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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Invited Symposium #223
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
A Revolution in Our Understanding and Treatment of Verbal and Social Development
Sunday, May 24, 2015
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Texas Ballroom Salon A (Grand Hyatt)
Area: DEV; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
Discussant: R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate)
CE Instructor: R. Douglas Greer, Ph.D.

The revolution in what we know about verbal behavior development changes how we should intervene and teach children with language delays, social deficits, and cochlear implants. These findings determine how we should teach children in general education as well as special education. Empirically identified verbal development cusps are driven by the presence or absence of learned social reinforcers including how, or if, these can be acquired from social learning contexts. Social learning itself is a behavioral developmental cusp also driven by learned reinforcers. Tested protocols can establish missing cusps, resulting in significant advances in children’s social, verbal, and educational prognoses.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): social development, verbal development
Target Audience:

Psychologists, behavior analysts, practitioners, and graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants should be able to: (1) describe the function of establishing verbal behavior developmental cusps; (2) identify the role of conditioned social reinforcers in true establishment of social verbal behavior; and (3) describe the potential utility of the verbal behavior developmental protocols in the education of children with recent cochlear implants.

A Brief Overview of the Revolution

R. DOUGLAS GREER (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

A large and growing evidence base suggests that in order for language topographies to be verbal learned social reinforcers must be present as a function of incidental experiences or design. Establishing new reinforcers for observing responses and social reinforcers appear key to the advancement of verbal development and social development. Evidence across the range of verbal developmental cusps and social development suggest that if you build social reinforcers, verbal behavior will come. These findings point to the essential role of the establishment of collaborative reinforcement in verbal development.

Dr. R. Douglas Greer is the coordinator of the programs in applied behavior analysis at Teachers College at Columbia University. He has taught at Columbia University Teachers College and the Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences for 42 years, sponsored 170 Ph.D. dissertations, taught more than 2,000 master students, founded the Fred S. Keller School, authored 13 books and 155 research and conceptual papers, served on the editorial board of 10 journals, and developed the CABAS school model for special education and the Accelerated Independent Model for general education (K-5). He has received the American Psychology Association's Fred S. Keller Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education, the Association for Behavior Analysis International Award for International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis, been honored for his contributions to The Fred S. Keller School, and May 5 has been designated as the R. Douglas Greer Day by the Westchester County Legislature. He is a Fellow of the ABAI and a CABAS Board-Certified Senior Behavior Analyst and Senior Research Scientist. He has taught courses at the universities of Almeria, Grenada, Cadiz, Madrid, Oviedo, and Salamanca in Spain, Oslo and Askerhus College in Norway, University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and University of Wales at Bangor in England. Dr. Greer has served as the keynote speaker at the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Group in England, the National Conferences on Behavior Analysis in Ireland, Israel, Korea, Norway, and in several states in the United States. He contributed to the development of several schools based entirely on scientific procedures and comprehensive curriculum based assessment in the U.S., Ireland, Sicily, England, and Spain. He is co-author of the book Verbal Behavior Analysis: Inducing and Expanding Verbal Capabilities in Children With Language Delays.

Vocal and Sign Phonemic Verbal Development in Deaf and Formerly Deaf Children

YE WANG (Teachers College, Columbia University)

The identification of verbal developmental cusps and protocols to establish them has utility for children with cochlear implants. The relevant protocols include conditioning voices, listener literacy, various naming interventions, and other protocols that act to join the speaker-as-own-listener within the skin and to establish vocal verbal stimulus control. Using these protocols in conjunction with see and say signs holds promise for advancing the reading achievement of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Ye Wang, Ph.D., is an associate professor and the coordinator for Education of the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing (EDHH) Program in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in the School of Teaching & Learning from The Ohio State University. Her primary research interest is the language and literacy development of students who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. Her other research and scholarly interests include multiple literacies, technology and literacy instruction, inclusive education, research methodology and early childhood education. Dr. Wang has worked with her colleagues to provide Visual Phonics training workshops for teachers in different programs throughout the nation and to investigate the efficacy of utilizing Visual Phonics to supplement reading instruction for a variety of students who may experience difficulties. Dr. Wang has published extensively on the phonological coding of children who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. Her 2006 study, "Implications of Utilizing a Phonics-Based Reading Curriculum With Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing," was the first intervention study that directly taught phonemic awareness and phonics skills to children who are deaf or hard of hearing using Visual Phonics in the U.S.

Establishment of Socially Conditioned Reinforcers

JESSICA SINGER-DUDEK (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Verbal behavior is fundamentally social. Its development requires the establishment not only of verbal operants, but their reinforcers. Without the proper reinforcers, social behavior and subsequent language will not develop. Evidence exists that new reinforcers can be conditioned through social contingencies, that is, by observation. This paper will present an overview of what research has told us about the observational conditioning of new reinforcers, and how it relates to verbal development.

Jessica Singer-Dudek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of education and psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. She lectures in the program in Teaching as Applied Behavior Analysis. She teaches core master's level courses for majors in the Program in Applied Behavior Analysis. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Teaching as Applied Behavior Analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University. She believes that the best teaching practices involve the use of research-based procedures--not the latest fads. Dr. Singer-Dudek hopes to shape the next generation of effective teachers who will investigate and solve problems using the science of behavior, instead of accepting demands to use bad curricula or conform to practices that are not informed by research and student data. She believes good teachers should view a child's educational struggles in the manner that B. F. Skinner did: "The (student) is always right," and it is up to the teacher to figure out the problem and apply scientific tactics to remedy it.

Procedures for Reinforcing Infant Vocalizations and for Preschoolers Learning New Tacts and Spontaneous Mands

MARTHA PELAEZ (Florida International University), Annela Costa (Florida International University), Paulette Martinez (Florida International University)

We report several studies on infants' progression from vocalizations to early verbal operants. Experiment 1 showed infants vocalizations were shaped and maintained by adult echoics. Experiment 2 compared two groups of 3- to 8-month-old infants using a multi-element probe design with a noncontingent reinforcement control condition and two forms of contingent reinforcement. This distinguished between the reinforcing effects of contingent maternal echoics and motherese speech from the eliciting effects of noncontingent vocal stimuli. Experiment 3 tested the effects of an intensive tact protocol on increases in mands and tacts. Collectively, the research shows the importance of social reinforcement on verbal development.

Martha Pelaez is the Frost Professor at Florida International University. Her research is in the areas of mother-infant interactions and infant social learning processes. She has developed intervention protocols for infants at risk of developmental delays published in her book with G. Novak, Child and Adolescent Development: A Behavioral Systems Approach, in a chapter in Rehfeldt & Barnes-Holmes (2009), and in Mayville & Mulick (2011, Eds.), on effective autism treatment. Her theoretical and experimental contributions include a recently revised taxonomy of rules and rule-governed behavior (Pelaez, in press European Journal of Behavior Analysis); a behavior-analytic approach to moral development (Pelaez & Gewirtz, 1995) and the relation between derived relational responding and intelligence (with D. O'Hora & D. Barnes-Holmes, 2005). Dr. Pelaez has published more than 80 refereed articles in mainstream journals including the American Psychologist, the Journal of Child Development, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and Infant Behavior and Development Journal. She has served as program chair for the American Psychological Association Division 25 and past program co-chair for the Association for Behavior Analysis International. She is the founding editor (1990) of the Behavior Development Bulletin and has served on editorial boards including The Behavior Analyst. She was awarded fellowship status by the American Psychological Association (APA) and is a trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavior Studies. Dr. Pelaez also served as a member of the Florida Board of Governors.



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