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.


Sixth Annual Autism Conference; Philadelphia, PA; 2012

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #14
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Working with Siblings of Children With Autism

Saturday, January 28, 2012
4:00 PM–5:00 PM
Grand Ballroom
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Sandra L. Harris, Ph.D.
SANDRA L. HARRIS (Rutgers University)
Sandra L. Harris received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland (College Park) in 1964 and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (SUNY/ Buffalo) in 1969. She is a Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of Clinical Psychology (Emerita) at the Graduate School of Applied and Professiona1 Psychology and the Department of Psychology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Dr. Harris is executive director of the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, a Rutgers University program for children, adolescents, and adults with autism that she founded in 1972. She has been a member of ABAI for more than a quarter century and views the organization as her primary intellectual home. She has published extensively on applied behavior analysis (ABA) and the impact on family members, including siblings, of raising a child who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She is an associate editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and the Autism Series editor for Woodbine House. Her honors from Rutgers University include the 2006 Daniel Gorenstein Memorial Award and the 2005 President’s Award for Research in Service to New Jersey.

Many behavior analysts have regular contact with families of children or adolescents on the autism spectrum. In most families, neurotypical (NT) siblings may be valuable resources for modeling/teaching adaptive skills, and may themselves be in need of support in understanding their brother or sister with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Fortunately there is a body of research documenting the role NT siblings can play in supporting the learning of their brother or sister on the spectrum. This talk describes how the role of siblings has been studied, what we have learned about the contributions the children can make, and what we learned about supporting the needs of NT siblings. We will look at the clinical role of NT siblings in the late 1970s and early 1980s and consider several studies demonstrating the value of teaching NT siblings basic principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). We will review how the childs knowledge of ASD evolves, and how these developmental changes influence the ABA role NT siblings can assume. Specific target behaviors include teaching play skills and joint attention skills using ABA techniques adapted to the NT childs understanding. We will also describe cognitive behavior therapy techniques enabling NT siblings to solve problems that arise in their relationship with their brother or sister, and we will report research on the benefits of sibling support groups for helping children implement ABA methods to understand the behavior of their brother or sister with an ASD.

Target Audience:

Certified behavior analysts, behavioral consultants, behavioral therapists, clinicians, educational consultants, psychologists, special education teachers, and individuals working with children with autism or other developmental delays.

Learning Objectives:

1. Understand the perspective of siblings of children with ASD.       

2. Have an overview of research on the skills siblings can acquire.      

3  Be familiar with the objectives of sibling support groups.      




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