Since the publication of the pioneering work by Hart and Risley (1975, 1978), naturalistic-based interventions, focusing on the acquisition and generalization of social communication, have been increasingly incorporated into applied behavior analytic programs for children with autism. In the past two decades, several researchers have drawn from this literature to develop and divulge comprehensive early intervention models that are said to focus specifically on early social behavior (e.g., Dawson et al., 2009; Rogers & Dawson, 2010). Given the syndrome-specific and primary deficits of autism, intervention that aims to address impairments in social responding early on may result in clinically significant outcomes for this population. Because language is typically acquired in the context of and maintained by social interaction, early focus on establishing people as a source of reinforcement may enable children to acquire verbal behavior under more environmentally valid sources of control. The current presentation will first briefly review the sparse literature on naturalistic interventions and the extent to which, as a scientific community, we have developed both an analysis and subsequent techniques to address and alter the social deficits in autism. The presentation will particularly focus on operationally defining and illustrating strategies to establish early social responding by referring to current behavioral interpretations of joint attention and eye contact as a conditioned reinforcer and derived evidence-based applications to establish language to contact and maintain social interaction.
August 6 – 9, 2018
The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center
State College, Pennsylvania