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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #186
CE Offered: BACB
Reinforcement Variations for the Acquisition and Maintenance of Skills by Learners With Autism
Sunday, May 28, 2017
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 4E/F
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Meagan K. Gregory (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
CE Instructor: Meagan K. Gregory, Ph.D.

Although much is known about how to effectively teach individuals with autism a variety of skills, two areas of increased interest include how to make instruction more efficient and how to ensure that the acquired skills are maintained over time. The current symposium includes three papers examining the effects of different reinforcement arrangements on acquisition or maintenance of responding by individuals with autism spectrum disorder. In the first study participants were taught either tacts or auditory-visual conditional discriminations using reinforcers that were selected by either the participant or the experimenter, and the efficiency of instruction was compared across the two choice conditions. In the second study, the effects of providing the choice of back-up reinforcer in a token economy either before beginning work or immediately prior to the token exchange on task completion and problem behavior were evaluated. In addition, participant preferences were examined. The final study describes two studies evaluating the effects of several schedules of reinforcement on the durability of responding in extinction. Participant preferences were also assessed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): maintenance, reinforcement parameters, skill acquisition

The Effect of Reinforcer Choice on Skill Acquisition in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

JESSIE NORTHGRAVE (Caldwell University), Jason C. Vladescu (Caldwell University), Ruth M. DeBar (Caldwell University), Karen A. Toussaint (University of North Texas)

Providing consumers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) a choice of putative reinforcers during learning trials may confer advantage during skill acquisition programming. However, such advantage should not be assumed, and may not be associated with the most efficient instructional arrangement. The current study conducted an assessment of the relative value of child- and experimenter-choice of putative reinforcers using a progressive-ratio reinforcer assessment. Next, we taught tacts or auditory-visual conditional discriminations participants with ASD and evaluated efficiency of instruction across child- and experimenter-choice conditions. The results indicated that the most efficient acquisition was observed during the experimenter-choice condition for both participants. The results are discussed in light of previous studies and areas for future research.


An Evaluation of the Effects of and Preference for Pre- and Post-Selection of Reinforcers in a Token Economy

REBECCA WERLE (Firefly Autism), Meagan K. Gregory (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Yanerys Leon (Florida Institute of Technology)

Token boards are often used during teaching sessions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Following the completion of the response requirement, tokens can be traded in for back-up reinforcers. The selection of reinforcers can occur either before the work period begins (i.e., pre-selection) or after the response requirement has been fulfilled (i.e., post-selection). Experiment 1 evaluated the effects of pre- and post-selection of reinforcers on rate of task completion and problem behaviors for three children diagnosed with ASD. Results showed that both pre- and post-selection of reinforcers were more effective at increasing task completion and decreasing problem behaviors than a baseline condition, in which a 5 min break was provided at the end of the session but tokens could not be exchanged for a reinforcer. Experiment 2 attempted to assess the three participants preferences for pre- and post-selection conditions. For two participants, pre-selection was preferred, and no clear preference was demonstrated by the third participant. The results of the present study suggest that providing a tangible reinforcer rather than a break alone is more effective at increasing the rate of work. Additionally, these data suggest that some participants may prefer to choose their reinforcer prior to beginning a period of work.


The Effects of Reinforcement Schedule Manipulations on Response Maintenance in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

TOM CARIVEAU (University of Oregon; Marcus Autism Center), Tiffany Kodak (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee), Wendy A. Machalicek (University of Oregon), Shaji Haq (University of Oregon), Marilynn Porritt (University of Oregon), Brittany LeBlanc (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee), Megan Ledoux (University of Oregon), Samantha Bergmann (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee )

Thinning the schedule of reinforcement is commonly employed in behavioral programming as it may increase the feasibility of treatments in applied settings and may effectively program indiscriminable contingencies. In clinical programs, schedule thinning may be used to facilitate the maintenance of treatment outcomes; however, little guidance has been provided to clinicians regarding optimal methods for thinning the schedule of reinforcement or whether thinning the schedule is necessary. The current presentation will describe two studies designed to evaluate the effects of several schedules of reinforcement on the durability of responding in extinction for four children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. An adapted alternating treatments design was used across both studies. In Study I, we compared five schedules of reinforcement with differentiated levels of responding observed once the session duration was increased for two participants. In Study II, we included three schedules of reinforcement and procedures hypothesized to promote discrimination across conditions. Durable responding in extinction was observed across conditions; however, during preference assessments, a shift in preference was observed for both participants. Implications and future directions will be discussed.




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