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 #425
CE Offered: BACB
Developments in the Use of Behavioral Strategies to Improve Infant Language Development
Monday, May 27, 2024
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 104 AB
Area: DDA/VRB; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Stephanie Bendush (Endicott College)
Discussant: Carolyn Crysdale (Endicott College)
CE Instructor: Carolyn Crysdale, M.S.
Abstract: Caregiver practices impacting infant vocal behavior are significantly related to individual outcomes in language development and have been a focus of behavioral research for numerous years. This domain also has implications for public health outcomes as the effects of successful language interventions at younger ages go well beyond the direct benefit to the individual. Successful earlier language intervention can have powerful impacts such as reducing the need for costly interventions later in life, reducing parental stress over the course of childhood, and reallocation of resources for public health needs. Research within this area has studied intervention effectiveness in increasing the rate and quality of infant speech in various populations. These populations have included typically developing infants, increased likelihood of disabilities populations (including younger siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder), and infants with Down syndrome. This symposium will review two recent studies researching caregiver interactions with infants. The first study implemented procedures with typically developing infants and the second study demonstrated the effectiveness of caregiver training on increasing vocalizations in infants with Down syndrome. The symposium will end with a discussion of clinical implications and future directions for research within this area.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): down syndrome, infant, language development, vocal imitation
Target Audience: Necessary prerequisite skills include training in verbal behavior, training in verbal operants and background or training in parent training procedures.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1. Attendees will be able to describe caregiver training procedures, such as contingent vocal imitation (CVI) and motherese speech, related to vocal imitation. 2. Attendees will be able to describe the impact of parent training procedures on vocalizations and verbal behavior. 3. Attendees will discuss the potential impact of vocal imitation procedures on language development as a whole.
Training Parents of Infants to Use Contingent Vocal Imitation: A Behavioral Contribution to Responsive Caregiving Practices
JILL HICKEY (Endicott College), Regina Symons (Endicott College), Chante Glick (Endicott College), Carolyn Crysdale (Endicott College), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Justin B. Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation)
Abstract: Responsive caregiving practices have been included in goals set by global public health organizations (e.g., World Health Organization, UNICEF) as a means of providing a nurturing environment for infants to support their development. Interventions that include responsive caregiving components have been found to have a positive effect on early childhood development and parenting outcomes on a global scale. Behavioral research in the area of infant language development has identified specific caregiver responses that positively influence infants’ early vocal behavior, including the use of contingent vocal imitation (CVI). However, to date, there has been limited research on training caregivers to use this strategy with their infants in their natural environments. The present study used a pre-test, post-test randomized control group design, including 24 parent-infant dyads, to evaluate the effectiveness of an asynchronous online training activity utilizing the Cool versus Not Cool™ procedure to teach parents to use contingent vocal imitation when interacting with their infants in their homes. Statistical analyses indicated significant changes in parent use of CVI, with a large effect size. This intervention offers an efficient training model with the potential for wide-scale dissemination of responsive caregiving strategies to support infant language development.

Look Who’s Talking: Increasing Babbling Through Caregiver Training With Infants With Down Syndrome

EILIS O'CONNELL-SUSSMAN (Endicott College), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Kathleen Feeley (Long Island University)

A behavioral phenotype for individuals with Down syndrome has highlighted strengths and weaknesses related to communication repertoires that can inform the intervention strategies and skillsets addressed within an early intervention framework. Drawing upon weaknesses, salient targets for communication development can be pinpointed while capitalizing on phenotypic strengths, such as social skill development, in the use of reinforcement contingencies. Individuals with Down syndrome have relative weaknesses within communication that begin in infancy. Particularly, infants with Down syndrome tend to generate more nonspeech sounds and show delayed onset of canonical babbling (i.e., repeating consonant-vowel combinations. This study worked with five infants with Down syndrome and their mothers to determine types of interactions that can increase canonical babbling. Previous findings were replicated on the success of operant conditioning with infants to increase infant vocalizations. Expansion of prior work was done by examining the bidirectional relationship between infant and caregiver interactions and to evaluate if the caregiver’s use of one contingent response increases related to infant responses.




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