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.


37th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2011

Event Details

Previous Page


Invited Tutorial #430
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Autism as a Social Learning Disorder: From Research and Practice to Interpretation
Monday, May 30, 2011
2:30 PM–3:20 PM
Four Seasons 4 (Convention Center)
Area: AUT/TPC; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
PSY/BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: William Ahearn, Ph.D.
Chair: Jeffrey H. Tiger (Louisiana State University)
Presenting Authors: : WILLIAM H. AHEARN (New England Center for Children)

Research into the behavioral characteristics of autism has revealed evidence that this disorder represents a unique form of social learning deficit. Children with autism typically have communicative and social deficits and investigations have detailed how early these deficits appear. At 6 months of age, distinct differences are apparent in the nature of stimuli that are salient to children who will subsequently be diagnosed with autism. This tutorial will review research into early markers of social impairment in individuals with autism. Some of the topics discussed will include attention, joint attention, and social interaction. A review of teaching procedures for establishing these critical social responses will follow. During this review some of the challenges that clinicians face in not only producing and maintaining these skills but in fostering generalization of them will be discussed. Then a conceptual analysis of these social deficits will be presented to coalesce research findings, both structural and functional in nature, into an interpretation of autism as a social learning disorder. The purpose of this interpretation will be to highlight the most pressing matters faced by clinicians in designing effective instruction in social behavior while offering some possible solutions to these challenges.

WILLIAM H. AHEARN (New England Center for Children)
Bill Ahearn, Ph.D., BCBA-D, joined The New England Center for Children in August 1996, and currently serves at NECC as the Director of Research. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in Northeastern University�s Master's program in Applied Behavior Analysis and Adjunct Faculty in Western New England College's doctoral program. Bill was named the 2009 American Psychological Association - Division 25 awardee for Enduring Contributions to Applied Behavioral Research. Bill is the ACE coordinator for providing BCBA continuing education at NECC and for the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy. He also serves on the Autism Advisory Committees for the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts and the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. Bill�s research interests include social skills in children with autism, verbal behavior, assessment and treatment of stereotypy, severe problem behavior, and pediatric feeding difficulties. He is also interested in resistance to change, behavioral economics, and conditioned reinforcement. His work has been published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Behavioral Interventions, Behavior Modification, The Lancet, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and has written book chapters on teaching children with autism and pediatric feeding problems in children with autism. Bill is currently on the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, and Behavioral Interventions and has served as a guest reviewer for several other journals. He has also been Principal Investigator on an NIH-funded grant with Dr. William Dube, is funded through by the Organization for Autism Research along with Dr. Becky MacDonald, and is a past-President of the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh