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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Symposium #570
CE Offered: BACB
Using Behavior Analysis to Promote Early Social Repertoires in Infants and Children With Developmental Disabilities
Monday, May 25, 2020
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon H
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Martha Pelaez (Florida International University)
Discussant: Javier Virues Ortega (The University of Auckland)
CE Instructor: Javier Virues Ortega, Ph.D.

Early reciprocal interactions with caregivers seem to be critical for later development. Identification of milestones missed during the first year of life and early intervention can mitigate developmental delays. The authors of Study 1 evaluated the effect of a computer-based training program to teach first-time mothers to play a vocal imitation learning game with their 8- and 9-month-old infants. The authors will discuss the role of contingency-learning in early caregiver training. Study 2 will review existing procedures for training joint attention and social referencing. The authors will propose an acquisition model for early social repertoires among children at-risk of autism spectrum disorder and Fragile X syndrome. The authors of Study 3 evaluated the efficacy of an intervention to establish social referencing in young children with autism using multiple exemplar training, prompting and contingent reinforcement. The authors will discuss the interaction between the joint attention and social referencing repertoires in their participants. Study 4 will evaluate the use of social stories to teach social skills in the classroom. The authors will also review evidence-based treatments to teach classroom competence to children. Finally, Javier Virues-Ortega will discuss these studies in relation to the interaction between early social skills.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): contingent reinforcement, joint attention, social referencing, social stories
Target Audience:

Practicing behavior analysts

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will operationally define a minimum of three early social behaviors that develop towards the end of the first year of life. 2. Participants will describe teaching strategies to address these social communication skills in children with a developmental disability 3. Participants will learn about the next steps for research on these early skills.

Teaching First-Time Mothers to Play a Vocal Imitation Game With Their Infant Using an Interactive Computer Training That Included Embedded Observer Effect Activities

KERRY ABIGAIL SHEA (Utah State University), Tyra Paige Sellers (Behavior Analyst Certification Board), Sandra Smith (Utah State University), Andrea Bullock (Box Elder School District)

Infants begin to learn important skills, such as contingency learning, social referencing, and joint attention through the everyday interactions with their environment. Contingency awareness is a pivotal behavior in infant development, associated with benefits across developmental domains. When infants learn that their behavior produces a change in the behavior, concomitant changes in infant behavior manifest, including increased smiling and sustained engagement. Maternal contingent responses to infant behavior support infant contingency learning by their infant with experiences of cause and effect. The current investigation evaluated the effect of a computer-based training that aimed at teaching three first-time mothers to play a vocal imitation contingency learning game with their infant (8- & 9-months old) during a face-to-face interaction. The training included observer effect methodology, meaning the mothers engaged in observation and evaluation of other mothers engaging in vocal imitation, but did not include any direct coaching or feedback. All mothers completed the training during one session in less than one hour. Results indicated that all mothers increased their use of vocal imitation and maintained their performance at a 2-week follow-up. We will present training components including embedded observer effect methodology. Considerations for incorporating contingency-learning into early caregiver training will also be discussed.


Training Parents to Establish Joint Attention and Social Referencing Repertoires in Toddlers With Developmental Disorders

KATERINA MONLUX (Stanford University/Oslo Met), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)

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. We present new data that built on our programmatic agenda that by targeting joint attention and social referencing skills in the natural environment and by using caregivers as therapists we 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 with data from toddlers with or at risk of a developmental disorder. Further, a model for expanding previous findings to the natural environment with a population at-risk of developing ASD and Fragile X syndrome 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, which will be explained.


Using Multiple Exemplar Training to Establish Social Referencing in Young Children With Autism

MAITHRI SIVARAMAN (Ghent University), Javier Virues Ortega (The University of Auckland), Herbert Roeyers (Ghent University)

Social referencing is characterized as a chain of behaviors which starts when an infant is confronted with an ambiguous object or event. Although demonstrated by typically developing infants as young as 10 months of age, social referencing is absent or impaired in children with autism. The purpose of the present study is to evaluate the efficacy of an intervention to establish a social referencing repertoire in three young children with autism using multiple exemplar training, prompting and contingent reinforcement. The intervention was comprised of teaching trials involving multiple exemplars of standard and ambiguous task materials drawn from experimenter-defined categories of stimuli (e.g., food, art material, toys). Results were evaluated using a multiple baseline across participants design and show a systematic increase in referencing responses with the introduction of treatment for all three participants. We will also present preliminary findings of a randomized control trial with 30 participants evaluating a brief version of the intervention protocol. Pre- and post-training measures of joint attention obtained from all participants will be discussed in the context of the social referencing data obtained herein. The empirical evidence in support of strategies for teaching early social repertoires will be discussed.


An Evaluation of Social Stories to Teach Classroom Social Skills to Children With Various Disabilities

ANJELICE PIPER (Caldwell University), Sharon A. Reeve (Caldwell University), Meghan Deshais (Caldwell University), Eileen Mary Milata (Caldwell University), Anjalee Nirgudkar (Behavior Analysts of NJ, LLC)

Children diagnosed with various developmental and learning disabilities have persistent social deficits in communication and social interactions. These social deficits interfere with classroom social skills and may result in difficulty forming positive relationships with peers and adults. Therefore, it is important to identify evidence-based treatments to teach classroom competence to children diagnosed with various disabilities. The study used Social Stories™ to teach classroom social skills to children in a self-contained setting. A multiple baseline across participants was used to assess changes in classroom social skills. A total of four response categories were taught including please, thank you, pushing in chair, and offering assistance. Generalization probes were conducted using a novel competence scenario for each category. Follow-up data were collected 1-week, 2-weeks, and 4-weeks following the completion of the study to evaluate participants’ maintenance of classroom competence skills.




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