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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #175
CE Offered: BACB
Technological Advancements in Stimulus Preference Assessments in Individuals With Autism
Sunday, May 28, 2017
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 3C
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: SoYeon Kim (Purdue University)
Discussant: Richard B. Graff (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Lyndsay Nix, M.S.

Stimulus preference assessments (SPA) afford opportunities for instructors to identify reinforcers in behavioral acquisition and reduction programs, and they also provide opportunities to improve decision-making and autonomy in individuals with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. Recent attention has been paid to extending the utility of SPAs in the treatment of challenging behavior, to assess preference for complex stimuli, and to further inform the underlying behavioral mechanisms that make SPAs effective. This symposium highlights such a movement, featuring research from the three above areas. First, this presentation will discuss a methodological evaluation that aims to identify a brief, yet reliable free-operant format for tangibly-maintained problem behavior. Next, two studies will discuss the results of efforts to extend the utility of preference assessments that assess preference for complex stimuli, such as social interactions and electronic applications embedded within an iPad. The final study will discuss recent advancements of video-based preference assessments and an evaluation of the potential behavioral mechanisms that may make them effective.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): autism, preference assessment, reinforcer assessment
Further Evaluation of Brief Preference Assessments and Implications on Problem Behavior
CASEY J. CLAY (University of Missouri), Anne Clohisy (Doyle) (Thompson Center for Autism), Courtney Jorgenson (University of Missouri), Anna Hogg (Thompson Center for Autism), Nicole Schroeder (University of Missouri), Brittany Schmitz (University of Missouri), Ali Ball (University of Missouri), SungWoo Kahng (University of Missouri)
Abstract: Previous research has shown commonly used preference assessments are prone to evoking tangibly-maintained problem behavior (i.e., paired-stimulus, multiple-stimulus, and free-operant [FO]). Of these, the FO has been shown to be correlated with the lowest amounts of problem behavior. However, studies have reported problem behavior still occurring in the FO. Overall frequencies of problem behavior might be affected by time spent in assessment, due to exposure to procedures. The purpose of the current study was to examine frequencies of problem behavior across 1- min, 2-min, and 5-min FO sessions to identify the briefest duration that would lead to reliable and predictive results for individuals with tangibly-maintained problem behavior. Rank-order correlations were calculated across session durations, and a reinforcer assessment was conducted with the item identified as most preferred. Six participants with autism are participating the study. To date, we have found lower overall frequencies of problem behavior in the shorter duration sessions. Also, we found shorter FO sessions correlate with results of longer FO sessions. Furthermore, the highest preferred item also served as a reinforcer. This suggests 1-min FO sessions may be the most appropriate choice of preference assessment for individuals who engage in problem behavior maintained by tangible items

An Evaluation of a Stimulus Preference Assessment of iPad Applications for Young Children With Autism

LYNDSAY NIX (Utah State University), Thomas S. Higbee (Utah State University)

Previous researchers have conducted preference assessment studies using different types of stimuli (e.g., edibles, tangibles, music) to identify reinforcers for individuals with disabilities. This study investigates the ability of paired-stimulus preference assessment techniques to assess the potential reinforcing effectiveness of iPad applications (apps) on the academic behavior of preschoolers with autism. This study yielded a preference hierarchy for each participant among the iPad apps. Participants responding increased upon implementation of the low-preferred app. When accessing the high-preferred app as reinforcement, participants generally engaged in a higher rate of responding. These results show that a paired-stimulus preference assessment can be used to rank preference of iPad apps, and therefore identify which apps are high-preferred and low-preferred. Findings also add to the research in showing that high-preferred stimuli are more effective because they increase rates of responding. This study provides many possibilities for conducting future research involving preference of technological stimuli.

Identifying Preferred Social Interactions Using a Structured Interview and Preference Assessment
SARAH J. PASTRANA (University of British Columbia), Laura L. Grow (California State University, Fresno), Tyla M. Frewing (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: Identifying preferred stimuli for inclusion in reinforcer systems is a critical feature of instructional planning for learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. In the current study, we extended the literature on stimulus preference assessments by (a) developing a structured interview to help caregivers identify potential social reinforcers for inclusion in a preference assessment; and (b) evaluating whether video-based preference assessments would produce similar preference hierarchies to photo-based preference assessments for social interactions. Five boys with ASD ranging from 4- to 14-years old participated in the study. Using our interview, caregivers identified social interactions that were highly ranked in subsequent preference assessments. The correlation between video- and photo-based preference assessment selection percentages was statistically significant, and both

Expanding Choices for Children With Autism Through Video-Based Preference Assessments

Matthew T. Brodhead (Michigan State University), SOYEON KIM (Purdue University), Mandy J. Rispoli (Purdue University)

Video-based preference assessments with children with autism allow instructors to capture the visual features of stimuli (e.g., the active movement of a toy), a luxury not afforded by preference assessments conducted in pictorial format. Video-based preference assessments also allow instructors to mitigate the inherent constraint of presenting multiple large or complex stimuli at once and assess preference for protracted events. This presentation will describe three studies that evaluated video-based preference assessments that demonstrated that contingent access to chosen stimuli may not be necessary. The first study will describe initial findings of how video-based preference assessments without access to selected stimuli may accurately predict preference. The second study will discuss the utility of video-based preference assessments in assessing preference for novel stimuli. The third study will discuss results from a study that systematically examines the behavioral mechanisms responsible for the success of video-based preference assessments, when access to selected stimuli is not provided.




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