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 #90
CE Offered: BACB
When Nothing Seems to Work: Skill Analysis and Intervention for Our Most Challenging Learners With ASD
Saturday, May 27, 2017
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 1E/F
Area: PRA/AUT; Domain: Translational
Chair: Lara M. Delmolino Gatley (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University)
Discussant: Kate E. Fiske (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University)
CE Instructor: Lara M. Delmolino Gatley, Ph.D.

Practitioners and researchers in the field of behavior analysis often encounter individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who present with complex learning problems or behavior that does not readily respond to even good-quality ABA services (Sallows & Graupner, 2005). In the field, these children might be labeled as "non-responders" and many have long learning histories which have resulted in faulty stimulus control such as biased responding or prompt dependency. While it is quite fortunate that so many research and best-practice publications and trainings are now aimed at disseminating strategies to decrease the likelihood of developing those types of learning patterns, there is a relative lack of information to help practitioners address those learning barriers where they exist. In this symposium, presenters will share research and clinical data from their work with these children, and describe the approaches they have used to spur progress in areas of difficulty such as listener responding, imitation, and conditional matching. The presenters will also outline the analysis of target and prerequisite skills necessary with this population, and suggest programmatic and curricular changes that will maximize learner performance with these specific skills as well as functioning and independence in daily life.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): non-responder, receptive language

Stop Blaming the Learner: Why the Term "Non-Responders" is Faulty and the Implication for Treatment

(Service Delivery)
ROBERT K. ROSS (Beacon ABA Services)

For many years the term "non-responder" has been used to connote those individuals who make little or no progress in Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) programs. While there is little debate that such individuals exist, the description is hardly consistent with a scientific requirement of a technological description of the phenomena. Non-responders respond. They respond incorrectly (from the point of view of the instructor), they may display high levels of problem behavior, low levels of correct responding and a multitude of off-task, distracted and otherwise interfering behavior. In short, significant levels of responding are occurring, just not under the control of the relevant stimuli. The question is how to account for this failure to bring responding under instructional control. One must either conclude that the operant learning paradigm may not apply to this learner or accept the fact that despite their best efforts, the clinicians have not yet identified and controlled the controlling variables. This presentation will highlight three cases where individuals identified as not making progress in EIBI programs where subjected to more detailed analyses. Program modification made as a result of these analyses resulted in previously described non-responders becoming effective learners in the context of EIBI programming.


Developing Useful Learning Strategies for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
JOHN JAMES MCEACHIN (Autism Partnership Foundation), Joseph H. Cihon (Autism Partnership Foundation), Julia Ferguson (Autism Partnership Foundation), Justin B. Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation), Ronald Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation), Mitchell T. Taubman (Autism Partnership Foundation)

Receptive learning difficulties are commonly observed with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Recent research investigations have focused primarily on preventing the occurrence of ineffective learning strategies. Recommendations include counterbalancing location of the target stimulus within the stimulus array and order of occurrence of target stimuli within sets of trials. Additionally, research and clinical practice has focused on the adherence to strict prompting protocols. Such strategies focus on what not to do, rather than helping the student learn what to do. There are a number of complementary skills including "learning how to listen" that have not been sufficiently explored in the research literature that could potentially facilitate success in conditional discrimination tasks. Drawing upon clinical experience as well as our published research we will discuss potential strategies for improving students' success with receptive language, provide recommendations for clinicians who work with individuals diagnosed with ASD, and provide ideas for future research projects.


Strategies to Address Missing Prerequisite Skills for Receptive Identification Training

(Applied Research)
TIFFANY KODAK (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee), Samantha Bergmann (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee ), Meredith Bamond (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Kate E. Fiske (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University)

Despite evidence-based practices for teaching receptive identification (i.e., auditory-visual conditional discrimination) to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a proportion of these children do not acquire this skill. The lack of acquisition during training may relate to the absence of important, prerequisite skills for successful auditory-visual conditional discrimination training. An assessment of prerequisite skills for auditory-visual conditional discrimination can help identify missing skills in need of intervention such as simple visual or auditory discriminations. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of research to guide researchers and practitioners on how to teach these missing prerequisite skills once they are identified. This presentation will describe several interventions to teach missing prerequisite skills for auditory-visual conditional discrimination training with children and adolescents with ASD. We will describe treatment challenges encountered while teaching these prerequisite skills. Suggestions for modifications to training procedures that could improve the success of teaching prerequisite skills for auditory-visual conditional discrimination will be provided, and we will discuss the importance of persisting with the identification of effective strategies for clients who have a slow response to common behavioral interventions.


Curricular Alternatives for Children With Autism Who Have Difficulty Acquiring Skills in a Developmental Curriculum

(Service Delivery)
PATRICK E. MCGREEVY (Patrick McGreevy, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates)

Many young children with autism have difficulty learning to exhibit skills that are part of developmental curricula. These skills include identical and arbitrary matching, vocal or motor imitation, listener responses that require conditional discriminations, tacts, and intraverbal responses. Many of these same children seldom experience stimulus generalization or induction. Dr. McGreevy will suggest curricular alternatives that should be considered when children experience these barriers and are no longer candidates for effective, formal, academic inclusion. One of these alternatives, Essential for Living, was co-authored by Dr. McGreevy and is composed of functional communication skills and pragmatic language skills, along with functional daily living and tolerating skills that are designed to prepare children for personally fulfilling experiences as children and adults and effective participation in their family life and their communities. These skills are taught in contexts that are the same or similar to those which they will encounter in daily living, which precludes the necessity for stimulus generalization and induction.




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