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 #323
CE Offered: BACB
The Power of Language for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Increasing Play and Social Skills
Sunday, May 28, 2017
6:00 PM–6:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 3C
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Discussant: Mark O'Reilly (The University of Texas at Austin)
CE Instructor: Catelyn Gumaer, M.A.

Recent research has identified a strong relationship between deficits in language, play and social skills for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Specifically, severe deficits in language is a predictor of poor play and social skills outcomes. This symposium will consist of two research studies that use behavioral approaches to investigate the effects of language in naturalistic play settings on play and social behaviors. The first study focuses on the Natural Language Paradigm (NLP), with researchers assessing its effectiveness on increasing play and social behaviors such as appropriate verbalizations. In the second study, using a play setting, researchers compared the use of English and the child’s heritage language on play, and social verbal behaviors. Multiple baseline designs were used in both studies to analyze treatment effects, generalization was assessed, and inter-observer reliability was calculated. These two studies provide further support for the link between language, play and social behavior, demonstrating how language can be used to increase the social skills and play behaviors of children on the spectrum.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Language, Play, Social Skills

Natural Language Paradigm for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Play, Happiness, and Social Behaviors

CATELYN GUMAER (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)

For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), deficits in language have predicted poor play and social skills outcomes (Toth et al., 2006). However, the Natural Language Paradigm (NLP) has proven to be effective in increasing spontaneous appropriate verbalizations for children with ASD (Koegel et al., 1987). The present study assessed the efficacy of NLP on increasing appropriate play and social behaviors as appropriate verbalizations increased. A multiple baseline design across four children with ASD was used to assess the efficacy of NLP on increasing appropriate play, joint attention and happiness behaviors. Measurements of all behaviors were taken during play sessions for baseline and follow-up probes, play sessions with a parent for generalization probes, and during NLP intervention sessions. Results demonstrated an increase of 50% in appropriate verbalizations across five consecutive sessions in all participants. Additionally, results indicated increases in appropriate play behaviors, joint attention behaviors, and happiness behaviors. Furthermore, results demonstrated generalization of these skills across person and setting. Follow-up play probes and generalization probes indicated maintenance of these skills at two-weeks, one-month, and six-months. The current study demonstrated the robustness and resilience of NLP’s effectiveness on the development of language, play and social skills for children with ASD.

Examining the Effects of Language on Social Skills in Bilingual Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
NATALY LIM (University of Texas at Austin), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Given the rise in bilingualism and the increase in prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there is a need for more culturally and linguistically sensitive research. The present study addressed this gap in the literature by investigating heritage language usage for bilingual children with ASD. Specifically, an alternating treatment design with a multiple baseline across participants was used to compare the effects of English and heritage language on play and social verbal behavior. Four bilingual children with ASD (three Korean-American, and one Latino-American) participated in this study. Baseline consisted of 5-minute free-play sessions conducted in English. Intervention consisted of two alternating conditions: 5-minute play sessions conducted in English or the participant’s heritage language. A play-related instruction, contextually appropriate comment, and verbal praise were made every 30s during intervention. Results demonstrated that participants displayed more play behaviors in heritage than English language sessions. No clear differences were found for social verbal behavior. Ancillary data taken on instances of inappropriate behaviors for one participant demonstrated there to be fewer instances of inappropriate behavior during heritage language sessions. Results are discussed in terms of the potential that using heritage language has in enhancing social skills interventions for children with ASD.



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