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.


11th International Conference; Dublin, Ireland; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #22
CE Offered: BACB
Applications of Behavior Analysis to Verbal Behavior
Friday, September 2, 2022
10:30 AM–11:20 AM
Meeting Level 1: Liffey B
Area: VRB/CSS; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: April N. Kisamore (Hunter College)
CE Instructor: April N. Kisamore, Ph.D.

This symposium includes one empirical evaluation and two review papers that explore real-world applications of the behavioral science of language among diverse populations. First, Goodwyn, DeBar, Kisamore, Reeve, and Deshais will present a two-part study assessing blocking and overshadowing during the acquisition of compound auditory stimuli with typically developing adults. Next, Rasuratnam and Zonneveld will present a literature review examining the current status of the literature as it pertains to behavioral interventions (e.g., contingency management, systematic prompt fading) for the treatment of selective mutism. Finally, Vance, Kisamore, Bartasheva, Schnell, and Reeve will present a literature review of strategies to teach speaker and listener gestures to individuals with autism spectrum disorder. In doing so, the authors will propose a novel definition of gestures that is consistent with Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior. The results of each will be discussed within the context of limitations and implications for future research and clinical applications.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): "blocking", "gestures", "overshadowing", "selective mutism"
Target Audience:

Behavior Analysts

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe the implications of blocking and overshadowing on the acquisition of compound auditory stimuli, (2) Describe various behavioral interventions to treat selective mutism; and (3) Describe a novel behavioral definition of gestures that can be used to identify methods to teach speaker and listener gestures to individuals with ASD.

Assessment of Blocking and Overshadowing With Compound Auditory Stimuli: Are All Components Equal?

LAUREN ALICIA GOODWYN (Seton Hall University), Ruth M. DeBar (Caldwell University), April N. Kisamore (Hunter College), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University), Meghan Deshais (Rutgers University)

Blocking and overshadowing may have implications on the development of stimulus control when teaching language, specifically intraverbals. Blocking and overshadowing were assessed during acquisition of compound auditory stimuli with typically developing adults across two studies. Study one evaluated whether trained components blocked stimulus control of untrained components and whether component length (i.e., 1-syllable, 5-syllable) affected the development of overshadowing. During the blocking evaluation, participants responded more accurately to trained components than untrained components, suggesting blocking occurred. During the overshadowing evaluation, participants responded more accurately to 1-syllable compared to 5-syllable components, suggesting overshadowing occurred. Study two evaluated whether component position (i.e., first, second) affected the development of overshadowing and whether history (i.e., prior-exposure components) with components blocked stimulus control of untrained components. During Study two, participants responded accurately to components depending on their position within the compound, but no consistent patterns were observed. In addition, some participants responded more accurately to prior-exposure components while others responded more accurately to untrained components. Overall, both studies demonstrated the development of restricted stimulus control while training intraverbals. Implications on how different component variables impact the development of blocking and overshadowing are discussed along with areas of future research.

Behavioral Interventions for Selective Mutism: A Review
NIRUBA RASURATNAM (Brock University), Kimberley L. M. Zonneveld (Brock University)
Abstract: Selective mutism (SM) is characterized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as the consistent failure to speak in specific social situations (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). There are several treatment approaches present in the literature for the treatment of SM including pharmacological, psychodynamic, cognitive, family systems, behavioral, and multimodal (Cohan et al., 2006). Within the scope of behavioral interventions, the individual typically remains mute as a function of attention or escape from anxious feelings (Cohan et al., 2006). The behavioral interventions typically combine strategies such as contingency management (Amari et al., 1999; Griffith et al.,1975), graduated exposure/systematic desensitization (Ale et al., 2013; Carbajal, 2016), intensive exposure (Bunnell & Beidel, 2013), systematic prompt fading (Beare et al., 2008), self-modeling (Blum et al., 1998; Kehle et al., 1990), role-playing (Fisak et al., 2006; Lang et al., 2011), social skills training (Rye & Ullman, 1999), prompting and practice opportunities (Howe & Barnett, 2013; Vecchio & Kearney, 2009), and Social Effectiveness Therapy (SET; Bunnell & Beidel, 2013; Fisak et al., 2006). This talk will examine the current literature regarding behavioral intervention evaluations as the primary approach to treat selective mutism and provide directions for future research.
Gestures: The Forgotten Verbal Behavior
ALEXIS SHARON VANCE (Hunter College), April N. Kisamore (Hunter College), Ganna Bartasheva (Hunter College), Lauren K. Schnell (Hunter College), Sharon A. Reeve (Caldwell University)
Abstract: Although gestures are essential in effective verbal behavior, they have received little attention in behavior-analytic research; specifically in interventions targeting acquisition of gestures by individuals with autism spectrum disorder. One likely reason for this is that there does not appear to be a clear behavior analytic conceptualization of gestures that is consistent with a behavior analytic account. To address this limitation, we propose a definition of gestures that is consistent with the science of behavior analysis. Using Skinner’s conceptual paradigm of verbal behavior, we also propose a definition of gestures as forms of non-vocal verbal behavior that are effective in (a) altering the behavior of and reinforced through the mediation of the listener, (b) culturally determined and indispensable for effective communication in a given verbal community, and (c) that can perform some of the same functions as vocal verbal operants (i.e., can serve as tacts, mands, intraverbals, and autoclitics). We further distinguish between speaker and listener gestures. Using these proposed definitions, we present an overview of research on teaching speaker and listener gestures to individuals with ASD with an emphasis on the methods used to teach these skills, procedures used to program for an assess generalization and maintenance, and strategies for assessing social validity of these interventions. We also suggest areas for future research.



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