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

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Symposium #479
CE Offered: BACB
Thinking Outside the Prompt: Innovative Teaching and Prompting Strategies for Students with Autism
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Madeleine AB
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Elizabeth Martineau (Nashoba Learning Group)
CE Instructor: Elizabeth Martineau, Other

Chronic prompt dependency is a common obstacle to mastering skills for many students with autism. The inability to respond in the absence of a prompt often requires the teacher to "go back to the drawing board" so to speak, undoing weeks or months of teaching. There is a strong research base for strategies such as visual, physical, or positional prompts in teaching children with autism, but a lack of sufficient research regarding what to do when these popular strategies fail. Multiple baseline and changing criterion designs were used to evaluate the efficacy of several prompting strategies not widely explored in the literature, such as shaping acoustic properties of stimuli or using vocal responses to prompt receptive language. Participants were adolescent boys with autism who repeatedly failed to acquire a variety of skills when taught using conventional prompting methods. Data show that altering the topography of the prompts themselves (rather than changing the fading procedure) was effective in teaching these students receptive language skills, matching skills, intraverbal responses, and appropriate transition behavior. In each case the alternative prompt was successfully faded to allow independent responding to occur, breaking the pattern of chronic prompt dependency previously displayed by these students.

Using a Vocal-Textual Response as a Priming Technique for Receptive Language Tasks.
JESSICA ST. PIERRE (Nashoba Learning Group), Tara L. Montoure (Nashoba Learning Group), Elizabeth Martineau (Nashoba Learning Group), Jessica Slaton (Nashoba Learning Group)
Abstract: Receptive language tasks are typically taught using gestural or positional prompts to assist the student in pointing to the correct item. Matching a written text to an object is generally taught only after the student is able to receptively identify the object. However, for some students who experience multiple treatment failures in acquiring receptive language skills, a “reverse” teaching sequence of establishing text-to-object matching first can facilitate acquisition of receptive language. A 15 year old boy with autism who failed to acquire receptive identification of objects through direct teaching was taught to match written texts to objects as an intermediate step (though he could not receptively identify the objects or texts). A multiple baseline design was used across three different sets of three objects each. Data show that matching the object to a text and reading the text out loud was an effective priming technique for establishing correct responding in receptive language trials. This technique was systematically faded, allowing independent responses to occur without any priming. The end result was mastery of several skills through one teaching program: text to object matching and vice versa, reading texts out loud, and receptive object identification.
Acoustic Stimulus Shaping to Prompt Intraverbal Responses.
TARA L. MONTOURE (Nashoba Learning Group), Elizabeth Martineau (Nashoba Learning Group)
Abstract: Within-stimulus prompts generally alter some visual aspect of the stimulus (such as size or color) so that the target stimulus itself serves as a prompt for correct responding. It is also possible, however, to create a within-stimulus prompt by altering an acoustic property of the stimulus. Changing the volume, tone, or speed of an auditory stimulus can assist the student in producing or selecting a specific desired response. For children with autism who have poor visual discrimination skills, this type of within-stimulus prompt may be preferable to other prompts that rely on visual discrimination. The random assignment of a high- or low-pitched tone to different vocal antecedents was used as a prompt to teach a 12 year old boy with autism intraverbal responses. The acoustic prompt was then faded until the vocal antecedents were delivered in normal conversational tones. A multiple baseline design was used across 3 different responses to establish correct responding with an acoustically altered stimulus. A changing criterion design was then used to systematically fade the tone of the stimulus back to a natural conversational sound. Data show that this prompt was effective in establishing intraverbal responses in a student for whom all previous attempts had failed.
Discriminating in “Continuous” and “Discontinuous” Stimulus Fields.
JESSICA SLATON (Nashoba Learning Group), Elizabeth Martineau (Nashoba Learning Group)
Abstract: A “continuous” field is one wherein all stimuli are presented on the same flat, 2-dimensional surface (such as a book with many words on each page, or a picture with multiple items in the picture). A “discontinuous” field is one wherein each stimulus is its own separate entity (such as two separate flash cards, each with a printed word). The ability to discriminate between stimuli in a continuous field is a critical skill, as many stimulus fields are continuous (words on a page, numbers on a microwave, and icons on a computer screen). Correct matching and visual discrimination in a discontinuous field does not automatically generalize to a continuous field. A 14 year old boy with autism who possessed strong matching skills in discontinuous fields only was taught to also discriminate among stimuli in a continuous field, allowing him to acquire new skills or generalize previously learned skills that required the use of continuous fields. A changing criterion design was used to shape a discontinuous field of numbers (ten separate number cards) into a continuous field (all ten numbers on one card), to facilitate use of the microwave, copy machine, and other appliances that require the use of a keypad.
Using Behavioral Momentum to Prompt Transitions.
TARA L. MONTOURE (Nashoba Learning Group), Elizabeth Martineau (Nashoba Learning Group)
Abstract: Transitioning from one activity to another frequently occasions inappropriate responses such as screaming, flopping, aggression or bolting in students with autism. The use of a warning to signal the transition is a successful antecedent intervention for preventing these behaviors in many students, but can sometimes act as a discriminative stimulus that evokes tantrum behaviors prior to transitioning. An 11 year old boy with autism who displayed flopping, aggression and other inappropriate responses during transitions was engaged in a series of behavioral momentum trials prior to each transition, in place of a warning. A changing criterion design was used to systematically fade the number of trials delivered while still maintaining appropriate transition behavior. Data show that the implementation and systematic reduction of behavioral momentum trials was successful in reducing inappropriate transition behaviors to near-zero levels. The use of a warning to signal transitions was then successfully re-introduced to bring appropriate transition behavior under control of the natural language typically used by parents, babysitters, teachers, and other members of the community.



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