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 #389
CE Offered: BACB
International Symposium - Procedures to Increase Expressive Language
Monday, May 26, 2008
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
Stevens 5
Area: VRB/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: John W. Esch (ESCH Behavior Consultants, Inc.)
CE Instructor: John W. Esch, Ph.D.

This symposium presents a review and 3 empirical papers on the acquisition of expressive language. The first two papers offer procedures to increase vocalizations with children who vocalize little. The Esch et al. paper used a lag schedule to increase vocal variability to train an echoic with children who had a diagnosis of autism. The Shillingsburg et al. paper used an extinction procedure to teach vocal mands with children who signed. To determine the efficacy of a common language instruction practice, the Petursdottir and Carr paper reviewed the literature on teaching receptive before expressive repertoires. The Williams et al. paper presented a procedure to teach children with a diagnosis of autism to label abstract figures as previously trained numerals.

Increasing Vocal Variability with a Lag Schedule.
JOHN W. ESCH (ESCH Behavior Consultants, Inc.), Barbara E. Esch (ESCH Behavior Consultants, Inc.), Jessa R. Love (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Many children with autism have vocal repertoires that are too limited to allow successful shaping of more complex vocal responses. Vocal variability would provide a greater number of phonemes available for reinforcement, thus increasing the overall complexity of the speech repertoire. Previous research (e.g., Page & Neuringer, 1985) shows that variability is a reinforceable dimension of behavior, much like frequency or intensity. In applied settings, it has been demonstrated that Lag schedules (differentially reinforcing behaviors that differ from the previous behavior) can alter behavioral variability. This study used a Lag 1 schedule to increase vocal variability in a child with a diagnosis of autism. Once variability was established, a frequently emitted sound was selected and established as an echoic.
Effects of Extinction on the Rate and Variability of Vocalizations.
M. ALICE SHILLINGSBURG (Marcus Autism Center/Emory University School of Me), Amber L. Valentino (Marcus Autism Center), Diana Garcia (Marcus Autism Center), Crystal N. Bowen (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: Children with autism often have significant communication delays. Although some children develop vocalizations, others rarely exhibit speech sounds and alternative communication methods, such as sign language, are targeted in intervention. However, vocal language often remains a goal for caregivers and clinicians. Thus, strategies to increase the frequency and variability in speech sounds are needed. An increase in response variability has been demonstrated using extinction. Duker and van Lent (1991) showed that an increase in previously low-rate gestures occurred following extinction of high-rate gestures in individuals with mental retardation. The present study examined the effect of similar procedures on the rate of vocalizations in two children diagnosed with autism. Both participants were observed to emit low rates of vocalizations and exhibited functional use of several mands using sign language. During baseline, correct signs were reinforced with access to the preferred item. During intervention, reinforcement was withheld following emission of signs and vocalizations were followed by access to the preferred item. A multiple baseline design across preferred items was used. An increase in the rate of vocalizations occurred following application of extinction of each signed mand. Extinction conditions were then applied to the highest frequency vocalizations to examine effects on vocal variability.
Is Receptive Language a Prerequisite for Teaching Expressive Language? A Review of Experimental Findings.
ANNA I. PETURSDOTTIR (Texas Christian University), James E. Carr (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Treatment manuals for children with autism often recommend completing the training of “receptive” language skills before implementing training of the corresponding “expressive” skills, even for children who already have a strong echoic repertoire. However, this is not an empirically based recommendation. From the perspective of Skinner’s (1957) analysis of verbal behavior, different expressive programs target different verbal operants, such as the mand, the tact, and the intraverbal. Experimental research on the relative benefits of teaching receptive vs. expressive skills has typically focused on the tact as an instance of expressive language. A review of this research indicates that although results have varied across individuals, substantial evidence exists that tact training is more likely to generate receptive skills than receptive training is to generate tacts, in addition to having potential additional benefits. We discuss why this may be the case and point out areas for future research on the tact and other verbal operants.
Can we Teach Abstract Thinking to Children with Autism?
GLADYS WILLIAMS (Centro de Investigacion y Ensenanza del Lenguaje), Anna Beatriz Müller Queiroz (Applied Behavioral Consultant Services), Daniel Carvalho de Matos (Applied Behavioral Consultant Services), Monica Rodriguez Mori (Centro de Investigacion y Ensenanza del Lenguaje), Kimberly Vogt (David Gregory School), Manuela Fernandez Vuelta (Centro de Investigacion y Ensenanza del Lenguaje)
Abstract: Normally developing children demonstrate the ability to generate novel behavior by associating objects they encounter daily (e.g., “Look, it is number eight. It looks like a snowman.”) Children with autism generally cannot see this kind of abstraction. The purpose of the study was to teach three children with autism to observe similarities among a variety of shapes and numbers (e.g., “It is number one”, when seeing a string.). The procedure consisted of probing the responses presenting a string and a wooden measure in the shape of numbers from 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8. The antecedent was, “What does this look like?”. Then, the children learned a series of conditional discriminations, following several phases, using multiple exemplars with shapes and drawings similar to numbers. When they completed all the phases, we probed the emergence of the behavior with the string and the wooden measure. The results indicated that the children were able to name correct numbers using the untrained material.



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