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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Symposium #217
CE Offered: BACB
Direct Measurement of Verbal Behavior to Evaluate Response to Treatment: Use of the ADOS
Sunday, May 25, 2008
1:30 PM–2:50 PM
Continental A
Area: AUT/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Suzannah J. Ferraioli (Rutgers University)
Discussant: Sandra L. Harris (Rutgers University)
CE Instructor: Lara M. Delmolino, Ph.D.

Group studies of treatment outcomes for children with autism typically utilize standardized assessments of cognitive functioning, adaptive behavior, and language as primary dependent variables.(e.g., Lovaas, 1987; Sallows & Graupner, 2005; Smith, Groen, & Wynn, 2000). More recent attention has been paid to assessing changes in the core features of autism using measures such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. (ADOS; Lord, Rutter, DiLavore & Risi, 1999) Although the ADOS was not designed to assess change, some investigators are using the assessments rating score (Owley et al., 2001) or combining the structure of the assessment with other behavioral coding systems to assess response to treatment (Lord & Corsello, 2005). Clinically, the practice of targeting specific verbal operants for instruction has become widespread. Strategies for assessing the development of verbal behavior across groups of children are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of such interventions; to supplement existing single subject research demonstrations (Carr & Firth, 2005). The following series of investigations explore strategies for direct measurement of verbal behavior within the semi-structured assessment offered by the ADOS, addressing issues of measurement and evaluation of treatment outcome.

Increased Frequency of Verbal Operants Following Behavioral Treatment for Preschoolers with Autism: Measurement Within a Semi-Structured Assessment.
MEGAN P. MARTINS (University of Colorado), Lara M. Delmolino Gatley (Rutgers University)
Abstract: Direct measurement of variables of interest in order to document improvement in socially significant behavior is central in the field of applied behavior analysis. This study was the first in a series exploring the direct measurement of verbal behavior during an annual semi-structured assessment of play and communication. Ten preschoolers with autism participated in annual ADOS assessments prior to and after approximately one year in a comprehensive behavioral program. Videotapes of the ADOS were coded by experimenters who recorded the frequency of each child’s mand, tact, echoic, and intraverbal responses. In addition, information about the quality and topography of each response was recorded. The experimenters rated whether each mand was prompted or a gesture, point, vocalization, one-word, and/or multi-word phrase, and whether each response was directed at an adult by using eye contact or an adults’ name. The findings revealed significant improvement in participants’ verbal behavior after approximately one year of treatment with noticeable increases in the rate and complexity of spontaneous mands across children. In addition, tact and intraverbal responses increased and all verbal behavior responses were more often accompanied by gesture and were more socially directed after one year of treatment. Issues in measurement and reliability are discussed.
Comparison of Frequency and Interval Data Collection Methods for Measuring Improvement in the Verbal Behavior of Preschool Children with Autism.
KATE E. FISKE MASSEY (Rutgers University), Lara M. Delmolino Gatley (Rutgers University)
Abstract: Pilot work assessing improvements in verbal behavior for preschool children with autism supports the utility of applying an observational code to behavior occurring within annual ADOS evaluations. Previous research found that measurement of the frequency, quality, and topography of the primary verbal operants before and after one year of treatment revealed measureable improvements for individual children and across a group of ten children. However, preliminary application of the behavioral code was time consuming and presented reliability challenges. To address these limitations, a second study explored whether the observed improvements in verbal behavior across a group of children were also captured with an interval coding system. When interval data were compared to frequency data, comparable findings were revealed, with greater reliability and in a more time-efficient manner. In addition, interval data offered more information about the distribution of verbal responses across an ADOS session. Findings are discussed in terms of their application to measurement of treatment outcome for programs targeting verbal behavior and the practical application of a complex behavioral code.
Evaluating Progress in the Development of Verbal Behavior in Early Intervention Programs for Children with Autism Under Three.
VALBONA DEMIRI (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center), Lara M. Delmolino Gatley (Rutgers University)
Abstract: Early, intensive behavioral intervention for autism spectrum disorders with children under the age of three is becoming more common in light of increased diagnostic precision and awareness. Ongoing evaluation of response to treatment for these young children is needed in the literature. This paper explores application of a behavioral code for direct measurement of verbal behavior to assess improvement following involvement in early intervention within an applied behavior analysis model. Pre- and post-intervention ADOS assessments will be scored according to the instrument’s rating scales as well as a verbal behavior coding system. Measured changes in the frequency and quality of verbal behavior responses will be compared to changes in the ADOS ratings. In addition, preliminary data regarding the measurement of verbal behavior in a sample of typically developing young children under 3 years of age within the context of an ADOS is offered to highlight developmental factors and variability in the verbal behavior of children under the age of 3.



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