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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #314
Recent Advancements in Evaluating and Improving Social Play Skills
Sunday, May 26, 2024
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 104 AB
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Eliana M. Pizarro (Pizarro Behavior Consulting)
Discussant: Alice Shillingsburg (Munroe-Meyer Institute, UNMC)
Abstract: Supporting the development of social play skills may afford several benefits, especially for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The occurrence of adaptive social behaviors may ensure children can access learning opportunities that others mediate as well as reinforcers that they cannot obtain independently. A great deal of research has focused on developing methods of evaluating and improving social play skills and this symposium presents recent advancements in this area of research. The first talk presents a descriptive analysis of social interactions between preschool children, the second talk presents an evaluation of variability in social play behaviors exhibited by staff providing behavior analytic services, the third talk prevents an analysis of correspondence between social time allocation with adults versus peers, and the fourth talk prevents an evaluation of different methods for improving social play behaviors and altering the function of social stimuli. Taken together, this symposium has several important implications for future research and clinical practice related to assessing and improving social play.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): behavioral assessment, play skills, social interaction, social reinforcement
Exploring Social Operants: A Descriptive Analysis of Preschool Social Interactions
CIARA GUNNING (University of Galway), Jennifer Halloway (All Special Kids (ASK) )
Abstract: Supporting social competence in early childhood is associated with the development of friendships, positive outcomes across developmental domains, and preventing challenges in later life. As such, social skills interventions remain prevalent within research and practice in applied behaviour analysis. However, identifying and selecting target social skills that are likely to be functional within a child’s environment is repeatedly identified as a complex challenge within such work. In the current research, descriptive analysis was employed within the preschool context, to identify common social skills that neurotypical preschool children engage in, within naturally occurring social exchanges. Environmental variables potentially correlated with social behavior within the preschool context were analyzed. An analysis of the social antecedents and consequences for social behavior was also conducted. Specific social behaviors that are likely to be functional and developmentally appropriate within the preschool context were identified. These results will be discussed within the context of developing social skills interventions for early educational settings. In addition, the potential utility of descriptive analyses of prosocial behaviour will be explored.
An Analysis of Variability of Staff Play
MADISON MAJESKI-GERKEN (University of North Texas), Joseph D. Dracobly (University of North Texas), Darshini Deutsch (University of North Texas), Misa Barrera (University of North Texas), Julianne Marie Olivieri (University of North Texas)
Abstract: In behavior analytic research and clinical practice, creativity has been examined as variability in responding. This is an especially important topic for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who are more likely to engage in restricted, repetitive patterns of responding. Previous researchers have evaluated several antecedent (e.g., prompting; Carroll & Kodak, 2015) and consequent strategies (e.g., lag schedules; Radley et al., 2017) to increase response variability across a variety of socially significant responses. One area receiving little attention is the behavior of staff, who may serve as models, particularly in play contexts. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to assess variability of staff play with children receiving behavior analytic services. During sessions, we asked participants to play with the items, with a variety of children, and measured several response dimensions, including variable and novel item selections and interactions. Overall, we found that differences in variable and novel item selections and interactions both within participants and across playsets, suggesting a dynamic interaction between materials and variable responding rather than a specific staff or playlet effects. We will discuss implications of these results, including procedures for altering the variability of staff play behavior, with a focus on improving client outcomes.

Correspondence Between Assessments of Sociability Conducted With Adults Versus Peers

CELESTE TEVIS (Louisiana State University), Samuel L Morris (Louisiana State University), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in social interaction and corresponding behavioral differences. Assessments of sociability (e.g., Call et al., 2013; Morris & Vollmer, 2021) are one recently developed method of evaluating the function of social interaction. To date, these assessments have all recorded social time allocation relative to an adult who delivers generic social interactions to characterize participants as social, indifferent, or avoidant. It remains unclear whether such assessments may provide any meaningful information about how participants allocate their time with their peers. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to evaluate the degree of correspondence between assessments of sociability conducted with adults versus peers. We employed a multielement design to evaluate correspondence in assessment results across one adult and three peers. Results suggest that social time allocation and the relative likelihood of approach versus avoidance responses are positively correlated across adults versus peers, especially when accounting for variability in peer behaviors. Implications of these findings for future research and clinical practice related to assessing and improving sociability are discussed.

Evaluating and Improving the Function of Generic Social Interactions
PIERCE TAYLOR (Louisiana State University), Celeste Tevis (Louisiana State University), Samuel L Morris (Louisiana State University)
Abstract: Generic social interactions (e.g., praise) are ubiquitous consequences in the natural environment. Thus, the extent to which such interactions are effective in facilitating behavior change or supporting existing appropriate behaviors is important to consider. This may be especially important for children with autism, who are characterized by a lack of interest in social interaction and corresponding behavioral differences. The purpose of this study was to evaluate methods of improving the function of generic social interactions. To date, we have recruited three children with autism who displayed indifference to social interaction during an assessment of sociability (Morris & Vollmer, 2021). Next, we conducted progressive-ratio analyses to evaluate the relative amount of responding maintained by access to independent play versus play with generic social interactions. Then, we conducted response-contingent stimulus pairing followed by second-order schedule thinning with the aim of improving the function of social interaction prior to returning to the progressive-ratio analyses. Data collection is still ongoing, but results will have theoretical and practical implications for future research and clinical practice related to conditioning social reinforcers.



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