Sunday, April 15, 2012

Using ABA to Teach Children with ASD to Respond to Comments

When parents and teachers interact with kids with ASD, initiations often entail asking questions and giving directions.  This is probably because it is easier to teach these children how to respond to direct questions and commands.  When we make comments to children with ASD that are more conversational in nature, they often don't know how to respond.  They may ignore the comment or repeat the comment.  Thus, parents and teachers end up refraining from making comments and stick with asking questions and giving directions, because they will be positively reinforced with correct responses from the child.  In the end, children with ASD have less and less opportunities to learn how to respond to conversational comments when they actually need more and more opportunities.  Although it can be challenging to teach a child with ASD to respond to comments, it can be done using ABA teaching principles.  Below is a set of procedures that show how to use ABA to teach a child to respond to comments during an ongoing activity:

1. When the child is engaged in an activity, make a comment about what the child is doing. If the child responds, provide positive reinforcement by smiling and making another related comment with positive affect.

2. If the child does not respond to the comment, use time delay to encourage a response.

3. If the child does not respond given the time delay, try either restating or rephrasing the comment. If still no response, use the following least-to-most prompts hierarchy:

a.   Point to something the child can comment about
b.  Use a fill-in (give a sentence starter and have the child finish the sentence)
c.  Use modeling/request imitation (model the comment and have the child imitate the response)

4.Use peer-mediated interventions when possible to encourage the child to respond to comments from peers.

5. Provide multiple opportunities throughout the day, across a variety of settings and activities to promote generalization of the skill.

For an explanation of the behavioral teaching strategies in bold and examples of other ABA teaching procedures, see Bringing ABA into Your Inclusive Classroom

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