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 #246
CE Offered: BACB
Further Evaluation of Critical Aspects of Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities
Sunday, May 24, 2020
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon H
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Rachel Cagliani (University of Georgia)
Discussant: J.B. Ganz (Texas A&M University)
CE Instructor: J.B. GANZ, Ph.D.

This symposium is comprised of four data-based presentations evaluating the implementation of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with individuals with various developmental disabilities (i.e. Rett syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and Down syndrome) and verbal operants in the context of home and school. The four applied studies sought to evaluate critical aspects of high- and low-tech AAC including accurate and independent responding, navigation, comprehension, and vocal development. Emily Unholz will present first on the effect of device type (low-tech vs. high-tech) on accurate and independent responding with individuals with Rett syndrome trained via telecommunication. Next, Shawn Girtler will present findings from a study with similar participants evaluating the effects of behavior chaining, prompt delay, and prompt fading on AAC navigation. Following, Emily White will present on the effects of low-tech AAC (i.e. Picture Exchange Communication Training) and delay to reinforcement on vocal development in the context of an all day preschool program. Lauren Pierson will present the closing paper evaluating the effects of parent training on parent implementation of AAC training and correct language comprehension responding following a story. Finally, Jay Ganz will discuss the presentations in terms of implications for practice and future research.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): AAC, PECS, SGD
Target Audience:

scientist-practitioners, researchers, BCBAs, BCBA-Ds


Comparing Procedures to Promote Navigation With Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Three Girls With Rett Syndrome

SHAWN GIRTLER (University of Minnesota), Emily Katrina Unholz-Bowden (University of Minnesota), Jennifer J. McComas (University of Minnesota), Rebecca Kolb (University of Minnesota ), Alefyah Shipchandler (University of Minnesota)

There is emerging evidence that individuals with Rett syndrome (RTT) can learn to use alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices. The purpose of the current study is to evaluate the use of behavior chaining with a prompt delay and prompt fading on acquisition of software navigation skills with three individuals with RTT using both low-tech and high-tech AAC devices. For one participant, navigation was taught utilizing a high-tech AAC device. For the other two participants, navigation was taught utilizing both a high-tech and low-tech AAC devices. We used both changing criterion and multiple probe designs across contexts to evaluate independent and accurate responding. All sessions were conducted in the participant’s home by their parents with remote coaching from a research assistant via telecommunication. Results indicated that for two participants, prompt delay was an effective procedure to teach navigation using both a high-tech and a low-tech AAC device. For the other participant, behavior chaining with a prompt delay was an effective procedure to teach navigation using a high-tech AAC device. Future research should use experimental methods to expand on navigation to include page-linking for multiple word phrases.

Storybook Reading Intervention for Individuals with Complex Communication Needs: A Single-Case Study
LAUREN PIERSON (Texas A&M University), J.B. GANZ (Texas A&M University), Julie L. Thompson (Texas A&M University), Other Wattanawongwan (Texas A&M University), Valeria Yllades (Texas A&M University), April N. Haas (Texas A&M University)
Abstract: Children with complex-communication needs typically have deficits in language skills and often require augmentative and alternative communication devices to replace or supplement expressive communication. These deficits may have significant impacts on literacy skills including attending to the book, answering comprehension questions, initiating dialogue with communication partners, providing comments about what happened in the storybook, and retelling the story. This study used a multiple-probe across participants design to target language comprehension in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and Down Syndrome. Four child participants participated in this parent implemented intervention using dialogic reading elements. Parent training and weekly meetings took place on a secure online meeting platform. Weekly generalization activities and maintenance following the end of intervention were implemented. Results of this study suggest a functional relation between parent training and parent implementation. Thus, dialogic reading may be a promising tool for caregivers to use when working with individuals who have complex communication needs.
Analysis of Accurate Communication Using Low- and High-Tech Devices with Individuals with Rett Syndrome
EMILY KATRINA UNHOLZ-BOWDEN (University of Minnesota), Shawn Nicole Girtler (University of Minnesota), Jennifer J. McComas (University of Minnesota), Rebecca Kolb (University of Minnesota ), Alefyah Shipchandler (University of Minnesota)
Abstract: The vast majority of individuals with Rett syndrome do not have vocal expressive language and therefore require alternative and augmentative communication (AAC). The purpose of the current study is to compare independent and accurate use of communication modalities emitted by three individuals with RTT using a low-tech and high-tech communication device. With one participant, we sought to determine whether their accurate responding varied as a function of whether they were using a low-tech or a high-tech AAC device. With the other two participants, we sought to determine whether there was a differential effect of low-tech vs high-tech devices on acquisition of AAC usage. We used an alternating treatments design with one participant and a changing criterion design with two participants to examine independent and accurate responding in the context of low- and high-tech AAC devices. Parents conducted all sessions with remote coaching from a research assistant via telecommunication. For one participant, slightly higher levels of accurate and independent use of the high-tech versus low-tech device was observed. For the other two participants, results indicated some differences in acquisition between the high-tech and low-tech communication devices. Future research should use experimental methods to measure relative preference for communication modalities.
Effects of Picture Exchange Communication System and Alterations on Vocal Development in Early Intervention Classrooms
EMILY WHITE (The University of Georgia), Rachel Cagliani (University of Georgia)
Abstract: The current study examined vocalizations that occurred during Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) training for three preschool aged participants with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Participants received services in an applied behavior analysis intensive preschool classroom located in a public school. Researchers incorporated naturalistic instruction during PECS training which took place throughout the day in the participant’s classroom (e.g., the play areas and during mealtimes), familiar adults served as communication partners, and used multiple reinforcers typically found in the classroom to account for shifting motivations. As Ganz, Hong, Leuthold, and Yllades (2019) mention, the use of naturalistic instruction can increase the frequency a participant uses the communication system as well as the generalizability of the system. Prior to PECS training, all participants engaged in low levels of functional communication and had limited target word vocalizations. During PECS Phases I-III, no participants vocalized during exchanges. In Phase IV, researchers evaluated the effects of a delay to reinforcement followed by a vocal prompt on the emergence of vocalizations. Two of the three participants showed an increase in independent vocalizations after the addition of the vocal model and these vocalizations maintained over time.



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