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Assessing Play Interests in Toddlers.

Description: Play is a significant part of childhood. Typically developing children exhibit a wide range of interests within their play behavior, but children with autism do not. The purpose of this study was to design and implement an assessment tool that will capture the constellation of behaviors indicating play interests in young children. The Early Play Interests Assessment (EPIA) includes categories of play behavior and their components behaviors. Additionally, measures of child affect were built into the EPIA. All behaviors were observed under various environmental conditions. The results show that the EPIA was useful in observing toddlers' play behavior within behavioral categories and components and in assessing the interactions among these measures of play interests. The results are discussed in relation to the importance of creating observational systems to quantify play interests in typical and atypical children and for establishing a link between the information gathered in assessment and the planning and implementation of autism interventions.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Kodaka, Mitsuru

Assessing the Stimulus Control of Observers.

Description: The science of behavior analysis relies heavily on direct observation. Human observers are typically used to measure behavior in applied settings. Although the use of human observers is beneficial in many regards, it also presents challenges. Of primary concern is the extent to which the data generated by observers actually corresponds to the behavioral events of interest, and the implications this may have in terms of replication. This study assessed the effects that labels, definitions, and examples and non-examples of two different modalities had on observer accuracy, consistency, and agreement. Results showed that current practices in observer training may require refinement to ensure high observer accuracy, consistency, and agreement. Suggestions for how to improve the desired stimulus control of observers are provided.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Kuhn, Robin Merritt

The Captive Animal Activity Tracking System: A Systematic Method for the Continuous Evaluation of Captive Animal Welfare.

Description: Optimal animal welfare has been a long-term goal for captive animal institutions. To measure welfare a definition and identification of elements that make up welfare need to be established. Further, a method to measure welfare's elements that can be implemented into staff's daily routine is necessary to establish baseline levels and track changes in welfare. The goal of the proposed captive animal activity tracking system is to allow for the measurement of each element of welfare quickly, while providing information regarding the animal's current state of welfare and how changes to the animal's environment affect welfare. The data show that this system is effective in revealing behavioral patterns and changes in behavior that occurred in response to environmental changes.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Kalafut, Kathryn Lynn

Comparing a discriminative stimulus procedure to a pairing procedure: Conditioning neutral social stimuli to function as conditioned reinforcers.

Description: Social stimuli that function as reinforcers for most children generally do not function as reinforcers for children diagnosed with autism. These important social stimuli include smiles, head nods, thumb-ups, and okay signs. It should be an important goal of therapy for children with autism to condition these neutral social stimuli to function as reinforcers for children diagnosed with autism. There is empirical evidence to support both a pairing procedure (classical conditioning) and a discriminative stimulus procedure to condition neutral stimuli to function as reinforcers. However, there is no clear evidence as to the superiority of effectiveness for either procedure. Despite this most textbooks and curriculum guides for children with autism state only the pairing procedure to condition neutral stimuli to function as reinforcers. Recent studies suggest that the discriminative stimulus procedure may in fact be more effective in conditioning neutral stimuli to function as reinforcers for children diagnosed with autism. The present research is a further comparison of these two procedures. Results from one participant support recent findings that suggest the discriminative stimulus procedure is more effective in conditioning neutral stimuli to function as reinforcers. But the results from the other participant show no effects from either procedure, suggesting future research into conditions necessary to condition neutral social stimuli to function as reinforcers for children with autism.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Koelker, Rachel Lee

Does Stimulus Complexity Affect Acquisition of Conditional Discriminations and the Emergence of Derived Relations?

Description: Despite the central importance of conditional discriminations to the derivation of equivalence relations, there is little research relating the dynamics of conditional discrimination learning to the derivation of equivalence relations. Prior research has shown that conditional discriminations with simple sample and comparison stimuli are acquired faster than conditional discriminations with complex sample and comparison stimuli. This study attempted to replicate these earlier results and extend them by attempting to relate conditional discrimination learning to equivalence relations. Each of four adult humans learned four, four-choice conditional discriminations (simple-simple, simple-complex, complex-simple, and complex-complex) and were tested to see if equivalence relations had developed. The results confirm earlier findings showing acquisition to be facilitated with simple stimuli and retarded with complex stimuli. There was no difference in outcomes on equivalence tests, however. The results are in implicit agreement with Sidman's theory of stimulus equivalence.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Martin, Tiffani L.

An Evaluation of the Effects of Two Different Role Play Formats on the Outcomes of a Parent Training Curriculum

Description: The current study was designed to replicate and extend previous research on the effectiveness of behavioral parent training. Specifically, the effectiveness of the Behavior Management and Parenting Services (BMAPS) curriculum in teaching parents to exhibit a set of parenting skills and respond accurately to a multiple choice examination about positive parenting techniques was evaluated. In addition, the curriculum was revised so that the relative effectiveness and acceptability of two role play formats could be assessed. The outcomes of the study showed an improvement in the participants' ability to identify correct answers on a multiple choice examination and apply the parenting skills taught in class within a role play format; results pertaining to the efficacy of each role play format were less conclusive.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Carlson Litscher, Barbara J.

Interactions of equivalence and other behavioral relations: Simple successive discrimination training.

Description: The experimenter asked if documented equivalence class membership would influence the development of shared discriminative stimulus function established through simple successive discrimination training. In Experiment 1, equivalence classes were established with two sets of 9 stimuli. Common stimulus functions were then trained within or across the equivalence classes. Greater acquisition rates of the simple discriminations with stimuli drawn from within the equivalence classes were observed. In Experiment 2, a third stimulus set was added with which no equivalence relations were explicitly trained. The findings of Experiment 1 were replicated, but the Set 3 results were inconsistent across subjects. The outcomes of the two experiments demonstrate that equivalence classes have an effect on other behavioral relations which requires further investigation.
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Date: December 2009
Creator: Brackney, Ryan

Natural concepts in the domestic dog.

Description: The current study investigated concept formation in domestic dogs, specifically that of a toy concept. The dog's differential responding (retrieval vs. non-retrieval) to two sets of stimuli suggested a toy concept. Differential responding occurred from the very first trial, indicating that the concept had been formed in the natural environment, not during the experiment. It was hypothesized that a common response may be responsible for the emergence of the class in the natural environment. The results demonstrated that it was possible to expand the class by adding previously non-retrieved objects to the toy class through a common response. It was also shown that the toy concept passed the more stringent criterion (transfer of function test) required validating it as a concept.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Feuerbacher, Erica Nan

Progressing from identification and functional analysis of precursor behavior to treatment of self-injury.

Description: An evaluation of the utility of assessing and treating severe problem behavior through precursor functional analysis was completed. Ongoing measurement of problem behavior in two settings in the participant's natural environment was conducted for the duration of the study. A precursor to self-injurious behavior was identified using descriptive assessment and conditional probability analyses. A precursor functional analysis was then conducted. Subsequently, a treatment, in which precursor behavior produced the maintaining variable identified in the precursor functional analysis, was implemented in the natural environment. Treatment resulted in increases in the precursor behavior and decreases in self-injury in both the treatment setting and the second setting in which observations occurred. Implications of the assessment and treatment procedures are discussed.
Date: December 2009
Creator: Dracobly, Joseph Daniel

Effect of a Stimulus Shaping Procedure on Fluent Letter Sound Acquisition.

Description: Numerous studies have evaluated and confirmed many benefits of errorless learning and fluency-based procedures. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the benefits of combining an errorless learning procedure, stimulus shaping, and fluency-based procedures to teach see/say letter sound discriminations to three preschool children. Participants were taught 6 letter sounds using a hear/point stimulus shaping procedure followed by a see/say fluency-based procedure. A second letter set was taught using only the fluency-based procedure. Results showed that combining the procedures reduced the amount of teaching time by up to 40% and the percent of errors by up to 50%. This preliminary evidence shows exceptional promise in application of this combination of procedures to teach letter sounds to preschool children.
Date: August 2009
Creator: Maxwell, Larisa Ann

Immediate and Subsequent Effects of Fixed-Time Delivery of Therapist Attention on Problem Behavior Maintained by Attention

Description: The purpose of the current study was to investigate the immediate and subsequent effects of fixed-time attention on problem behavior maintained by therapist attention utilizing a three-component multiple-schedule design. The treatment analysis indicated that fixed-time attention produced a significant immediate decrease in the frequency of physically disruptive behavior (PDB), represented by low frequencies of PDB in Component 2, as well as a continued subsequent effect, represented by lower frequencies of problem behavior in Component 3 when compared to Component 1. The possible behavioral mechanisms responsible for the observed suppression in Component 2 of the treatment analysis are discussed. Evidence of behavioral contrast was observed in Components 1 and 3 of the treatment analysis in conditions in which Component 2 contained a fixed-time schedule of stimulus delivery. In addition, limitations and future research are outlined.
Date: August 2009
Creator: Walker, Stephen Frank

An Attempt to Dissociate Effects of Response Requirements and Sample Duration in Conditional Discrimination Learning with Pigeons.

Description: Attempts to control various aspects of response requirements and sample viewing durations of sample stimuli show that an increase in both facilitates acquisition of conditional discriminations. Despite these attempts, few empirical data exist that demonstrate the relative contributions of both response- and time-dependent schedules. In addition, viewing opportunities of sample stimuli are present outside of the researchers' control, allowing for 'unauthorized sample viewing.' This study employed a titrating delay matching-to-sample procedure to systematically control various aspects of response requirements and sample viewing durations to independently assess their relative contributions towards conditional discrimination performance. Four pigeons worked on a titrating delay matching-to-sample procedure in which the delay between sample offset and comparison onset continuously adjusted as a function of the accuracy of the pigeons' choices. Results show sample viewing durations contribute most toward conditional discrimination performance. The data show 'unauthorized sample viewing' improved acquisition of conditional discriminations and should be a consideration in design of future research.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Levine, Joshua

Can Analyzing Infant Imitation in the Natural Environment Inform Interventions in Autism?

Description: A longitudinal study of infants and their mothers was conducted to explore the development of imitation and approximations to imitation. During a 10-minute unstructured play session, researchers observed two mother-infant dyads once per week for twelve weeks, while they played at home. The data presented represents infants between the ages 5 and 34 weeks. The methodology employed was based on the methods described by Hart and Rilsey (1999). Observations were coded based on the topography of the mother's and infant's behavior and included vocalizations, facial movements, motor movements, and object manipulation. The data are analyzed and discussed in terms of its relevance to autism intervention.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Waltenburg, Carley

Can Longitudinal Observations of Infant Joint Attention Inform Infant Interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Description: Infants 5-34 weeks of age were observed in their homes playing with their mothers as part of a longitudinal study. Two mother-infant dyads were observed once per week for twelve weeks, during a ten-minute play session. The purpose of the observation system is to describe contingencies leading to the development of attention-seeking behaviors in typically developing infants. Observations were coded using a type-based format (person engagement, object engagement, supported joint engagement, coordinated joint engagement, and unengaged). Child eye gaze, reaching, and grabbing were coded as well as all child and adult vocalizations. It is suggested that the data from the observation system will help inform and assess the effectiveness of infant and toddler social interventions in autism spectrum disorders and advance our understanding of attention seeking behaviors.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Suchomel, Nicole G.

The Effects of PECS Training on Symbolic Matching Skills in Learners with Autism

Description: This study evaluated whether picture exchange communication system (PECS) training would result in the development of conditional relations among corresponding pictures, objects (reinforcers) and spoken words used in PECS training with learners with developmental disabilities. Three participants with autism and mental retardation were trained to use PECS. Match-to-sample procedures were used to assess all possible conditional relations among stimuli before, during, and after PECS training. None of the three participants in this study acquired conditional discriminations involving the pictures, reinforcers, and spoken words used in their PECS training.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Cranmer, Elizabeth

Effects of Picture Exchange Training on Communication Topographies

Description: The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) has been used with children with autism and other developmental disabilities as an alternative to vocal communication. Some researchers have reported rapid acquisition of picture-exchange requesting as well as increased vocal speech and increased spontaneous social interactions following PECS training. Earlier research has found that although 3 children with autism learned to exchange pictures for preferred items during PECS training, requesting topographies did not change and vocal speech did not increase after PECS training. The present study evaluated the effects of PECS training on requesting topographies, especially vocal speech, with 3 participants with autism and mental retardation. Only one participant maintained picture-exchange requesting, and none of the participants showed an increase in vocal speech during probe sessions conducted after each PECS training phase.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Haray, Aimee H.

A head start on reading for children in a Head Start preschool program.

Description: Literacy is a fundamental to all areas of learning. Early reading experiences prior to elementary school and kindergarten years are critical factors for later reading success. This study evaluated the effect Direct Instruction® reading procedures vs. Scholastic Early Childhood Program® reading procedures on the production of letter names, letter sounds, CV and CVC blends by preschool-aged students in a Head Start program. Results showed the intervention group improved in all areas, while the control group improved only in letter naming and letter sounds. This study discusses reading as a behavioral cusp as well as limitations, and recommendations for future research.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Osley, Kristin R.

An Observation System to Aid in the Evaluation and Implementation of Early Intervention Programs for Children with Autism

Description: Early and intensive behavioral intervention outcome research includes descriptions of intervention variables that may increase treatment success. This study was designed to develop an observation system that incorporates and expands on some of these variables. Measures include the number of interventionist teaching units, types of skills addressed during instruction, consequences programmed by interventionists, and engagement with teaching materials. This system allowed for a view of the differences in teaching behaviors among the participants. It is proposed that this observation system is a start toward standardized intervention measures that can be applied to evaluate varied treatment models. Such standardization can help in ensuring that all children have access to evidence-based services.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Geving, Megan McGee

A systematic replication of the Family Connections parent-toddler training program.

Description: As more toddlers are being diagnosed with autism there is an increased need for very early intervention. Preliminary research on interventions suggests toddlers can make important developmental progress and that parents can be part of the intervention process. The purpose of this study was to systematically replicate a parent training program reported by Alai-Rosales et al. (2009). Specifically, the present study taught parents a set of teaching strategies that included arranging the environment, setting up learning opportunities, and using positive reinforcement. Baseline-intervention conditions were replicated across four parent-toddler dyads in order to assess the effects of training on parent and child behaviors. Results indicated increases in parent teaching behaviors, the child targeted behavior (facial orientation), as well as a non-targeted skill, joint attention. Findings are discussed in relation to the challenges of intervention and considerations for future research.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Newcomer, Andrea L.

Transfer of Mand-to-Tact and Tact-to-Mand Topographies in Two Vocal-Verbal Children with Autism: A Replication and Extension Study

Description: Skinner (1957) suggested that different verbal operants are acquired independently of each other and establishing a verbal operant as a mand will not necessarily result in the appearance of a tact having the same response form and vice versa. Recent empirical research has found that newly acquired mands and tacts can be transferred to different relations without direct training. The present study investigated 1) how verbal responses taught as pure mands affect untrained tact relations; 2) how verbal responses taught as pure tacts affect untrained mand relations; 3) how the size of mand and tact repertoires relate to speed of acquisition of new mands and tacts; and 4) how size of entering repertoires affect the transfer of mand topographies to tacts and vice versa. Two vocal-verbal children with autism were taught three novel responses as mands and three other responses as tacts. Mand topographies transferred to tact relations and tact topographies transferred to mand relations for both participants. Overall acquisition as well as transfer of mands and tacts was faster for the participant with a higher entering repertoire.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Ruiz, Julio

Using a Behavioral Treatment Package to Teach Tolerance to Skin Care Products to a Child with Autism: A Systematic Replication

Description: The purpose of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of a treatment package to teach a child with autism to willingly accept skin care products conducive to health and normal everyday living. The current study uses graduated exposure, modeling and contingent social attention to teach the child to accept the application of skin care products previously avoided. Results of the study showed that the participant tolerated criterion amounts of all target stimuli with both experimenter and parent. Follow-up probes revealed maintenance of the behaviors with only two out of the three target skin care products.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Vidosevic, Tania A.

What you teach makes a difference: Direct and collateral outcomes of an autism sibling intervention.

Description: Training siblings as change agents for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been shown to be beneficial in teaching a sibling to teach their brother or sister. There are very few interventions, however, that explore the range of effects that targeting particular skills has on sibling interactions. The purpose of this study was to assess the direct and collateral effects of training behavioral teaching techniques to a typically developing sibling. Four experimental conditions were assessed: baseline, sibling teaching toy play, baseline, and sibling teaching social play. Across all conditions, measures of teaching components and siblings' interactions were assessed. Results of the assessment showed that the sibling was an effective change agent and that more favorable interaction and engagement occurred when social play skills were taught. The results of this sibling intervention and guidelines for condition changes are discussed in terms of sibling relationships.
Date: May 2009
Creator: Czekalski, Sara

Effects of Fixed- and Variable-Ratio Token Exchange Schedules on Performance with Children with Autism

Description: The research literature with nonhumans supports findings that token economies are a common component of training programs. The literature suggests that the schedule by which exchange opportunities become available determines the organization of behavioral performances in token economies to a great extent. This study sought to systematically document whether the dynamics observed in basic laboratory procedures will also be observed in a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and whether altering schedules by which the exchange opportunities become available will attenuate these effects. The participant was exposed to two conditions: 1) a fixed token-production schedule (FR1) with a fixed token-exchange schedule (FR5) and 2) a fixed token-production schedule (FR1) with a variable token-exchange schedule (VR5). Results of the current study did not lend themselves to draw definitive conclusions that the patterns of responding observed in this experiment were in fact due to the change in the token exchange schedule.
Date: December 2008
Creator: Greaves, Stephanie A.

An Evaluation of the Effects of an Abridged Parent Training Program on Parent-child Interactions in the Home

Description: This study examined the effects of a condensed parent training program on parent-child interactions in the home. Two parents participated in a positive parenting workshop that included explicit training of four skills and indirect training of two additional skills. To determine skill acquisition, both parents performed role plays and completed written exams pre- and post-training. Role play assessment results showed improvements in all skill areas for both participants. Written assessment results showed improvements for all skills directly taught except one. Multiple measures were examined in the home prior to and following the workshop to assess generalization. Results showed an increase in positive interactions and decrease in coercive interactions and undesirable child behavior for both participants.
Date: December 2008
Creator: Jones-Hamilton, Allison M.