PRA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Russell Lang (Texas State University-San Marcos)
CE Instructor: Russell Lang, Ph.D.
Abstract: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is diagnosed, in part, by the presence of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. This characteristic of ASD often manifests as limited response variability and may negatively influence communication and physical health. For example, children with ASD may (a) fail to produce the typical variety of verbal utterances and this restricted speech may result in communication breakdown and/or (b) may only eat a very small variety of foods to the extent that suboptimal nutrition may cause health concerns. In this symposium, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and from Texas State University-San Marcos will present three intervention studies aimed at the amelioration of problems caused by limited response variability. First, Muething et al. demonstrate that a delay to reinforcement procedure can increase variant responding within functional communication training and then discuss the importance of their findings in terms of prevention of clinical relapse. Second, Katy Ledbetter-Cho et al., describe a replication of research indicating that script fading can increase the frequency and variety of verbal interactions between peers with ASD and then extend previous research by evaluating the extent to which script fading produces not only produce novel unscripted utterances but also changes in conversation topic. Finally, Silbaugh use lag schedules of reinforcement to directly target response variability in the context of a feeding intervention designed to increase the variety of foods consumed by children with ASD and food selectivity concerns.
Keyword(s): intervention, lag schedules, response variability, script fading
An Evaluation of Delay to Reinforcement and Variant Responding
COLIN S. MUETHING (The University of Texas at Austin), Terry S. Falcomata (The University of Texas at Austin), Cayenne Shpall (Student)
Abstract: Procedures for increasing variant responding have been evaluated within both the basic (e.g., Page & Neuringer, 1985) and the applied behavioral literature (e.g., Duker & van Lent, 1991). For example, previous research has suggested the utility of delay to reinforcement to increase variant responding in animals that initially exhibited low response variability (e.g., Wagner & Neuringer, 2006). However, no studies have evaluated the inclusion of a delay to reinforcement to increase variant responding within the context of functional communication training (FCT). In the current study, we evaluated the effects of delays to reinforcement on variant responding during FCT for individuals with challenging behavior. We first evaluated the function(s) of challenging behavior via functional analyses. Next, we conducted mand topography assessments to confirm that participants were able to independently engage in target communicative responses. Last, we conducted FCT in which multiple mands were reinforced on a tandem concurrent FR1/FR1/FR1/FT 10 s schedule of reinforcement (i.e., FCT + Delay). Preliminary results suggested the inclusion of a delay to reinforcement increased the response variability pertaining to communication responses. Results will be discussed in terms of prevention of clinical relapse during challenges to treatment.

Effects of Script Fading on Scripted and Novel Utterances in Conversations between Peers with Autism

KATHERINE LEDBETTER-CHO (Texas State University), Russell Lang (Texas State University-San Marcos), Katy Davenport (Texas State University-San Marcos), Melissa Moore (Texas State University), Allyson Lee (Texas State University), Mandy J. Rispoli (Texas A&M)

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often present with deficits in communication and social interaction. One intervention option is script fading. During script fading, scripts provide learners with a model of appropriate language for specific social situations. In this intervention study, three children with autism were taught to initiate peer-to-peer social interactions using a script fading intervention during group play. Results demonstrate that scripted initiations increased for all three participants. Additionally, response generalization in the form of novel unscripted utterances emerged. In some cases these novel utterances included age and context appropriate changes in the topic of conversation. Generalization across novel toys, settings and peers was also observed. Results are discussed in terms of response variability and future research directions.


Control of Operant Variability and Variety of Food Consumed by Children with Autism Using Lag Schedules of Positive Reinforcement

BRYANT C. SILBAUGH (The University of Texas at Austin, Special Education Department), Terry S. Falcomata (The University of Texas at Austin), Hollie Wingate (The University of Texas at Austin)

Behavioral interventions for repetitive and stereotyped behavior (RSB) primarily reduce rather than replace RSB with adaptive behavior. Evidence suggests replacement of RSB might be achieved by directly reinforcing operant variability. Applied studies have shown that lag-schedules of reinforcement can increase variability in the verbal and play behavior of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The current study extends research on lag-schedules to the problem of repetitive and restricted feeding by children with ASD and high food selectivity (HFS). HFS is viewed here as a form of RSB consisting of the excessive repeated consumption of a narrow range of edible stimuli despite alternatives being readily available. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a lag-schedule on independent variant food consumption and variety of food consumed in a discrete-trial format using an ABAB design. One participant has completed the study thus far. A decrease in variable food consumption was observed across baseline sessions under a continuous schedule of reinforcement. A lag 1 schedule of reinforcement increased the variety of edible stimuli consumed and decreased repetitive food consumption. This is the first demonstration of increased operant variability and variety of food consumption using lag-schedules in children with ASD.




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