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 #463
Simple to Complex: Applying Relational Frame Theory to Promote Generalized Language in Children
Monday, May 27, 2024
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 105 AB
Area: VRB/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Elle Kirsten (Compassionate Behavior Analysis, PLLC)
Discussant: Maithri Sivaraman (Teachers College of Columbia University)
CE Instructor: Elle Kirsten, Ph.D.

Contemporary approaches to language instruction acknowledge the value of contextualized and generative learning. Specifically, the manner in which instruction is provided (e.g., context-specific cues, exemplars used) determines the extent to which generalized outcomes can be expected and desired skills occur only under relevant circumstances. Relational Frame Theory (RFT) is a contextual behavioral account that offers a framework to teach relational responses under the control of contextual cues to produce generative language. This symposium will present two applications of RFT in (a) oddity, a foundational skill, and (b) increasingly complex relational responses including deictics and analogy. The authors of paper 1 will describe applying multiple exemplar training to teach three children to respond in accordance with the contextual cues “same” and “different” by selecting identical and nonidentical stimuli respectively. They will highlight specific procedural aspects to promote stimulus and response generalization. The authors of study 2 will present data on using the relational evaluation procedure and multiple exemplar training to teach increasingly complex derived relational responding across various frames, including comparison, analogy, and deictics (perspective-taking). Finally, Maithri Sivaraman will discuss the scope of these RFT-based training programs and review considerations to promote flexibility in derived relational responding.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Curriculum, RFT
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe why it is necessary to implement RFT-based language interventions for teaching arbitrary relations; (2) Describe nonarbitrary and arbitrary relational responding; (3) Describe the training sequence for teaching derived relations.

Establishing Nonarbitrary Frames of Coordination and Distinction in Children With Language Delays

PRIYANKA BHABU (Association for Behavior Analysis of India), Maithri Sivaraman (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Identifying similarities and differences between stimuli has been widely recognized as an important skill in early childhood development. This skill has held a prominent place in preschool academic curricula, and early intervention programs rightfully place an emphasis on identity matching in young children. However, previous research with children with developmental disabilities has shown that those with generalized identity matching do not always demonstrate oddity responding. Teaching children to identify identical and nonidentical stimuli along concrete physical dimensions is a key foundation to more complex relational responding involving abstract stimuli. Three young children with language delays enrolled in an ABA centre in India participated in the study. During baseline, all three children always selected identical pictures irrespective of whether the contextual cue presented was “same”, “different”, or a nonsensical cue “blah blah”. We conducted conditional discrimination training across multiple exemplars and found that the intervention was effective. All three children matched identical and nonidentical stimuli based on relevant contextual cues, and did not select any stimulus when the nonsensical cue was presented. These responses transferred to untrained stimuli and were maintained over time. The authors will discuss practical considerations to teach identity matching and oddity responding in early intervention programs.


Applications of Derived Relational Responding: Relational Frame Theory-Based Interventions for Teaching Functional and Meaningful Language

ELLE KIRSTEN (Compassionate Behavior Analysis, PLLC)

Relational Frame Theory (RFT) has shown that arbitrarily derived relational responding (ADRR) is operant behavior, and that teaching ADRR produces flexible, functional, and meaningful language development in children with language delays. Furthermore, RFT sees operant acquisition of various patterns of relational framing as crucial to cognitive and linguistic development, and it has explored the emergence of a range of psychological phenomena (e.g., analogy, perspective-taking) in these terms. This talk examines a novel, RFT-based curriculum using the relational evaluation procedure and multiple exemplar training to teach increasingly complex derived relational responding across various frames, including comparison, analogy, and deictics (perspective-taking). Participants included 8- to 15-year-old autistic children who did not demonstrate arbitrary relational responding at intake. All participants successfully generated derived relational responses across frames and levels of complexity. Protocol training sequences from nonarbitrary to arbitrary relations will be described, and data showing the efficacy of the RFT-based language intervention will be shared.




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