Tip of the Week: Improving Behavior for the Whole Class

Often, we focus on how to improve the behavior of an individual, but there are many times in which teachers must figure out a way to improve the behavior of the entire class. In ABA, we might implement a group contingency, a strategy in which reinforcement for the whole group is based upon the behavior of one or more people within the group meeting a performance criterion (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007).

Group contingencies can be especially beneficial for teachers because it may not always be possible to implement a contingency for an individual or there may be several students who need improvement with the same behavior. It’s also a useful strategy for individuals who respond well to peer influence. Furthermore, there are several studies that demonstrate the group contingencies can increase positive social interactions within a group.

Let’s look at examples of each type of contingency. In the first type, a dependent group contingency, reinforcement for all members of the group depends on the behavior of a single person within the group or a small group of people within the group. For example, you might say, “If Joseph remains in his seat for all of math, we will have five extra minutes of recess today.” This can be highly motivating for Joseph, because his peers will respond well to him if he earns them access to five more minutes of recess (leading some to call it the “hero procedure” because the individual is viewed so positively upon earning the reward.) It’s clear that if you have a student who is not motivated by social reinforcement from peers, this type of contingency would backfire. However, there is plenty of research that shows it’s benefits. (Allen, Gottselig, & Boylan, 1982; Gresham, 1983; Kerr & Nelson, 2002)

In the second type, an independent group contingency, criterion for accessing reinforcement is presented to everyone, but only the individuals who meet criterion earn the reinforcer. For example, you might say “If you remain in your seat for all of math class, you will earn five extra minutes of recess today.” In this contingency, every student who reaches criterion accesses the extra recess time, but those students who left their seat do not earn the extra five minutes. Another example might be, “Each person who turns in all homework earns two bonus points on their spelling test.” In this set up, the entire class is working towards a common goal, but the individuals who achieve the goal earn reinforcement no matter how their peers perform.

In the third type, an interdependent group contingency, reinforcement for all members of the group depends on the behavior of each member of the group meeting a performance criterion. Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace put it very well when they wrote “Independent group contingencies involve treating the members of a group as if they were a single behaving entity. The behavior of the group is reinforced contingent on the collective achievement of its members” (2014). In many classrooms there some type of independent group contingency in place, such as earning behavior points per class period or keeping your name on the green light (with yellow and red lights indicating problematic behaviors.) It’s quite simple to add an interdependent group contingency to these systems already in place. For example, you might say, “If all students names are still on the green light at the end of math, everyone earns an extra five minutes of recess.” There is evidence that interdependent group contingencies promote cooperation within groups (Poplin & Skinner, 2003; Salend & Sonnenschein, 1989).

Group contingencies are an excellent tool for classroom teachers, as well as anyone else working to manage a group of individuals.

FURTHER READING

Allen, Gottselig, & Boylan. (1982). A practical mechanism for using free time as a reinforcer in the classroom. Education and Treatment of Children, 5(4), 347-353.

Cooper, Heron, & Heward. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis – 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs; NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Gresham, F.M. (1983). Use of a home-based dependent group contingency system in controlling destructive behavior: A case study. School Psychology Review, 12(2), 195-199.

Kerr, M.M. & Nelson, C.M. (2002). Strategies for addressing behavior problems in the classroom (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace. (2014). Behavior Analysis for Lasting Change (3rd ed.). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.

Popkin, J. & Skinner, C. (2003). Enhancing academic performance in a classroom serving students with serious emotional disturbance: Interdependent group contingencies with randomly selected components. School Psychology Review, 32(2), 282-296.

Salend, S.J., & Sonnenschein, P. (1989). Validating the effectiveness of a cooperative learning strategy through direct observation. Journal of School Psychology, 27, 47-58.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Photo courtesy of Books and Blogs by Cindy Andrews

Registration Open for the Ethics in Professional Practice Conference 2015

Presented by the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and the Van Loan School at Endicott College, MA, the 3rd Annual Ethics in Professional Practice Conference will be held on Friday, August 7, 2015. Register for your spot now for a great opportunity to hear leaders in the fields of Psychology, Business, Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis. Speakers include R. Wayne Fuqua, PhD, BCBA-D, Michael F. Dorsey, PhD, BCBA-D and Mary Jane Weiss, PhD, BCBA-D.

Ethics in Professional Practice Conference 2015

For more information, visit the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies event page.

Federal Government Calls for Greater Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Preschools

Federal officials say that young children with disabilities should be receiving educational services in inclusive settings in greater numbers. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are encouraging greater inclusion of children with disabilities in preschools, Disability Scoop reports. The Department of Education has reported that while a majority of preschoolers with disabilities did attend general early childhood programs since 2013, more than half received special education in contained environments.

States are being urged to create task forces to promote early childhood inclusion, establish new policies, and allocate funds to facilitate these programs and track goals for expanding inclusive learning opportunities.

In a draft policy statement on the inclusion of children with disabilities by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the lag in progress on giving children with disabilities and their families access to inclusive early childhood programs is troubling for several reasons, such as:

  • “Being meaningfully included as a member of society is the first step to equal opportunity, one of America’s most cherished ideals, and is every person’s right—a right supported by our laws.
  • “A robust body of literature indicates that meaningful inclusion is beneficial to children with and without disabilities across a variety of developmental domains.
  • “Preliminary research shows that operating inclusive early childhood programs is not more expensive than operating separate early childhood programs for children with disabilities.
  • “Meaningful inclusion in high-quality early childhood programs can support children with disabilities in reaching their full potential resulting in societal benefits more broadly” (U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, 2015).

What are your thoughts on this urge for change in the early childhood setting?

Read more: “Feds Call for Greater Inclusion in Preschools”

“Tips for Traveling with Children with Special Needs” by Ida Keiper

With the end of the school year and summer right around the corner, we’re sure many of you have started to plan for family trips and vacations. To help you prepare better, we thought we would share some valuable tips and resources from Ida Keiper on traveling with your children with special needs. Ida Keiper is a special educator and the co-founder of the Starbrite Kids’ Program and Starry Night Travel, LLC, a travel agency that specializes in planning travel for individuals with special needs.

Tips for Traveling with Children with Special Needs
by Ida Keiper

“If we all could see the world through eyes of a child we would
see the magic in everything.” –Chee Vai Tang

One of the best moments of being a parent is observing your child experience things for the first time. Children laugh at the silliest and smallest of things and are excited about everything they see. Traveling exposes children to new places, discoveries and experiences. It enhances a child’s confidence, imagination, creativity, and reinforces academic, social and communication skills.

Traveling with a child with special needs can be exciting, but also may involve emotional and physical challenges. Preparing for the trip and choosing special needs friendly destinations is extremely important.

There are a wide variety of resources and programs available for children with special needs:

  • Unique art programs, ASL interpreted programs, multisensory workshops, sensory friendly programs, and audio descriptive tours, are offered at facilities throughout the country
  • Adaptive ski and sports programs are available for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities
  • Water sports programs are available i.e. Surfers for Autism, Surfers Healing, swimming with the dolphins, scuba diving and snorkeling programs for the physically disabled through The Diveheart Foundation
  • Access passes to National Parks and guest assistance passes for amusement parks are available
  • Theater programs including accessible seating, open captioning, sign language interpreting, audio descriptions, and autism friendly showings are available through The Theatre Development Fund Accessibility Program
  • Hotels and resorts that are special needs friendly
  • Facilities that can accommodate individuals with dietary needs

Tips when planning your vacation:

  • Identify services or special accommodations that need to be put in place prior to traveling. Arrange for any medical supplies/equipment needed.
  • Contact TSA Cares at (855) 787-2227 for questions pertaining to equipment regulations, procedures, and screening policies with air travel.
  • Contact Special Needs at Sea for equipment/supplies needed on cruise ships
  • Locate attractions and hotels in Florida that are “autism friendly” by visiting The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.
  • Inquire if any special programs for children with a physical or developmental disability are available at the resort or hotel.
  • Identify Cruise Lines that accommodate individuals with developmental and physical disabilities. Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line that has been named “autism friendly”.
  • Identify your child’s potential travel concerns, i.e. change in routine, waiting in line, transitioning, sensory overload, meeting new people, going through airport security (to name a few).
  • Use strategies such as visual stories, visual scripts, calendars, schedules, and relaxation techniques to address potential travel concerns.
  • Use noise cancelling headphones, earplugs, and sunglasses for children with sensory issues.
  • Discuss vacation safety rules with your child. Safe proof your room or cabin. If your child tends to bolt, install a portable battery operated alarm system to the doors in your cabin or hotel room. Apply non-permanent tattoos for ID purposes and Child Aviation Restraint System to keep you child safe in his seat on an airplane.
  • Speak with the chef at your hotel, cruise ship, or restaurant to assure special dietary needs are in place. Visit websites such as FAAN Network and Allergy Free Table for information about accommodating food allergies while traveling
  • Contact a travel agent who has experience working with individuals with special needs.

Additional information on special needs friendly destinations including amusement parks, museums, zoos, aquariums planetariums, and ski resorts can be found in our Starbrite Traveler Book series through Amazon.com. Books also include special needs resources, safety activities, checklists, and application of evidence based strategies and interactive activities to prepare your child for travel.

  • Starbrite Traveler: A Travel Resource for Parents of Children with Special Needs
  • Starbrite Traveler: Destinations for Kids with Special Needs – East Coast Edition
  • Autism & Travel: Strategies for Kids to Enjoy an Awesome Experience

ABOUT IDA KEIPER

Ida Keiper is dually certified as Teacher of the Handicapped and Elementary School Education. She earned a B.A. from Georgian Court University. Ms. Keiper, a highly qualified teacher educated children with disabilities for thirty years, wrote district curriculum for special education, coordinator of special education department in New Jersey public schools. Her compassion and professionalism earned her “Teacher of the Year.” Over the years Ms. Keiper has fostered close relationships with her students and parents. Ms. Keiper lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

Special Education Law and Advocacy Training by Wrightslaw: May 14th, Queens New York

Nationally acclaimed special education attorney and advocate, Pete Wright, will be presenting in New York City on May 14th, 2015 for a one day training course. Wright will speak to special education law, rights & responsibilities, tests & measurements to measure progress & regression, SMART IEPs, and tactics & strategies for effective advocacy. The course is from 9am – 4:30pm at the JFK Hilton in Jamaica Queens with CLE /CEU certificates offered with the professional rate.

For more information and registration details, visit the Kulanu website here.

Autism Awareness Month Interview Series: Creating Positive Change in ASD Treatment Through Science, Support and Education with David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D

We couldn’t be more thrilled to wrap up our Autism Awareness Month Interview Series with David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA. Dr. David Celiberti is the Executive Director of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) and provides consultation to public and private schools and agencies in the U.S. and Canada. Here, Dr. Celiberti shares his wealth of knowledge and experience in creating positive change in autism treatments through scientific research and high-quality education and support.

Don’t forget to check out the other interviews from our Autism Awareness Month Interview Series here!


Creating Positive Change in ASD Treatment
Through Science, Support, and Education
with David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D

SAM BLANCO: I consider the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) to be an invaluable resource for both parents and practitioners. You serve as the Executive Director. Before we discuss ASAT, can you tell us a bit about your background?

DAVID CELIBERTI: First and foremost, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview, particularly as you are asking about topics that are near and dear to my heart. I have been fortunate to have a career in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) where the journey has been just as reinforcing as the destination. I continually urge young people to work hard at finding a career path consistent with their passions. Among my many reinforcers in the field of ASD treatment are interactions with parents and siblings who did not choose a life that included ASD, but still love unconditionally, roll up their sleeves and embrace powerful roles as agents of change. Additionally reinforcing has been my collaboration with myriad professionals, particularly those who are grounded in, and informed by, science. Perhaps most inspiring, though, are the individuals with ASD themselves who work so hard to acquire new skills, learn effective strategies for negotiating their experiences, and remind us daily that science-based treatments, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), truly make a difference.

I currently serve as the halftime Executive Director of ASAT. I view this role not as a job but as a “lifestyle”, and I am so proud of what ASAT accomplishes every year, even with a tiny operating budget. We have an incredible board of directors from diverse professional backgrounds such as special education, behavior analysis, psychology, social work, sociology, law, medicine, speech-language pathology, computer science, family advocacy and business. Many of our board members have family members with ASD. Their commitment to helping other families and professionals find a clearer path to effective intervention is astounding to me. We also have scores of volunteer coordinators, externs, and an active Media Watch team who do much of the “heavy lifting”, helping ASAT remain productive, current, and responsive to the needs of the autism community.

SB: For those out there who aren’t familiar with ASAT, can you talk a little bit more about the organization’s mission and why it continues to be such an essential resource?

DC: With respect to our mission, we improve the quality of life for individuals with ASD and their families by promoting the use of safe, effective treatments, which are grounded in science, for people with ASD. As you know, there are over 400 treatments for autism, with the vast majority lacking any semblance of scientific support. We achieve our mission by sharing accurate, scientifically-sound information with professionals, parents and journalists; and by countering inaccurate or unsubstantiated information regarding autism and its treatment as it comes up. Unfortunately, there is so much out there which distracts consumers from making the best possible choices. Our overarching goal is to help parents and providers become savvy consumers of information who can truly discriminate science from pseudoscience. This means being armed with the knowledge to ask practitioners and marketers of ASD interventions critically important questions related to the state of their science, consult with knowledgeable and impartial professionals about potential treatments, and establish methods for assessing the benefits of treatments when they are adopted by the family and their intervention team. It is absolutely heartbreaking that autism treatment has become the type of business in which parents of children with autism must work so hard just to sort through so many options and mixed messages just in order to help their sons and daughters.

For more information, your readers can visit ASAT’s comprehensive website at www.asatonline.org. On the website, they will find extensive information about the scientific support (or lack thereof) behind the full array of treatments proposed for autism; resources and guidelines on how to make informed choices and weigh evidence in selecting treatment options, and information for various groups such as parents of newly diagnosed children, parents of older individuals, teachers, medical providers, and members of the media community. We encourage people to revisit ASAT’s website often, as information about autism treatments is frequently updated to reflect the latest research, and new content is routinely added.

ASAT also publishes a free quarterly newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment. Sign-up information is available at http://asatonline.org/signup. The quarterly e-newsletter features:

  • Invited articles by leading advocates of science-based treatment;
  • A Clinical Corner which responds to frequently asked questions about autism treatment;
  • A Consumer Corner which recommends resources that can guide and inform treatment decisions;
  • A Focus on Science column which is designed to empower families to make educated treatment decisions by highlighting those elements that constitute science-based interventions as well as warning signs of unsubstantiated treatment;
  • Detailed summaries of specific treatments for autism;
  • Book reviews;
  • Highlights of our Media Watch efforts and discussion of accurate, and inaccurate, portrayals of autism and its treatment by the media;
  • Reviews of published research to help consumers and professionals understand and gain access to the science;
  • Critiques of policy statements related to autism treatment; and
  • Interviews with those who advance science-based treatment and confront pseudoscience.

Finally, your readers can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter at @asatonline.

SB: You have dedicated a lot of your time to providing services for underserved populations, from direct services to organizing fundraisers that support organizations that serve economically disadvantaged children. Why is this an important area of work for you?

DC: When I was in graduate school in the late 1980s and early 1990s at Rutgers University under the mentorship of Dr. Sandra Harris, I was struck that only a tiny percentage of students with ASD were receiving the lion’s share of the available expertise and resources. This disparity was troubling to me as I recognized that there were scores of other children with ASD who were receiving “generic” special education services which did not yet incorporate state-of-the-art behavior analytic intervention. My hope was to one day dedicate a portion of my time to supporting students with ASD in inner city communities. As my career unfolded, I had the opportunity to work at the Rutgers Autism Program, where part of my duties focused on outreach. I started working in rural Maine in 1997, helping public schools develop and implement educational programs to students with ASD, and have now returned over 110 times! It is not that urban setting that I had envisioned as an idyllic graduate student; however, I quickly realized how rewarding it was to provide services in geographic areas that did not have the existing resources, and to assist public schools in providing high quality educational experiences.

Hoboken, New Jersey, where I live, is home to a significant number of economically disadvantaged students. I began to seek collaborative relationships between ASAT and other local organizations which focused on poverty. The common thread was the importance of providing children with meaningful, socially valid and effective opportunities to realize their fullest potential despite the myriad obstacles that they face. That resonated well with me as someone whose career focuses on the treatment of ASD. To date, my fundraising efforts have benefited four Hoboken-based organizations combating the barriers associated with poverty.

SB: I would like to go back to your reference about public school programs. In your view, what are some of the key elements of a high quality education for students with autism?

DC: This is such an important question! In a nutshell, a high-quality education would include the following elements:

  • Be truly individualized – An educational plan should truly fit the child like a glove fits a hand. Services should not be about what a provider likes to do, but rather what the student needs, as determined through ongoing, valid assessment.
  • Be comprehensive – A high quality education targets the full array of skills that will promote success at home, school and community and uses a wide range of techniques based on science that are well fitted to the skills being targeted.
  • Keep the future in mind when selecting goals – The skills needed to be successful and marketable in the next setting (be that a particular job or even Mr. Walker’s 4th grade classroom) must be identified and addressed.
  • Use well conceptualized behavior management strategies – When addressing challenging behavior, these strategies should take into account the underlying function of the behavior, include carefully selected antecedent and consequence based supports, and build skills to help students better meet their needs in a way which promotes their day-to-day independence and opportunities.
  • Consider and offer inclusion opportunities carefully – Ensure that it occurs with the appropriate supports and is delivered by adequately trained staff. Social skill development does not occur through pure exposure alone; rather, skill acquisition occurs when inclusion is approached as a systematic, individualized process, with proper supports, monitoring of data, and a goal of challenging the individual with ASD while not overwhelming them, or inadvertently creating isolation.
  • Carefully implement instruction, including modifications and accommodations – Promote early success and carryover, identify and use powerful motivators, and consider how to motivate students to work hard, to learn new skills, and to minimize frustration.
  • Allocate resources thoughtfully – Intervention and teaching-team members need solid training in order to implement teaching procedures and services. Regularly scheduled team meeting promote coordination, particularly when multiple disciplines are involved.
  • Engage parents – Not only is it important to continually seek input from parents about treatment priorities and goal selection, parents benefit from the training, collaboration, and information that will enable them to embrace their role as a co-pilot in their child’s intervention. This support should include siblings, grandparents, and other significant individuals for whom parents consent to their involvement. Engagement should occur throughout the educational journey and be adjusted to face the unique needs and challenges at each point in time.
  • Take data collection seriously – Ongoing data collection enables one to objectively assess progress, make timely adjustments, and remain accountable to those we serve. No provider should get a “pass” on data collection.
  • Start early and get it right from the start! – We know that early intervention can make an incredible difference. Don’t squander precious time on interventions that are not time-tested and research based.

SB: You’ve been instrumental in implementing change in many aspects of our field of ABA and ASD treatment in general. Do you have your thoughts on two or three areas that you think need to be addressed differently? How can we improve our work there?

DC: There is certainly room for improvement. Promoting science and science-based interventions such as ABA is not an area in which we have been very successful. Media representations tend to favor less science-based treatments, perhaps because their promoters use more sensationalized language when describing both their methods and their outcomes. Behavior analysts must take a closer look at how they market their work so that their outcomes can be more understandable and appreciated by various stakeholders (e.g., media, funding sources, consumers). We must also be more proactive in helping the media approach autism treatment in a more accurate manner.

Autism is clearly a spectrum disorder. In recent years, we have seen many higher functioning persons with ASD who have been very vocal; generously sharing their views about the appropriateness of treatment. Although their views and perspectives are important, I worry that the public, policy makers, and other important stakeholders may take these views as applicable to the entire spectrum. I believe this has the potential to do parents a tremendous disservice when they try to acquire the resources, tools, and experiences which will enable their son or daughter (who may not be on the upper end of the spectrum) to realize his or her fullest potential. On the other hand, one important take-away message is the importance of cultivating and celebrating the strengths of individuals with ASD rather than approach our work from a pure deficit model.

Another significant concern is that the hundreds of thousands of children with ASD who were diagnosed in the last two decades are growing up and becoming hundreds of thousands of young adults with ASD; as a society, we are failing them. When children with ASD turn twenty-one, funding for services drastically changes. As a result, there are very few quality programs for adults. We are facing a crisis in the field, with a scarcity of services for adults with ASD and the absence of a clear strategy for closing the gap between the ever-increasing need, and an unprepared supply of resources. Autism awareness must include important conversations about how we can help adults with ASD live and work independently, develop meaningful relationships, reduce challenging behaviors that may limit opportunities, access faith communities, and enjoy the array of recreational pursuits which are available within their communities. Those are important conversations to have and these conversations should translate into actionable items at every level of service delivery.

SB: With Autism Awareness month drawing to a close, what would you like the general public to know about autism treatment?

DC: Even though ASD is no longer the rare disorder it once was, each person with ASD is unique. Efforts to help them realize their fullest potential should be individualized to meet the specific needs of each individual with ASD across settings such as home, school, community and the workplace; and informed by input from the individual, as well as his or her family.

Do not believe everything you hear. There are dozens of purported “miracle cures” and “breakthroughs” for ASD which receive widespread media attention, even if they have not been proven effective. Sadly, effective treatments rarely gain media attention.

On a related vein, do not believe everything you read. Not all information on the internet is reliable and accurate, and celebrities are neither trained nor equipped to define or guide ASD treatment even though many appear comfortable in that role. On the other hand, there is a large body of research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals which should guide autism treatment. Visit our website to learn more at www.asatonline.org.

Lastly, there is hope and tremendous opportunity. With the right treatment, individuals with autism can lead happy and fulfilling lives. Research indicates that interventions such as ABA can effectively help children and adults with ASD realize their fullest potential. As stated earlier, we know that early and intensive behavioral intervention can make a huge difference, both with respect to human potential and significant cost savings across the lifespan.

SB: How can the general public make a positive difference?

DC: It cannot be overstated that it takes a village to help individuals with ASD learn to enjoy and benefit from all that their communities have to offer. Every member of the public can make a difference in supporting individuals with ASD and their families. There are so many positive ways the public can help. Although I will share several examples here, this list is by no means exhaustive:

  1. If you have a family member or a neighbor who has a child with ASD, ask specifically how you may be helpful (e.g., assist with siblings, offer play dates, help with transportation to therapies, or provide an empathic ear).
  2. If you see a family struggle in the community, do not stare, comment, or judge. In some cases, it may be appropriate to go over and assist (e.g., “I see you are helping your little guy, may I help you put your bags in the car?”). Family members may take you up on your kind offer or may just decline.
  3. If your children are interested, inquire if there are opportunities for them to help classmates with ASD at their school (e.g., becoming a lunch buddy, peer tutor). This is particularly beneficial in the later grades when opportunities for students with ASD to interact meaningfully with their typically-developing peers is lessened.
  4. At school board meetings encourage board members to learn about best practices in special education which are scientifically validated. Inquire if special education resources are being spent on interventions that lack scientific support or are not being spent on those that do possess such support (e.g., ABA). In fact, a research basis should inform most decisions.
  5. Some faith communities are very welcoming to families of individuals with ASD, whereas others are not. Discuss this within your place of worship. Identify steps that can be taken to help individuals with ASD participate in their religious communities in a positive and meaningful manner. This applies to both religious ceremonies, as well as day to day participation.
  6. Encourage organizations to be more accepting of persons with ASD and to take appropriate steps to learn how to create meaningful inclusion opportunities (e.g., seeking out information, soliciting training and education, learning from others who are doing this with success).
  7. If you are involved with youth sports or other extracurricular activities, offer to coach and/or mentor a player with ASD.
  8. Encourage your town or city to provide and/or create recreational opportunities that include individuals with ASD as there is often a tendency to focus only on separate experiences.
  9. Support ASD organizations that put science first. Research how your donations are used.

ABOUT DAVID CELIBERTI, PHD, BCBA-D

DCelibertiDr. David Celiberti is the Executive Director of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT). He previously served as the President of the Board of Directors of ASAT from 2006 through 2012. In response to the increasing number of parents attending professional conferences to learn about applied behavior analysis, he also founded the Parent-Professional Partnership SIG for the Association for Behavior Analysis International in 2000 and served as its Co-President until 2014. He had also served as President of the Autism Special Interest Group (SIG) from 1998 to 2006. He currently sits on a number of Advisory Boards in the area of autism, as well as in early childhood education. He has organized fundraising initiatives to support afterschool programming for economically disadvantaged children in Northern New Jersey. Dr. Celiberti is in private practice and provides consultation to public and private schools and agencies in the U.S. and Canada. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Rutgers University in 1993. He has authored several articles in professional journals and presents frequently at regional, national, and international conferences. He has taught courses related to ABA at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, supervised individuals pursuing their BCBA and BCaBA, and in prior positions had conducted research in the areas of applied behavior analysis, family intervention, and autism.

Understanding Autism: Tips for Teens by a Teen by Alexandra Jackman

We’re excited to feature some tips for teens from Alexandra Jackman on what it means to understand autism and the perspectives of their peers with autism. You may remember Alex from last year, when we shared an exclusive interview from our BCBA Sam Blanco with Alexandra Jackman. Alex is a 15-year-old New Jersey teen and the creator of the documentary A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with AutismShe’s also been awarded Hasbro and GenerationOn’s scholarship grant for being a “Community Action Hero” and making a difference in her community through hands-on service projects that create awareness for important social issues. Congratulations, Alex!


Understanding Autism: Tips for Teens by a Teen
by Alexandra Jackman

During summer camp when I was eight, I met a girl named Jaime. I noticed that at lunch she always sat by herself with an aide. I assumed she wanted to sit alone, because she never came and sat with the rest of us. One day I was curious, so I hesitantly asked if I could sit with her and the aide replied “yes.” I learned that Jaime had something called cerebral palsy. She couldn’t speak but communicated through hand signals.

Jaime and I started hanging out outside of camp activities, and I really liked her. Just because communicating wasn’t her strong suit didn’t mean that she couldn’t be a friend. I think our friendship helped others in the camp group realize, “Oh, we can hang out with her,” and they started including Jaime in camp activities.

That was the first time I realized that many people don’t take the opportunity to get to know people with special needs. I almost didn’t. If I hadn’t been curious that day, I would have most likely missed out on the opportunity to get to know someone I really liked.

Knowledge Matters
I think knowledge is so important. As a 15-year-old autism advocate, I often notice how other teenagers interact with people with special needs in my school and in my community. I have found that teens (and adults) often ignore their peers with autism not to be mean, but because they do not understand what is “wrong.” People don’t know what to say because they don’t understand what is different. I think that it is important to change this.

Fortunately, there are many resources to teach people about autism. However, very few of those resources teach middle and high school students about special needs. So, as a teen, I have some tips that I think can help spread autism acceptance and understanding to hormonal, moody, creative, curious teenagers. Well, people kind of like me.

While not everyone with autism will have all of these behaviors, these general tips are important to keep in mind whenever you are speaking, studying, hanging out, or working with a classmate or friend with autism:

Be direct: Social cues can often be difficult for people with autism. It’s kind of like texting in real life. When someone texts “What?!” are they angry, excited or disappointed? Do ALL CAPS always mean that someone is yelling at you? Many people with autism cannot always distinguish the tone of what others are saying to understand the emotions behind words. Imagine how much harder it would be to interact with people if everything said to you was said with a monotone voice and blank facial expression. So, when talking to people with autism, try to say what you mean and be straightforward.

Be specific in your communication. Avoid open-ended questions: It is important to realize that for many people with autism, a question like “Do you want to go hang out in town with me?” can be overwhelming, because there are just so many possibilities. Maybe you are going to Starbucks, a diner, or shopping. Maybe you are going to the doctor’s office for a vaccination or to the dentist. What might be less stressful would be to specify exactly where you would be going. For example, asking something like “Do you want to come to the diner with me for lunch?” or “Do you want to go into town with me to see a movie and then go shopping?”

Don’t judge physical behaviors. You do similar things: Many people with autism make repetitive movements called self-stimulatory behaviors, such as flapping their arms or tapping things. Also known as stimming, these behaviors are a way to handle emotions and keep calm. While these movements might seem weird to you, everyone exhibits self-stimulatory behaviors that help them deal with stress. Do you ever bite your nails, twirl your hair, or bite on a pencil? Yeah, that’s stimming, and it’s how you handle your emotions.

Get past the disability and make a friend: Having an autism spectrum disorder is not who a person is, it is just something that they have. So don’t let autism define a person. Get to know who the person is on the inside. You just might meet someone you really like!

WRITTEN BY ALEXANDRA JACKMAN

Alex Jackman is a 15-year-old autism advocate and the writer and director of the documentary, A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism. A high school sophomore in Westfield, NJ, she is currently the peer mentor leader for monthly special needs teen nights and the founder of The Hangout Club, a program at her school to promote inclusion. She is also a special needs volunteer at the YMCA, The Friendship Circle, and Children’s Specialized Hospital. She has received a number of honors for her advocacy efforts and speaks to students, adults, and professionals throughout New Jersey and beyond about autism.

We’ve extended our Language Builder promotion! Save 30% and more!

Great news for those of you who might have missed our 3-day promotion for our Language Builder sets! We’ve extended our sale to last through next Tuesday, April 28th. Just use our promo code BUILDER15 at check-out to redeem these savings below on all of our Language Builder card sets until next Tuesday:

We’re offering a value bundle of the Language Builder Picture Cards and the Picture Noun Cards 2 together for only $155 (a $234 value)! You’ll be saving over $75 with this bundle! Just add the bundle to your cart—no promo code necessary.

 

Everyone’s favorite—the Language Builder Picture Cards—is a 350-card set that teaches key language concepts to children with autism or other speech and language delays. With vivid, beautiful noun cards created by a parent and professional experienced in the program needs of ABA, this set will foster receptive and expressive language skills. Get the individual set of the Language Builder Picture Cards for $149 only $110—just apply our promo code BUILDER15 during check-out!

We’re also letting you SAVE 30% on any of our individual Language Builder sets, Picture Noun Cards 2, Emotions, and Occupations.

The Language Builder Picture Noun Cards 2 is a 200-card set of photographic noun cards for building additional vocabulary in students who have mastered the original Language Builder Picture Cards. This set is great for labeling practice, as well as sorting, adjectives, functions, things that go together, storytelling and more.

 

The Language Builder Emotions Cards depict facial expressions and emotions by presenting various scenarios featuring men and women of various ages and ethnicities. This 80-card set will help students identify and discuss different feelings and emotions, inviting discussion about a range of emotions, why people may feel a certain way, and possible responses to these feelings.

The Language Builder Occupations Cards is a complete set of photographic cards that depict community workers, both male and female, in each occupation. There are 115 cards featuring 61 different occupations. Each photo is depicted in a natural setting with plenty of contextual clues and reinforcers illustrating that occupations are not gender specific. The set is ideal for teaching occupations, community helpers, gender labels, pronouns, storytelling and more.

*Promotion expires at 11:59pm EST on 04/28/2015. Not valid with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check-out!

Autism Awareness Month Interview Series: Behavior Analysis and Speech Pathology: The Perfect Pairing for Speech Acquisition with Barbara Esch, BCBA-D, CCC-SLP

This week, we are absolutely honored to bring you an exclusive interview with the esteemed Barbara Esch, BCBA-D, CCC-SLP. Dr. Esch has made incredible contributions to the fields of both Behavior Analysis and Speech Pathology. In this interview with Sam Blanco, Dr. Esch shares important teaching techniques on developing language, setting developmentally appropriate goals, and addressing feeding issues. An enormous thank you to Dr. Esch for her invaluable insight.

Don’t forget to check out the other interviews in our Autism Awareness Month Interview Series here.


Behavior Analysis and Speech Pathology: The Perfect Pairing for Speech Acquisition
with Barbara Esch, BCBA-D, CCC-SLP

SAM BLANCO: As someone who is both an SLP and BCBA, how do you envision the two fields collaborating?

BARBARA ESCH: Professionals in each field, behavior analysis and speech pathology, bring unique and critical information and skills to an instructional team. Behavior analysis offers a science-based technology based on our field’s theoretical perspective, which allows us to analyze the contexts in which learning occurs (i.e., antecedent and consequent events) as well as to identify faulty learning and to efficiently remediate error responses and to remove possible obstacles to further skill acquisition. Of particular importance in understanding and teaching language skills is Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior (Skinner, 1957). This analysis provides us with the critically important understanding of how we acquire language skills; it dispels the faulty notion that the words we say, in a connected language context, are stored in our head someplace to be retrieved when we need them; rather, we say them as a function of the related environmental context, as mands, tacts, and as other verbal operants. This analysis is absent from traditional language assessments (for a discussion of this topic, see Esch, Lalonde, & Esch, 2009), so the field of behavior analysis fills this gap and provides not only a conceptual analysis but also a powerful teaching technology that allows us to extend language learning from one context (e.g., mand) to another (e.g., intraverbal).

Speech pathologists have specialized information and skills regarding the physical system that controls speech sound production, voice quality, swallowing, and, to some degree, hearing. The instructional team benefits from an SLP’s in-depth knowledge of how speech occurs, the physiology of the speech-production system, and how we move our vocalization musculature to produce various speech sounds. Speech pathologists know how to help speech learners make these movements more fluently. They understand the speech requirements for this fluency (i.e., co-articulation) and this expertise allows them to pinpoint specific speech targets in a logical hierarchy of speech sound acquisition.

SB: In the past, you have written that “Speech Language Pathologists are ideal professionals to be included on an ABA team.” Can you share why you think this is true? What steps can SLPs and ABA providers take to promote shared input on goal-setting and program-creation for clients?

BE: Yes, as you suggest, that comment was in the context of shared goals (“Speech language pathologists are ideal professionals to be included on an ABA team since its members are focused on providing effective and efficient instruction, much of which is geared toward speech and language acquisition.” (See http://www.asatonline.org/researfch-treatment/clinical-corner/integrating-aba-and-speech-pathology/)

An ABA team is an instructional team that uses applied behavior analysis to promote student learning. As such, effective team members are knowledgeable in the principles of learning and are skilled at applying the technological procedures that derive from those principles (for example, reinforcement, prompting, prompt fading, shaping, discrimination training, and so on).

There are several steps SLPs and ABA providers can take to promote shared input in designing and carrying out instructional programs for their clients. First, it’s important to recognize that all professionals on an “ABA team,” by definition, should be knowledgeable and skilled in delivering this technology during instruction. That is, members of the ABA team should consider themselves “ABA providers” if they are applying behavior analysis (i.e., ABA) to the delivery of instruction. Thus, teachers, SLPs, technicians, parents, other therapists, behavior analysts, and any others on the team can all be considered “ABA providers” to the extent that they are knowledgeable and effective “appliers” of the learning technology from the field of behavior analysis. Next, each professional can resist the urge to claim ownership over the program and its development. I think the best way to do this is to acknowledge areas of expertise that each member brings to the team and to work together to bring their varied expertise to bear on program development. As an ABA team, goal setting should occur within the context of a behavior analytic perspective. The process can be enriched through the collaborative input of all team members. So, another way team members can promote shared input is to support other team members in learning cross-disciplinary skills or at least in familiarizing themselves with the special expertise of each individual team member.

SB: Developing verbal skills for children with autism is an important goal for everyone involved with the student. Can you describe the first steps you use in selecting developmentally appropriate goals for a particular student?

BE: The VB-MAPP (Sundberg, 2008) is a strong resource in pinpointing developmentally appropriate goals for learners with skills at the pre-school level. This assessment identifies milestones and component skills in 16 critical verbal and non-verbal areas as well as providing an assessment of existing learning barriers that may preclude the acquisition of these important foundation skills. When I look at a child’s VB-MAPP, some priority areas that seem to be “king-pin skills” are imitation, mand, play/leisure, and listener responding. That is, these are some of the first skills I like to see in place as “supporting skills” for the others. If a child can imitate, then I know s/he values people and their attention (thus, we can teach social skills as well as address many of the learning barriers that may be present). Also, since echoing is a type of imitation, I’m encouraged if a child who isn’t yet speaking is beginning at least to imitate gross- and/or fine-motor models. If a child can imitate, then we can teach him/her to mand (either through speech, sign, or picture selection) and, thus, establish language as powerful and personally beneficial. If a child has play/leisure skills, then all the items connected with those play skills are potential reinforcers for other skill learning. This, in turn, can strengthen learning to persist at a task (i.e., stronger reinforcer value for instructional items/activities); this task persistence allows a child to effectively access other instruction from teachers. If a child can respond as a listener, then we can expand his/her cooperation and follow through with more complex instructions, eventually leading to responding both verbally and non-verbally after time delays (i.e., remembering). So, the “king-pin” skills, although not exclusively important, are strong supports for further learning.

SB: You developed the Early Echoic Skills Assessment for the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP). Can you describe the development of this tool and how practitioners should best utilize it?

BE: Dr. Mark Sundberg, author of the VB-MAPP (Sundberg, 2008), was interested in providing an assessment tool (and placement guide) that aligned with typical development of children from birth to 4 years. He wanted to include an echoic assessment that would reflect the details of this vocal skill for children in this age range and asked me if I would provide it. The Early Echoic Skills Assessment (EESA) is a criterion-referenced assessment of skills in echoing 1-, 2-, and 3-syllables in various vowel and consonant combinations, utilizing those consonants that would be expected developmentally from birth through 30 months. (Note: Echoic skills are only tested and reported on the VB-MAPP at Levels 1 and 2 because, by 30 months of age, these skills typically have been acquired; thus, there are no EESA items tested at VB-MAPP Level 3.)

The EESA can be helpful for clinicians and practitioners by pinpointing two critical skills: (1) echoic consistency and accuracy and (2) syllable fluency. For echoic consistency, we want to know if the child consistently says anything after an echoic model. If an echoic*, regardless of its accuracy, does not occur consistently (e.g., at least 90% of the time), then treatment can start with simply differentially reinforcing any vocal response that follows an auditory model, without regard for the accuracy of that response. In other words, the first skill to establish in speech training is to “say something” when the teacher asks you to. The next task, informed by the EESA, would be to determine the accuracy of the echoic response. That is, how closely does the child’s response match the vowels and consonants of the teacher’s model? An accurate description of any discrepancies here can serve as a template for target identification.

Finally, the EESA tells us if there is a fluency breakdown in terms of the child’s ability to repeat multiple syllables on one breath at a connected speech rate of about 3 syllables per second. This fluency is critical for normal-sounding speech, but we often see a teaching error related to this that makes fluency less likely to develop. Let’s say that you ask a child to repeat a 3-syllable utterance (e.g., computer, cookie please, let’s go play, where’s daddy?) and s/he omits one or more of the syllables. Often, when practitioners (teachers, parents, therapists) notice that a child omits some of the syllables in a phrase, they will break the phrase apart and reinforce the separate segments. For example, they might instruct the child: “say let’s” (good!), “say go” (that’s right!), “say play” (good job!). This is essentially training the child to emit 1-syllable utterances at a time and doesn’t increase the likelihood that the child will say “Let’s go play” as a unit nor that the phrase will ever occur as normal fluent speech. So, the EESA allows us to pinpoint the child’s current skill in terms of how many syllables s/he can say easily without omitting whole syllables, and it informs the next steps. Thus, treatment can focus on reinforcing, first, easy-to-produce consonant/vowel combinations in phrases of increasing syllable length and then, after that, increasing the phonemic complexity of these consonant/vowel combinations in even longer syllable-length vocalizations.

*An “incorrect echoic” is technically, according to a verbal behavior analysis, not an echoic at all. But this technicality will be set aside for this discussion, to make it easier to understand the 2 critical skills that are often missing in early speech learners: first, repeating a vocal model consistently, and then, repeating it accurately.

SB: Many parents and practitioners struggle with feeding issues in their learners with autism. Are there resources that you would recommend? Do you have tips/suggestions for them?

BE: You’ve identified one of the most challenging issues for parents and teachers of children with autism. Of course, it’s imperative first to rule out any medical concerns related to eating (accepting food, chewing it, swallowing it, and digesting it). So, the child’s pediatrician and other health-care professionals would be key initial contacts in moving forward to identify and resolve feeding issues. If no medical concerns are identified and behavioral treatment is not contraindicated, then it’s important to identify the behaviors related to feeding that have brought this concern to the forefront. Many children are picky eaters (e.g., no veggies; only sweet food) and some have unusual preferences (e.g., no food touching other food on the plate; no red food). Another common issue is texture preferences (e.g., nothing chunky that requires chewing). Some children accept so little food that their nutrition is compromised. Still others will accept food but keep it packed in their mouths and won’t swallow it. And, of course, many children engage in problem behavior that interferes with appropriate feeding (e.g., refusal to sit at the table, refusal to self-feed, refusal to open mouth, crying/tantrums during mealtime).

Fortunately, the behavior analytic literature is replete with research into on feeding issues. Much of this research comes from Dr. Cathleen Piazza, her colleagues, and her students over the years. Dr. Piazza is currently Director of the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program at Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE. Another well-published behavioral researcher in pediatric feeding disorders is Dr. Meeta Patel, a former colleague of Dr. Piazza and founder and executive director of Clinic 4 Kidz. The collective work of Drs. Piazza and Patel and others, much of which can be found in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, has greatly informed the assessment and behavioral treatment of feeding disorders.

These are references for some of Dr. Piazza’s work (from her website):

Publications (within the last 5 years)

Rivas, K. M., Piazza, C. C., Roane, H. S., Volkert, V. M., Stewart, V., Kadey, H. J., & Groff, R. A. (in press). Analysis of self-feeding in children with feeding disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 47(4), 710-722.

Wilkins, J. W., Piazza, C. C., Groff, R. A., Volkert, V. M., Kozisek, J. M., & Milnes, S. M. (in press). Utensil manipulation during initial treatment of pediatric feeding problems. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 47(4), 694-709.

Groff, R. A., Piazza, C. C., Volkert, V. M., & Jostad, C. M. (in press). Syringe fading as treatment for feeding refusal. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 47(4), 834-839.

Volkert, V. M., Peterson, K. M., Zeleny, J. R., & Piazza, C. C. (2014). A clinical protocol to increase chewing and assess mastication in children with feeding disorders. Behavior Modification, 38(5), 705-29.

Bachmeyer, M. H., Gulotta, C. S., & Piazza, C. C. (2013). Liquid to baby food fading in the treatment of food refusal. Behavioral Interventions, 28(4), 281-298.

Kadey, H., Piazza, C. C., Rivas, K. M., & Zeleny, J. (2013). An evaluation of texture manipulations to increase swallowing. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(2), 539-543.

Volkert, V. M., Piazza, C. C., Vaz, P. C. M., & Frese, J. (2013). A pilot study to increase chewing in children with feeding disorders. Behavior Modification, 37, 391-408.

Addison, L. R., Piazza, C. C., Patel, M. R., Bachmeyer, M. H., Rivas, K. M., Milnes, S. M., & Oddo, J. (2012). A comparison of sensory integrative and behavioral therapies as treatment for pediatric feeding disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 455-471.

Vaz, P. C. M., Piazza, C. C., Stewart, V., Volkert, V. M., Groff, R. A., & Patel, M. R. (2012). Using a chaser to decrease packing in children with feeding disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 97-105.

Dempsey, J., Piazza, C. C., Groff, R. A., & Kozisek, J. M. (2011). A flipped spoon and chin prompt to increase mouth clean. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 949-954.

LaRue, R. H., Stewart, V., Piazza, C. C., & Volkert, V. M. (2011). Escape as reinforcement and escape extinction in the treatment of feeding problems. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 719-735.

Groff, R. A., Piazza, C. C., Zeleny, J. R., & Dempsey, J. R. (2011). Spoon-to-cup fading as treatment for cup drinking in a child with intestinal failure. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 949-954.

Wilkins, J. W., Piazza, C. C., Groff, R. A., & Vaz, P. C. M. (2011). Chin prompt plus re-presentation as treatment for expulsion in children with feeding disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 513-522.

Vaz, P. C. M., Volkert, V. M., & Piazza, C. C. (2011). Using negative reinforcement to increase self-feeding in a child with food selectivity. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 915-920.

Rivas, K. R., Piazza, C. C., Kadey, H. J., Volkert, V. M., & Stewart, V. (2011). Sequential treatment of a feeding problem using a pacifier and flipped spoon. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 387-391.

Volkert, V. M., Vaz, P. C. M., Piazza, C. C., Frese, J., & Barnett, L. (2011). Using a flipped spoon to decrease packing in children with feeding disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 617-621.

Tang, B., Piazza, C. C., Dolezal, D., & Stein, M. T. (2011). Severe feeding disorder and malnutrition in two children with autism. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 32(3), 264-267.

Rivas, K. D., Piazza, C. C., Patel, M. R., & Bachmeyer, M. H. (2010). Spoon distance fading with and without escape extinction as treatment for food refusal. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43, 673-683.

SB: You’ve published research about behavioral treatments for early speech acquisition. Can you briefly describe your research? What do you think are important research questions in this area for the future?

BE: There are few behavioral treatments for early speech learners (i.e., individuals who haven’t acquired speech as would be developmentally typical). Further, the research on these treatments is not particularly robust at this point; either there is a paucity of studies available or the outcomes are inconsistent. It’s an area ripe for research because we need effective and efficient ways to jump start vocal behavior in individuals who haven’t yet acquired an echoic response. It’s not too difficult to teach someone to talk if they will repeat when asked to “say ___,” but without that echoic response, we must work to establish vocalizing in general as a “preferred activity,” producing a “preferred stimulus” that automatically reinforces the vocalizing that produced those sounds (i.e., babbling, vocal play). If we have that, then we can bring those vocalizations under the control of direct contingencies of reinforcement, as functional verbal behavior (e.g., mands, tacts). This post-babbling speech training is critical, because parents, teachers, and other caregivers in the child’s verbal community need to have their own vocal-verbal behavior reinforced by the child’s speech responses to them. Without that reciprocal interaction of vocalizing in context (i.e., speaker/listener), the frequency of functional speech interactions can spiral downward with resulting isolation for both speakers and listeners.

So, the first step in teaching speech to non-vocal learners is to establish an available pool of varied vocalizations that the child readily says that can then be reinforced by the child’s verbal community. Following the earlier work of behavioral researchers (e.g., Miguel, Carr, Michael, 2002; Sundberg, Michael, Partington, & Sundberg, 1996; Yoon & Bennett, 2000; Yoon & Feliciano, 2007), my colleagues and I have reported investigations (Esch, Carr, & Michael, 2005; Esch, Carr, & Grow, 2009; Petursdottir, Carp, Matthies, & Esch, 2011) of stimulus-stimulus pairing (SSP), a conditioning treatment aimed at increasing vocalizations in non-vocal or low-vocal learners by pairing certain sounds with preferred items/activities. As mentioned, if SSP induces vocalizations, the goal is then to apply direct reinforcement to establish these vocal responses as mands, tacts, echoics, and other verbal language skills. Another behavioral treatment is vocal variability (VV) training, aimed at increasing novel and varied vocalizations in speech learners who may emit some vocalizations but that tend to be repetitive (i.e., invariant). However, to date, there are only 2 published VV studies with low-vocal speech learners (Esch, Esch, & Love, 2009; Koehler-Platten, Grow, Schulze, & Bertone, 2013), although we have some research that has investigated increasing the variability of rote language responses with already-competent speakers (Lee et al., 2002; Susa & Schlinger, 2012).

In an effort to increase speech in non-vocal children, other studies have looked at comparisons of SSP with operant discrimination training (Lepper, Petursdottir, & Esch, 2013) and preceding echoic trials with a series of gross- and fine-motor imitation opportunities (i.e., RMIA procedures reported by Ross & Greer, 2003; Tsiouri & Greer, 2007). Investigations such as these may yield useful treatments for early speech learners.

There is much we don’t know about why children fail to learn to talk. We assume that success in speech learning is based on (a) hearing and attending to human voice, (b) valuing those sounds and combinations of sounds via a previous conditioning history, and (c) possessing a physical system that produces sounds similar to those with the conditioning history (i.e., the sounds of the child’s verbal community). If we assume that the child’s speech-producing mechanism (c above) is intact, then we can focus our research efforts on (a) and (b). In fact, SSP and VV training are targeted at increasing “sound value” and RMIA studies are aimed at increasing attending and responding to (i.e., imitating) rapid visual and auditory models. In a discussion related to these skill sets, Petursdottir et al. (2011) offer several important areas for future research. One is that of determining whether human speech (the auditory stimuli in speech training) is, indeed, a preferred stimulus for the learner (that is, does it “sound good” to the child?). Another is to identify the effects of such stimuli on the vocal responses of the speech learner. If the speech sounds of a child’s environment lacks reinforcing value, then what do we need to pair it with and in what conditioning procedure to ensure that it becomes a “preferred stimulus” that the early speech learner can produce himself by making those sounds? Another topic is the salience of auditory vocal stimuli; this has not been adequately measured and identified. It would be helpful to know whether a speech learner has, indeed, observed relevant speech sounds such that these are discriminable and evoke responding.

Additional Reading

Esch, B. E., LaLonde, K. B., & Esch, J. W. (2010). Speech and language assessment: A verbal behavior analysis. The Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis, 5, 166-191.

Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Sundberg, M. L. (2008). VB-MAPP: Verbal behavior milestones assessment and placement program. Concord, CA: AVB Press.

ABOUT BARBARA ESCH, BCBA-D, CCC-SLP

Barbara EschDr. Barbara Esch, BCBA-D, CCC-SLP, is a behavior analyst and speech pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in behavioral interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities. She has worked in school, home, clinic, and hospital settings. Her workshops, training symposia, and research have been presented in the United States, Europe, and Australia, and focus on the use of behavioral procedures to improve speech, language, and feeding skills for individuals of all ages with a wide range of medical and educational diagnoses. Esch received her PhD in applied behavior analysis from Western Michigan University and her MA in speech pathology from Michigan State University. She is the author of the Early Echoic Skills Assessment, part of the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program: VB-MAPP (Sundberg, 2008). She is the founder and past chairperson of the Speech Pathology Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. Her research on behavioral treatments for early speech acquisition appears in The Analysis of Verbal Behavior and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Esch is co-owner of Esch Behavior Consultants, Inc., a consulting company specializing in behavioral treatments for individuals with severe communication delays.

Pick of the Week: SAVE on Language Builder Sets – 3 Days Only!

This is a deal you won’t want to miss this week!  We’re discounting the prices of ALL of our Language Builder sets – the best selling picture cards series among special education professionals.

The Language Builder Card Sets are the most widely used photo language flashcards for teaching key language concepts to children and adults with autism, developmental delays, or speech/language delays. All of the cards measure the same 3½” x 5″ so coordinating the flashcards is a breeze.

DRK_LB1We’re offering a value bundle of the Language Builder Picture Cards and the Picture Noun Cards 2 together for only $155 (a $234 value)! You can get Sets 1 and 2 of the Language Builder Picture Noun Cards and save over $75. Just add the bundle to your cart—no promo code necessary!

Everyone’s favorite—the Language Builder Picture Cards—is a 350-card set that teaches key language concepts to children with autism or other speech and language delays. With vivid, beautiful noun cards created by a parent and professional experienced in the program needs of ABA. This set will foster receptive and expressive language skills and are ideal for higher learning, including functions, storytelling, and more. The set includes images in nine basic categories: Animals, Foods, Vehicles, Furniture, Clothing, Toys, Everyday Objects, Shapes and Colors. Stage One is comprised of 105 cards that present two identical images on non-distracting white backgrounds. These basic cards foster matching, labeling and categorization skills. The remaining cards round out Stage Two, which presents the images in their natural settings, enabling children to conceptualize and generalize. This week only, you can get the individual set of the Language Builder Picture Cards for $149 only $110—just apply our promo code BUILDER15 when you check out with us!

The Language Builder Emotions Cards depict facial expressions and emotions by presenting various scenarios featuring men and women of various ages and ethnicities. This 80-card set will help students identify and discuss different feelings and emotions. Half of the images are presented against a plain background, showing only the upper body and face, clearly depicting a single emotion. The remaining cards show people engaging in real activities and situations in natural settings and contexts. This invites discussion about a range of emotions, why people may feel a certain way, and possible responses to these feelings.

The Occupations Cards is a complete set of photographic cards that depict community workers, both male and female, in each occupation. There are 115 cards featuring 61 different occupations. Each photo is depicted in a natural setting with plenty of contextual clues and reinforcers illustrating that occupations are not gender specific. The set is ideal for teaching occupations, community helpers, gender labels, pronouns, storytelling and more.

 

*Promotion expires at 11:59pm EST on 04/23/2015. Not valid with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check-out!