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 #308
CE Offered: BACB
Advances in Basic Experimental Research With Children With Autism: Implications for Applied Practice
Monday, May 28, 2012
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
608 (Convention Center)
Area: EAB/AUT; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Amy Kenzer (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.)
Discussant: Patrick M. Ghezzi (University of Nevada, Reno)
CE Instructor: Amy Kenzer, Ph.D.

The experimental analysis of human behavior provides the foundation for applied research and clinical practice. While most research is clearly categorized as either basic or applied in nature, bridge research that combines basic experimental preparations with applied populations to examine behavioral phenomenon is a valuable contribution. The presentations in this symposium will review findings from basic experimental research with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and provide discussions about the practical implications for treatment. Individuals with ASD display unique characteristics that may influence basic learning processes. As such additional bridge research is needed. The first presentation in this symposium will include research on a pairing procedure to establish tangible and social stimuli as conditioned reinforcers under progressive-ratio reinforcement schedules. The second presentation will include research on habituation and dishabituation in operant conditioning with a variety of social, visual, and edible reinforcers with young children. The final presentation will examine the concept of self-control established through video modeling. A discussion of the basic and applied implications will be included.

Keyword(s): autism, conditioned reinforcement, habituation, self-control

Establishing Conditioned Reinforcers in Children With Autism

MICHELE R. BISHOP (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.), Amy Kenzer (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.)

The pairing procedure is a standard means of conditioning neutral stimuli as effective reinforcers. As a result, practitioners often pair effective reinforcers with neutral stimuli (e.g., social praise, new toys, etc.) to establish these stimuli as conditioned reinforcers. However, little research exists on establishing conditioned reinforcers with young children with autism, particularly when effective reinforcers are paired with preferred stimuli that do not function as reinforcers. This study evaluated the reinforcement effects of highly preferred edible, tangible, and social stimuli and utility of a pairing procedure to enhance the reinforcement effects of weak reinforcers. Results indicate that the pairing procedure can enhance reinforcer effectiveness of preferred stimuli. However, the effects of the pairing procedure were not very robust, with only marginal increases in the reinforcer efficacy for moderately-preferred stimuli and no increase in reinforcer efficacy for less preferred stimuli. Interestingly, the pairing procedure substantially enhanced the reinforcer efficacy of the most preferred stimulus.


Habituation and Dishabituation in Operant Responding With Children

AMY KENZER (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.), Michele R. Bishop (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.)

Recently, habituation has been evaluated within the operant conditioning paradigm and evidence suggests that habituation may occur with repeatedly presented reinforcers. While the role of habituation in reinforcer effectiveness has obvious applied implications, much of this research is limited to nonhuman animals. The purpose of this study was to examine habituation and dishabituation in operant responding. Participants included young children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as children of typical development. Following a decrease in responding under original reinforcer conditions, a novel reinforcer was briefly delivered with a subsequent return to the original reinforcer for the final 2 minutes of the session. Additionally, some participants were exposed to control conditions in which a novel reinforcer was not presented. Results demonstrate response patterns indicative of habituation and dishabituation when novel stimuli are interjected into the experimental session. The current study has applied implications for preventing habituation and producing response recovery during operant conditioning.


The Effects of Video Modeling on Self-Control and Impulsivity in Children With Autism

HEATHER GIORDANO (The Chicago School, Los Angeles), Jonathan J. Tarbox (The Chicago School, Los Angeles)

Self-control is often examined within a concurrent-choice procedure. In this preparation, selection of the larger, more delayed reinforcer is considered demonstrative of self-control. In contrast, impulsive behavior is characterized by the selection of the smaller, immediate reinforcer. Previous research has demonstrated that individuals who frequently make impulsive selections during baseline can be taught to select the larger, delayed reinforcer, thereby demonstrating self-control. However, this shift in preference typically follows a gradual progression in the delay to the larger reinforcer. In the present study, the utility of a video peer modeling procedure to increase the frequency of self-control selections was evaluated with children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The antecedent-based instructional techniques did not involve manipulation of the delay to reinforcement or reinforcer value. Results suggest that video peer modeling may enhance self-control choice in children with autism. Results from this study are discussed in terms of basic behavioral processes underlying self-control, potential clinical implications, and directions for future applied research.




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