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 #147
Using Work Systems to Promote Engagement and Independence for Students with Autism and Other Disabilities
Sunday, May 25, 2008
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Continental A
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Christina R. Carnahan (University of Cincinnati)
Abstract: Interventions that prepare students with autism and other disabilities to be contributing community members are critic componenteducational programming. Interventions that target independent participation, reduced reliance on adult monitoring and support, and active engagement are especially important for the future success of these students. However, specific learning characteristics such as difficulty attending to verbal directions and organizing information from the environment often make engagement and work completion challenging. Professionals need evidence-based interventions that promote independent engagement with, and completion of, learning and work activities. Several studies target engagement and work completion using contingency and supervision packages (e.g., Pelios, MadDuff, & Axelrod, 2003). A growing body of research targets antecedent interventions that incorporate the strengths of individuals with autism and other disabilities (e.g., visual processing) as primary interventions. Work systems, developed by Division TEACCH, are antecedent interventions that use organized sets of visual information to inform students about work or play areas. This symposium provides an overview of research on work systems as the primary intervention for promoting independence and engagement in both academic and vocational settings. At the end of the presentation, participants will be able to describe current research on the use of independent work systems, implications for implementation, and directions for future research.
Effects of an Individual Work System on Independent Functioning of Students with Autism.
KARA HUME (Indiana University)
Abstract: Classroom supports that modify the environment to match the behavioral needs of students with autism, such as individual work systems, are essential in increasing student engagement and independent task completion. This study examined the effects of the work system on the independent work and play skills of students with autism. Three students with autism participated in this study, which employed a single subject withdrawal of treatment design. On-task behavior and work completion skills of the students in classroom and employment settings were assessed, as well as the number of tasks completed or play materials utilized during a work session. Observational data indicated that all students showed increases in on-task behavior, increases in the number of tasks completed or play materials used, and reduction of teacher prompts. The results were maintained through the 1 month follow up. Data also indicated that the work system intervention was deemed socially valid by classroom staff involved in implementation. This investigation supports and extends the research related to TEACCH-based interventions as effective learning and teaching tools, and indicates that this antecedent based intervention can reduce reliance on contingencies and response-cost as consequences for off-task behavior.
Promoting Independence for Students with Developmental Disabilities in General Education Classrooms using Work Systems.
MOLLY BROWN (Warren County Educational Service Center), Christina R. Carnahan (University of Cincinnati), Laura S. Clarke (University of Cincinnati)
Abstract: This study extends the research conducted by Hume and Odom (2007) on the use of work systems as an intervention for students with autism using a single-subject reversal design across five students. Specifically, using an ABAB design, the study assessed the effects of a structured work system to promote independent task completion and active engagement in general education classrooms. Participants included five students with developmental disabilities, three students with autism and two students with Down syndrome. Students ranged in age from eight to ten years old and were in second through fourth grades. Participants had previous experience using work systems in special education resource room settings and limited access to general education classrooms settings. Their limited experiences in general education settings were closely supervised by a one-on-one adult support person. The results of this study indicate that using independent work systems promotes increased engagement with and completion of work tasks, two skills important for inclusion in both school and community settings. Moreover, when using independent work systems, students experience increased levels of independence, reducing reliance on adult prompting and support.
An Independent Work System Intervention for Children with Hearing Loss and Autism.
CHRISTY BORDERS (University of Cincinnati)
Abstract: There is a paucity of research about children who are dually diagnosed with hearing loss and autism. There have been two case studies related to children with a dual diagnosis of hearing loss and autism published in the past two years (Easterbrooks & Handley, 2005/2006; Malandraki & Okalidou, 2007). The limited research leaves educators with few evidence-based interventions for use with this particular population. Using a systematic interexperimental replication, this study assesses the effects of an independent work system for three students dually diagnosed with hearing impairments and autism. The goals of the study are to increase on-task behavior, work completed and number of play materials utilized through the use of an individual work system using an intraexperimental withdrawal of treatment design across students. Data to be collected include frequency of adult prompts, number of materials utilized and/or completed in the work system during the set independent work time and duration of on-task behavior.
Practical Guidelines for Developing Work Systems: What Does the Literature Say?
CHRISTINA R. CARNAHAN (University of Cincinnati), Kara Hume (Indiana University ), Christy Borders (University of Cincinnati)
Abstract: There is a growing emphasis on the use of evidence-based practices, inclusive placements, and the development of independent living skills. Despite this emphasis, developing and implementing practical interventions to increase inclusion, engagement, and independent functioning are issues with which many professionals struggle. Developing antecedent interventions is especially challenging. However, an expanding body of research provides effectiveness data on the use of interventions that promote understanding, engagement, and independence, and prevent challenging behavior. Work systems are one such strategy. Utilizing visual directions, work systems promote understanding for individuals with autism and other disabilities. The result is an increase in levels of on-task and work-completion behaviors in a variety of academic and community settings. Pulling from existing research, this paper offers practical strategies for assessing baseline skills and developing antecedent interventions that align with the assessment. Specifically, this paper will provide an overview of the research on the use of work systems as antecedent interventions, strategies for developing and implementing work systems in play, academic, and vocational settings, and monitoring an individual’s progress over time. These topics as well as directions for future research and implications for practice will be discussed.



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