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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #459
CE Offered: BACB
Minimizing the Research to Practice Gap in Autism Treatment Research
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
305 (TCC)
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Discussant: MendyAnn B. Minjarez (Seattle Children's Hospital)
CE Instructor: Alissa Greenberg, Ph.D.

As researchers in applied behavior analysis, it is our responsibility to ensure that our research findings have implications beyond the laboratory. The presentations included in this symposium demonstrate how investigations of behaviorally based interventions can be conducted to result in findings of maximal utility. Methodologies include choosing socially valid target behaviors, using parents as trainers, and evaluating an intervention's effectiveness in real-world settings. The first study used a multiple baseline design across children to teach three children with autism to play competitive group games to increase their group play in natural settings such as recess. The second study investigated the effectiveness of using parents (n = 6) to implement a script intervention aimed at increasing their children's conversation skills. Lastly, in the third study, an effectiveness research model was applied to the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Parents (n = 81) and teachers (n = 63) completed surveys assessing their children's PECS training and PECS use, their own attitudes toward PECS, and the identification of moderators of PECS effectiveness. These3 presentations demonstrate the various ways in which researchers can, and should, assume an active role in decreasing the research-to-practice gap in the field of autism.

Keyword(s): research-to-practice gap, treatment research

Teaching Competitive Group Play to Children With Autism

CATHERINE ANNE MILTENBERGER (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)

Researchers can enhance the applicability of their research findings to applied settings by choosing relevant target behaviors. One such behavior includes the ability to play age-appropriate recess games, a skill that is often lacking in children with autism. In the present study, a multiple baseline design was used to teach3 children with autism to play competitive group games (e.g., handball and 4-square). Treatment was composed of2 phases designed to teach the children the athletic skills and rules required to play the targeted games. Generalization probes were taken at the children's schools during recess. All of the children mastered the targeted athletic skills when assessed one-on-one with the trainer. Mastering the athletic skills and rules training effectively increased the children's group play at their treatment center and during maintenance probes taken 10 to 12 weeks post intervention. Higher levels of group play were also accompanied by increased speech. Unfortunately, the increased group play did not generalize to school recess. These findings highlight the need to examine the extent to which interventions that are effective in research settings are accompanied by the desired behavior changes in children's natural environments.


Teaching Conversation to Children With Autism: A Parent-implemented Script Procedure

MELAURA ANDREE ERI TOMAINO (Center for Autism Research, Evaluation, and Service)

While children with autism demonstrate a deficit in communication and conversational skills (Kanner, 1943), few studies have been conducted that teach this population to engage in an entire "to and fro" conversation (Charlop & Milstein, 1989). The present study utilized a multiple baseline design across participants to evaluate the effectiveness of a collaborative parent-training program. The parent-training program focused on teaching parents to implement scripts to teach their children with autism to engage in a reciprocal conversation. A collaborative approach was used to enhance the contextual fit of the intervention, increase parent motivation during intervention, and ensure clinical significance. Results indicated that all6 children showed increases in conversational speech during scripted conversations. Additionally,5 children generalized the skill across conversational topic. Findings also demonstrated generalization across people and setting. Ancillary benefits included decreases in parent stress, depression, and concern regarding their child's conversational speech. Results are discussed in terms of the value of a collaborative approach to parent education by viewing parents as experts on their children. Further, using parents as interventionists promotes generalization and maintenance of the target skill, demonstrating the applicability of this treatment approach to real life situations.


Applying an Effectiveness Research Model to the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

ALISSA GREENBERG (Nationwide Children's Hospital)

Although the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is widely used to teach communication to nonverbal persons with autism, most of the research on this intervention focuses on its outcomes under tightly controlled conditions (i.e., efficacy research). The present study applied a 4-part effectiveness research model, including (1) program evaluation, (2) social validation, (3) identification of moderators, and (4) collaboration with consumers, to PECS. Surveys assessing children's PECS training and PECS use, adult attitudes toward PECS, and the moderators of PECS effectiveness were widely distributed to parents (n = 81) and teachers (n = 63). Findings demonstrated that PECS training fidelity did not meet the guidelines outlined in the PECS Training Manual (Frost & Bondy, 2002). Further, many children were not using PECS as it was intended (i.e., as a form of generalized spontaneous communication). Despite these mediocre outcomes, participants still demonstrated generally favorable attitudes toward PECS. Analyses also revealed the role that adult variables (e.g., involvement in PECS programs, social validity) played in moderating children's PECS outcomes. These results have direct implications for optimizing PECS outcomes. Further, the study offers support for an effectiveness research model that can be applied to other areas of autism intervention in an effort to decrease the research-to-practice gap.




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