A delay in social behavior is a key diagnostic feature of children with autism. Across the autism spectrum, children exhibit delays in social skills such as making eye contact, initiating and responding to joint attention, playing with friends, sharing toys, greeting others, engaging in conversations, and responding to subtle social cues. This presentation will review recent research on ameliorating these delays and will highlight three specific studies. In order for social behavior to be maintained in the natural environment, social stimuli, such as praise, must function as reinforcers. In the first study, contingent pairing of known reinforcers and praise established praise as a reinforcer for the behavior of children with autism. This study was especially relevant for students on the more severe end of the autism spectrum. Students at the higher-functioning end of the spectrum often have fewer social delays, but a common challenge for them is responding to facial expressions. In the second study, video modeling was used to teach children to respond to eight subtle facial expressions made by adults and children. In the third study, a tactile prompt was used to cue children to look at an adult and respond to their facial expressions. The presentation will end with recommendations for improving the social behavior of children with autism.
August 6 – 9, 2018
The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center
State College, Pennsylvania