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.


12th Annual Autism Conference; Miami, FL; 2018

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #14

Baby Siblings of Children With Autism: Early Behavior-Analytic Interventions With Infants "At Risk"

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Regency Ballroom
Area: AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Martha Pelaez, Ph.D.
Chair: Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)
MARTHA PELAEZ (Florida International University)
Martha Pelaez is a Frost Professor at the College of Education, Florida International University. She has studied mother-infant interactions, infant social learning processes, and behavior-analytic interventions with infants at risk. Her research has been supported by NIH grants. She is the founding Editor of the Behavior Development Bulletin and her theoretical contributions have included a taxonomy of rule-governed behavior and a textbook on child development (with G. Novak, 2004). Dr. Pelaez has published more than 100 articles in refereed journals (including The American Psychologist and the journal of Child Development) and several monographs. She was the recipient from FIU of the Faculty Research Award twice and the Faculty Service Award, and past member of the Florida Board of Governors.

The behavior of young siblings of children with autism has been documented extensively in controlled longitudinal studies using large samples. Language and communicative abilities have been compared between non-autistic siblings and toddlers with no family history of autism. Between the ages 18-27 months the siblings of children with autism have scored below average in expressive language and composite IQ, showed lower mean receptive language, adaptive behavior, and social communication skills, used fewer words, gestures, and were less responsive to social smiles than the comparison toddlers. Infants siblings of children with ASD often show difficulties learning joint attention and referential communication. These findings suggest that infant difficulties with nonverbal communication can predict later language development problems. At an early age, the behavior of non-autistic siblings we should monitored closely and behavioral interventions should be implemented early in development to minimize some of these issues. This presentation will illustrate several procedures that use behavioral principles and single-subject designs with infants at-risk of early communication impairments. Specifically, the presentation will provide examples of behavior-analytic interventions that are useful to establish infant eye contact, vocalizations, joint attention, and social referencing skills.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts, licensed psychologists, graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) list behavioral difficulties that infant siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often show, in particular, in learning communication skills like joint attention and social referencing; (2) describe behavior-analytic controlled procedures that use single-subject design and implement operant principles early in development to study these infant skill deficits in social behavior and communication; (3) provide examples of useful behavior-analytic interventions with “at risk” infants to establish infant eye contact, vocalizations, imitation, joint attention, and social referencing skills.



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