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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #459
The Influence of Social Synchrony and Social and Motor Context on Social Communication, Social Interaction, and Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors in Autism
Monday, May 25, 2020
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Level M2, Marquis Ballroom 6
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Karen M. Lionello-DeNolf (Assumption College)
CE Instructor: Karen M. Lionello-DeNolf, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: PAULA FITZPATRICK (Assumption College)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is marked by social communication and interaction impairments and restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRBs), yet little is understood about the etiology of these impairments and there are few successful treatment interventions. The expression and severity of social impairments can vary widely across individuals, so more objective bio-behavioral markers that measure the process of how interactions unfold over time will greatly enhance our understanding and could lead to targeting of interventions to particular subgroups of patients. Engagement in restrictive and repetitive behaviors can compound the social communication and interaction difficulties, so a fuller understanding of the contextual factors that influence the expression of RRBs is also need. In this talk, I argue that social synchrony may be a useful dynamic bio-marker of social ability in children and adolescents with ASD. The relevance of social synchrony and coupled oscillator-based modeling of synchronization for understanding social impairment in ASD will be discussed and synchronization ability for spontaneous and intentional interpersonal coordination in children and adolescents with and without ASD will be compared. In addition, I will present data that evaluates the relationship between synchronization ability and more traditional clinical and social cognitive measures of social ability and evaluate the influence of social and motor context on the presentation of RRBs and language production during conversation. Finally, the promise of social synchronization ability for providing a measure with heightened resolution to identify the essential qualities of social performance in naturalistic situations and isolate underlying neural mechanisms that may be disrupted in ASD will be discussed and directions for future research and potential interventions outlined.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) illustrate the relevance of social synchrony and coupled oscillator-based modeling of synchronization for understanding social communication and interaction impairment in autism spectrum disorder; (2) Compare synchronization ability for spontaneous, intentional, interpersonal coordination during social-motor tasks and during conversation in children and adolescents with and without ASD using both behavioral and neural measures; (3) Explain the relationship between synchronization ability and traditional measures of social cognition; (4) Demonstrate the importance of social and motor context in influencing RRB presentation and language production and discuss its use for interventions; (5) Describe the application of social synchronization as a potential early biobehavioral marker and treatment intervention for ASD.
PAULA FITZPATRICK (Assumption College)
My research focuses on understanding how bodily movement tunes psychological development by exploring the impact of motor behavior on social, cognitive, and emotional developmental outcomes from infancy through adolescence. In particular, current projects focus on understanding the relationship between motor coordination and social skills, the contribution of social coordination to social problems in autism, the factors (at the level of the child and family) that influence the development of motor skill, and the relationship between motor skill and early learning and academic success. My research derives from dynamical systems theory that emphasizes self-organizing principles of stability, instability, and behavioral transitions to understand the emergence and progression of behavior. My approach involves measuring behavior across multiple domains (motor, social, cognitive, emotional) and at a number of scales—observable behavioral coding, micro-dynamical time-series measures, and, more recently, neurobiological measures. My research employs innovative, multi-method research designs and the formation of collaborative research teams with diverse backgrounds that cut across disciplinary expertise—developmental psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, movement science, neuroscience, and education—and has important implications for translating new knowledge about social, cognitive, and motor development into treatments and interventions to help struggling children and families. 



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