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 #505
CE Offered: BACB
Measuring Change: Assessment Issues in the Treatment of Autism
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
12:00 PM–1:20 PM
Mohsen AB
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
Discussant: Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
CE Instructor: Gerald E. Harris, Ph.D.

Demonstrating reliable improvement in children with Autism as a result of behavioral intervention is crucial to advancing the science of ABA. Scientific and accurate representation of treatment benefits is necessary to show others the value of ABA for this population. The 3 presentations in this symposium present data that increases the psychometric knowledge, and thus the utility, of the most widely used measures of intelligence and behavior problems in the autistic population. Data were collected from comprehensive assessments of a large sample of children diagnosed with autistic disorder as they participated in behavioral treatment programs. Sample sizes for the data analytic procedures are thus much larger than usually seen in this area. The first presentation examines change scores on the most popular comprehensive intelligence test, the WPPSI-III, in terms of reduction in variability across cognitive skills. The second presentation looks at a beginning large scale normative base for the WPPSI-III for children with autism. The third presentation investigates the interobserver agreement for an efficient behavior report instrument, the CBCL, for this special population. Together, these presentations advance our ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of behavioral interventions.

ABA Treatment Outcome for Children with Autism: Is Cognitive Variability Reduced?
GERALD E. HARRIS (Texas Young Autism Project), Wendy J. Neely (Texas Young Autism Project)
Abstract: Children with Autism are often characterized by wide variability across skill areas. Diagnostically, and in treatment literature, this issue is often cited (e.g., “splinter skills” or “using the child’s strengths to improve their deficit areas”) but research has not directly looked at this phenomenon. This presentation uses data from a large sample of children with autism to address questions in this area. Are children with autism, as a group, more variable in their cognitive skills than typically developing children? If so, does ABA intervention decrease the variability? Pre-treatment and post-treatment cognitive test data from 95 young children participating in long-term behavioral treatment programs are examined using current research statistical procedures to assess change over time as well as changes in variability across subtests. Findings support the common assumption that children with autism do exhibit increased cognitive variability, or scatter, and that ABA treatment can reduce this scatter to some degree. Implications for diagnostic and treatment outcome interpretations are discussed.
Normative Data on the WPPSI-III Intelligence Test for Children with Autism.
WENDY J. NEELY (Texas Young Autism Project), Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project), Glen O. Sallows (Wisconsin Early Autism Project), Tamlynn Dianne Graupner (Wisconsin Early Autism Project)
Abstract: Assessment of cognitive abilities of children with autism is crucial to planning, monitoring, and evaluating behavioral interventions. Little is known about the psychometrics of the most widely used intelligence test, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence – 3rd Ed., for this population. Wechsler published a study in the WPPSI-III Technical Manual (The Psychological Corporation, 2002) addressing the utility of the WPPSI-III for this special population. However, several significant methodological problems are noted in that study, including a very small sample (n = 21), and restrictions of age and I.Q., as well as unknown test administration and scoring procedures for the data provided by an independent third party examiner. In the present study, data from standard initial administrations of the WPPSI-III to a much larger sample of children (n = 270) diagnosed with autism was analyzed and the results compared to the findings from the Wechsler study. Significant differences were found in means and distributions of subtest and composite area standard scores. Scores for lower functioning (I.Q. < 60) children with autism, in particular, were very different. These results provide a foundation for full development of a set of norms for use with the WPPSI-III with children with autism.
Behavior Reports: Interobserver Agreement of Parents of Children with Autism.
GERI MARIA HARRIS (Texas Young Autism Project), Gerald E. Harris (Texas Young Autism Project)
Abstract: The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) is one of the most widely used measures of child behavior, yet little is known about its psychometric properties in relation to children with autism. This study examined the level of inter-parental agreement on the CBCL in the autistic population. Levels of inter-parental agreement in the autistic population were then compared with the levels of inter-parental agreement in other populations, such as typically developing children and children in high-risk families. Results for a sample of 165 mother-father pairs show that parents of children with autism overall exhibit a high level of inter-observer agreement. Agreement at the total problem behavior, internalizing, externalizing, and item level was computed and compared to inter-observer agreement of parents of typically developing children and other special child populations reported in published literature.



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