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 #189
CE Offered: BACB
Reinforcement Procedures for Facilitating the Development of Eye Contact, Vocalizations, Joint Attention, and Social Referencing Among Young Children At Risk of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Sunday, May 28, 2017
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 4A/B
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Thomas G. Szabo (Florida Institute of Technology)
Discussant: Martha Pelaez (Florida International University)
CE Instructor: Hayley Neimy, M.S.
Abstract: We have initiated, replicated, and extended a programmatic line of research for establishing operant procedures to investigate infant learning and to help young children who are at risk of autism or other developmental disorders acquire social repertoires. Infant engagement responses such as vocalizations, eye contact, joint attention, and social referencing are critical developmental milestones that serve as prerequisites for early communication and social skills (Pelaez, 2009). The emphasis in this symposium is that operant learning procedures can be successful in establishing early social-learning repertoires. The first presenter identifies the operant-learning procedures that have been useful for establishing pivotal social skills during infancy, primarily, improved eye contact and early vocalizations. Efficacy and application of different forms of social reinforcement will be discussed (e.g., synchronized reinforcement, contingent motherese speech, contingent vocal imitation). The second presentation examines the acquisition of joint-attention and social referencing repertoires via the operant-learning paradigm among typically and atypically developing infants and toddlers. The discussant will comment on these ongoing programs of research and future directions and implications of the research.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): autism, early intervention, infants at-risk, social skills

Promoting Eye Contact via Synchronized Reinforcement Procedures and Vocalizations via Contingent Motherese and Vocal Imitation Among Infants and Toddlers At Risk

HAYLEY NEIMY (Shabani Institute - Center for Behavior Analysis & Language Development), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Jonathan J. Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids; University of Southern Califo)

The emission of early social skills, like eye contact and vocalizations, during infancy serves as the pre-requisite foundation for the development of subsequent functional social and language skills later in childhood (Novak & Pelaez, 2004). Research that demonstrates the acquisition of these preverbal skills is presented. Specifically, the use of synchronized reinforcement procedures where mothers are taught to provide simultaneous behaviors such as smiling, verbal praise, and rhythmic touch contingently to reinforce infant eye contact in the natural environment (Pelaez et al., 1996). The assumption is that establishing eye contact in young children can aid the learning of other foundational skills required to build social communicative behaviors. Further, two forms of contingent social reinforcement (maternal vocal imitation and motherese speech) are presented as effective means for increasing the rate of infant vocalizations (Pelaez et al., 2011a; 2011b, Neimy, et. al., in press). The research reports on the use of both contingent and noncontingent vocal imitation and motherese speech for increasing the rate of infant vocalizations among typically and atypically developing infants through a parent-training model. The emphasis is that establishing pre-verbal vocalizations facilitates the development of subsequent verbal vocalizations among at risk infants and potentially mitigates language delays in later childhood.


Establishing Joint Attention as a Prerequisite for Social Referencing Skills in Infants and Toddlers At Risk Using Operant Learning Procedures

JACQUELINE MERY-CARROW (FirstSteps for Kids; Caldwell University), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Katerina Monlux (Stanford University), Jonathan J. Tarbox (FirstSteps for Kids; University of Southern California)

Deficits in social engagement are among the main developmental problems observed among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In particular, joint attention and social referencing skills are critical for the development of more complex social interactions. The use of behavioral techniques and brief parent-infant engagement training has shown to be successful in promoting these social skills. Our assumption is that targeting joint attention and social referencing skills in the natural environment by using caregivers as therapists can potentially mitigate and prevent the development of later onset behavior language problems commonly associated with ASD. The current presentation reviews and extends previously published procedures for the training of joint attention and social referencing modeled after Pelaez and colleagues (2012) operant learning paradigm. Further, a model for expanding previous findings to the natural environment is proposed where joint attending skills can be taught first to aid in the acquisition of social referencing. While very similar social behavior chains, joint attention and social referencing have functional differences. Specifically, social referencing adds another component to the joint attention chain where the learner reacts to the novel stimulus in a manner that is in accordance with anothers facial expressions or emotional cues.




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