Autism TreatmentAutism Information for Parents, Practitioners & Professionals…

Autism Information for Parents, Practitioners & Professionals…

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Advances in Autism Complex Social and Language Skills: The Assn for Behavior Analysis Autism Conference 2013

At the recent conference on Autism sponsored by the Association for Behavior Analysis International in Portland, OR, several presentations were devoted specifically to ways of helping children with autism spectrum disorders learn more complex social and language skills.

Sharon Reeve of Caldwell College, discussed Promoting Generalization of Play and Social Skills in Individuals With Autism, which included , sharing, helping and engagement in joint attention. Her approach involves two interlocking methods, general and multiple exemplar training. She begins by identifying exemplars that adequately reflect the diversity of the stimulus characteristics likely to be present under generalization conditions, and provide multiple variation of situation that should evoke the target behavior. In one series of studies she used toy campers, castlers and other similar familiar scenario-based toys. Provide multiple variation of situation that should evoke the target behavior. The basic intervention uses video modeling in which the child is taught to engage in the target play responses while the video is shown, with the assistance of manual and vocal prompts which are gradually faded with time delay. In another important skill category, Reeve, Reeve, Townsend and Poulson (2007) developed a method that enabled kids with autism to learn skills such as Cleaning, Replacing broken materials,Picking up objects, and Putting items away. The strategy was similar beginning with identifying the relevant cues that cut across situations all sharing in common the feature that someone needs assistance. Using video modeling with prompts and prompt fading they have had a high degree of success with children who have already learned motor imitation. The third complex skill category involved joint attention, one of the hallmark deficits in autism. They all shared two common features, the presence of adult and unusual or interesting event in environment. The skill is taught using scripts which are faded. Reeve and colleagues measured the number of scripted, unscripted, and novel statements made by the kids in the presence of novel, unexpected stimuli which called for expressions of joint attention.
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In a dynamic presentation, Bridget Taylor of the Alpine Learning Group, Inc. discussed “I can do it myself: Data-based strategies to increase independence of children with autism.” Taylor emphasized the importance of using functionally relevant activities, cues and rewards for developing independence in order to motivate the individual. Though some of the intervention involves familiar shaping and chaining methods, she also makes extensive use of Incidental Teaching in natural environments. One of the novel aspects of her presenation was expanding the range of stimuli used to prompt independent skills, including photos, text, combinations of text & photos, audio-taped prompts and pagers. One of the examples she presented was the use of an IPod based activity schedule, which can be particularly effective for some children. In a study with Hoch and Rodriguez, she demonstrated how adolescents can be taught to use cell phones to seek help when lost. She demonstrated the clever use of a pager to help overcome a common social problem, namely eating too fast. The pager is set to remind the young person with autism to pace their food intake at meal times.
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Perhaps the most complex cognitive skills were discussed by Jonathon Tarbox of CARD, Inc. in California during his presentation, “Teaching Perspective-Taking and Executive Function Skills to Children with Autism.” Since Simon Baron-Cohen published his paper on “theory of mind,” many in the autism field have emphasized deficits in autism of understanding and being able to respond to other people’s vantage vantage points. Tarbox pointed out that it is commonly assumed that ABA only teaches simple behaviors, not genuine concepts or true understanding, and went about systematically refuting this assumption with data. They have developed strategies to teachi individuals with autism how to infer causal relations between overt events and what emotions they are likely to cause in others, such as “Julie drops her ice cream cone, then she will be sad.” Among examples Tarbox discussed, with actual examples taught in their program are learning to understand metaphors and deception, which are nearly always problematic in autism. Finally, among the other categories of more complex Executive Functions Tarbox discussed were self-monitoring, self-control, inhibition, planning, problem-solving, and learning trans-situational rules. Tarbox argued that cognitive explanations relying on hypothesized brain processes and proposed cognitive mechanisms, while theoretically interesting, usually leave more questions


to be answered than solved, and seldom help us practically teach kids with autism how to develop those complex skills.

DVD copies of these and other conference presentations will be available for purchase at the ABAI
Learning Center which can be used as the basis for CE Credits.


Sharon Reeve, PhD, BCBA-D Executive Director, Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, Caldwell College

Carlile, K., Reeve, S. A., Reeve, K. F., & DeBar, R. M. (in press). Using activity schedules on the iPod touch© to teach leisure skills to children with autism. Education & Treatment of Children.

Marzullo-Kerth, D., Reeve, S. A., Reeve, K. F., & Townsend, D. B. (2011). Using multiple-exemplar training to teach a generalized repertoire of sharing to children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 279-294.

Blum-Dimaya, A., Reeve, S. A., Reeve, K. F., & Hoch, H. (2010). Teaching children with autism to play a video game using activity schedules and game-embedded simultaneous video modeling. Education & Treatment of Children, 33, 351-370.

Deitchman, C., Reeve, S. A., Reeve, K. F., & Progar, P. R. (2010). Incorporating video feedback into self-management training to promote generalization of social initiations by children with autism. Education and Treatment of Children, 33(3), 475-488.

Bridget Taylor, PsyD, BCBA-D, CEO Alpine Learning Group, Inc.

White, E. R., Hoffman, B., Hoch, H., & Taylor, B. A. (2011). Teaching teamwork to adolescents with autism: The cooperative use of activity schedules. Behavior Analysis in Practice. 4

Taylor, B.A., & Hoch, H. (2008). Teaching children with autism to respond to and initiate bids for joint attention. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 377-391.?

Anglesea, M. M., Hoch, H., & Taylor, B. A. (2008). Reducing rapid eating in teenagers with autism: Use of a pager prompt. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 41, 107-111.

Kimball, J. W., Kinney, E. M., Taylor, B. A., & Stromer, R. (2004). Video enhanced activity schedules for children with autism: A promising package for teaching social skills. Education and Treatment of Children, 27, 280-298.

Jonathan Tarbox, PhD, BCBA-D, Director of Research, Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.

Bergstrom, R., Najdowski, A.C., & Tarbox, J. (in-press). Teaching children with autism to seek help when lost in public. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Ranick, J, Persicke, A, Tarbox, J, Kornack, J.A. (2013) Teaching children to detect and respond to deceptive statements. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 7, 503-508.

Persicke, A., Tarbox, J., Ranick, J. & St.Clair, M. (2012) Establishing metaphorical reasoning in children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 6, 913-920.

Gould, E., Tarbox, J., O’Hora, D., Noone, S., & Bergstrom, R. (2011). Teaching children with autism a basic component skill of perspective-taking. Behavioral Interventions, 26, 50-66.