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 Paper Session #196
CE Offered: BACB

Catchin' 'Em Early: Outcomes for Toddlers With Autism

Sunday, May 24, 2015
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
Grand Ballroom C3 (CC)
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
CE Instructor: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald, Ph.D.
Chair: Jennifer N. Fritz (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
REBECCA P. F. MACDONALD (New England Center for Children)
Dr. Rebecca MacDonald is a licensed psychologist and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, who specializes in the education and treatment of children with autism through her work at the New England Center for Children. For the past 15 years, she served as the director of the Early Intensive Instructional Program providing Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention to the youngest children with an Autism Spectgrum Disorder diagnosis at the center. She has faculty appointments at Simmons College and Western New England University. Dr. MacDonald received her doctorate in developmental and child psychology from the University of Kansas. She regularly presents her research at national and international conferences and has published numerous articles and book chapters focusing on teaching social skills to children with autism. Her work has been supported by both federal (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) and private (Organization for Autism Research) grant sources. She recently served as a federal Department of Education grant reviewer for the "Race to the Top" birth to 5 competitions. Her current research interests include assessing and teaching joint attention, the use of video modeling as a method of instruction for both children and teachers, and measuring clinical outcomes of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention.

It is widely known that Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) can produce large gains in social, cognitive, and language development. Changes in performance are typically measured using norm-referenced standardized assessment tools which produce a score of overall functioning level. During the past 15 years, Dr. Rebecca P. F. MacDonald and colleagues have developed an assessment tool for the direct measurement of autism specific symptomatology. The Early Skills Assessment Tool (ESAT) includes measures of imitation, language, joint attention, play, and stereotypic behavior (MacDonald et al., 2014). In their most recent work, 83 children with autism (CWA), ages 1, 2, and 3 years old and 58 same-aged typically developing children were assessed using the ESAT. CWA were assessed at entry into an EIBI program and again after one year of treatment. While significant gains were seen in all children across all age groups, the greatest gains were seen in the children who entered treatment before their second birthday. Long-term follow up data suggest long lasting gains in these children. These findings underscore the importance autism screening at 12 to 18 months, the critical role of pediatricians in early identification of ASD and the need for high quality EIBI for all identified children.

Keyword(s): autism, early intervention, outcome, toddlers



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