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 #49
CE Offered: BACB
Increasing Early Vocalizations of Nonverbal Children Diagnosed With Autism
Saturday, May 26, 2012
2:30 PM–3:50 PM
305 (TCC)
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University)
Discussant: Tracie L. Lindblad (Four Points Intervention Strategies, Inc.)
CE Instructor: Anna I. Petursdottir, Ph.D.

In early behavioral intervention for young children diagnosed with autism, attempts are typically made to establish vocal communication before considering alternative or augmentative communication systems. However, efforts to establish functional vocal speech may be complicated by the absence of various prerequisites; for example, in the case of children who do not have an echoic repertoire and perhaps display a low frequency and limited variability of vocalizations. In this symposium, we will present2 empirical studies that evaluated procedures for expanding the phonemic repertoires of nonverbal children diagnosed with autism. In addition, a novel procedure for inducing early echoic responding will be introduced and illustrated with data and video recordings.

Keyword(s): echoic behavior, lag schedules, stimulus-stimulus pairing, vocalizations

A Comparison of Discrimination Training and Stimulus-Stimulus Pairing for Increasing Vocalizations of Children with Autism

TRACY L. LEPPER (Texas Christian University), Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University)

This study sought to compare the effects of a stimulus-stimulus pairing procedure (SSP) and an operant discrimination training (ODT) procedure on target vocalizations of 3 preschool aged boys with autism, as well as to identify individual preference for each procedure. During SSP, auditory stimuli were presented in a manner that reliably predicted the delivery of a preferred stimulus. During ODT, auditory stimuli were presented in a manner that signaled the availability of reinforcement for engaging in an arbitrarily selected response. A control condition was also included that involved presenting auditory stimuli explicitly unpaired with the delivery of the preferred item. The procedure preference evaluation involved selecting color cards that were used as discrimination aids during the experimental procedures from a multiple stimulus array. Each selection led to 4 trials of the procedure associated with the color selected. Preliminary results indicate that both procedures were effective for increasing the target vocalizations in 3 out of 4 completed cases, and that for the only participant to complete the procedure to date, the preference evaluation suggested that ODT was preferred.


Effects of Variability Contingencies on the Phonemic Repertoire of Young Children with Autism

ALLISON SERRA TETREAULT (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Steven Thompson (West Virginia University)

Young children with autism sometimes do not use words to communicate, but do engage in vocal stereotypy. If vocal stereotypy is characterized by the use of a small set of phonemes (i.e., basic sound units), shaping words can be difficult. Several interventions, including stimulus-stimulus pairing and echoic training, have been evaluated to address this problem but with limited success. The current study investigates the effects of reinforcement for variability on the phonemic repertoires of young children with autism who engage in limited vocalizations. Five participants were exposed to lag reinforcement for producing varied vocalizations. Increases in number of phonemes occurred as the restrictiveness of the reinforcement schedule (i.e., the lag value) was manipulated. This expansion of the repertoire occurred even when the overall percentage of novel vocalizations per session did not increase. Smaller increases in repertoire size were noted for participants with larger baseline repertoires. The clinical utility of this procedure will be addressed.


Inducing Echoic Responses in Non-verbal Children: Echoic Extension, Another Strategy that May Work

GLADYS WILLIAMS (CIEL, Spain), Manuela Fernandez Vuelta (CIEL, Argentina), Belen Gomez Verdugo (CIEL, Mexico), Jose Julio Carnerero (Centro Al-Mudaris)

The foundation to emit vocal verbal operants is the presence of echoic repertoire. Without this ability one cannot acquire vocal verbal behavior. Some children with language delays may need to be taught this ability in a very specific manner and many of them learn it with procedures that have already been proven effective (e.g., behavioral momentum, automatic reinforcement). However, there are children who do not acquire the skill, even with these procedures. It is the purpose of this paper to present a new procedure, Echoic Extension, a procedure that has worked with some children who otherwise have not acquired echoic repertoire. We will analyze the components that may make it effective. We will also discuss how to develop the skill into true verbal operants and show data and video-tapes.




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