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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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #213
Words Are Not Enough: Intervention Strategies That Promote Social Attention and Interaction in Autistic Children
Sunday, May 26, 2024
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon H
Area: VRB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Alice Shillingsburg (Munroe-Meyer Institute, UNMC)
CE Instructor: Alice Shillingsburg, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: PAMELA ROLLINS (University of Texas at Dallas)

Current theories suggest that mechanisms for language development change over the course of infancy and early childhood. In neurotypical infants, initial perceptual processing mechanisms essential for word learning give way to more advanced social strategies critical for the development of social language. Language intervention for autistic children often leverages perceptual processing by creating an association between a referent (i.e., object or picture) and the corresponding word, thereby promoting word learning. However, this intervention strategy often fail to facilitate social language needed to share information and for interpersonal communication. Recent research suggests that naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions (NDBIs) that encourage early dyadic social interactions may stimulate the social brain networks, thereby improving fundamental social attention (i.e., social orienting and joint attention) and social language in young autistic children. This presentation will discuss the theoretical underpinnings of these claims, emphasize the importance of social language as an intervention outcome, and provide empirical evidence supporting the efficacy of NDBI approaches in promoting social attention and reciprocal social language development in young autistic children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Interventionists who work with young autistic children

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe different mechanisms for word learning and how they change from infancy to early childhood for neurotypical children; (2) describe the developmental sequence of early social attention and social communication in neurotypical infants and toddlers; (3) describe the nature of early social attention and social communication challenges seen in autistic children and the implications for intervention; (4) describe the role social attention plays in social language development.
PAMELA ROLLINS (University of Texas at Dallas)
Rollins, MS, Ed.D. CCC-SLP, is a Professor in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas/Callier Center for Communication Disorders. Dr. Rollins obtained a bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Boston University (1981), a Master of Science in Communication Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1983), and a Doctorate of Education in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University (1994). Dr. Rollins's research uses behavioral paradigms to understand the dynamics of infant/child social interactions and social experiences as predictors of social attention, communication, and language development. Dr. Rollins extends this work to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), charting developmental trajectories. Her current focus is on the experimental-intervention studies of the relationship between social-orienting, joint attention, and language, and the efficacy of Pathways Early Autism Intervention in culturally and linguistically diverse autistic children and their families.



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