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.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #346
CE Offered: BACB
International Symposium - Operant Analysis and the Establishment of Joint Attention Skills in Children with Autism
Monday, May 28, 2007
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Molly AB
Area: DEV/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (New England Center for Children)
Discussant: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Rebecca P. F. MacDonald, Ph.D.

Joint attention, a synchronizing of the attention of two or more persons, has been an increasing focus of research in cognitive developmental psychology. In particular, it appears that children diagnosed with autism may display a syndrome-specific deficit in joint attention skills. Over the last few years, phenomena treated under the heading of joint attention have also come into focus of behavior-analytic research and theory. The purposes of the present symposium are to present (1) an operant perspective on joint attention phenomena and (2) empirical results which show that joint attention skills can be established in children with autism through specific, step-wise operant procedures.

Joint Attention in an Operant Perspective.
PER HOLTH (Akershus University College)
Abstract: Phenomena typically considered under the heading of joint attention include gaze following, monitoring, social referencing, and protoimperative and protodeclarative gestures. In an operant analysis of these phenomena, a number of behavior processes are relevant. These include reinforcement, discrimination, conditioned reinforcement and chaining, conditional discriminations, joint control, conjugate reinforcement, continuous repertoires, and observing responses. From an operant perspective, specific teaching protocols aimed at the establishment of such skills appear to be a rather straightforward matter.
Joint Attention Intervention Based on Applied Behavior Analysis for Young Children with Autism.
HEIDI SKORGE OLAFF (Glenne Autism Center and Akershus University College), Per Holth (Akershus University College)
Abstract: Based upon an operant analysis of joint attention skills, a teaching protocol was developed and implemented to facilitate such skills in four children with autism. All children were between three and four years of age and received early and intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) at least 25 hours per week. The teaching protocol specified nine different procedures, aimed at each of the following composite skills: (1) Social referencing/conditioning of normal social stimuli as reinforcers, (2) proximal gaze and point following, (3) distal gaze and point following (4) social monitoring, (5) responding to joint attention bids during structured play (6) initiating joint attention to novel stimuli (7) manding with joint attention (8) commenting on novel behavior, (9) tacting. The procedures were successively implemented according to an interrupted time series design with repeated tests of joint attention skills, using a modified version of Early Social Communication Scales, (ESCS). Although the results showed limited improvement on the modified ESCS, all children learned to master the skills that were targeted by the intervention, and reports from parents and teachers indicate significant improvement of joint attention skills in the natural environment in at least two of the four children.
Can ABA-Based Interventions Produce Joint Attention Skills in Preschool Children with Autism?
JÖRN ISAKSEN (Oppland Habilitation Services, Norway), Per Holth (Akershus University College)
Abstract: A lack of joint attention skills may represent the core impairment in autism. In the present study, a training protocol was developed, based on the literature on joint attention and on behavioral interventions. The training was organized into a sequence of three main parts respectively aimed at establishing each of the following skills: (1) responding to attention bids, (2) engaging in turn-taking activities based on joint attention skills, and (3) initiating joint attention. The study was conducted according to a single-subject experimental design, in which joint attention skills were measured before and after intervention, using the ”Behavioral Assessment of Joint Attention”. Four 2.5- to 4-year-old children diagnosed with autism participated in the study. All four children completed the training successfully and made significant progress in engaging in joint attention and in initiating joint attention skills. Following the completion of training and at 1-month follow up, parents reported that their children used their skills in different settings. Moreover, at follow up, all four children were reported to engage in joint attention behaviors and showing degrees of enjoyment when doing so.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh