Improving Inappropriate Social Behavior of Autistic Students Using the LISTEN Intervention Strategy

By Shammari, Zaid Al-; Daniel, Cathy et al. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2010 | Go to article overview
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Improving Inappropriate Social Behavior of Autistic Students Using the LISTEN Intervention Strategy


Shammari, Zaid Al-, Daniel, Cathy, Faulkner, Paula, Yawkey, Thomas D., Journal of Instructional Psychology


A case study was conducted on the development of the LISTEN intervention strategy for use with autistic students to improve inappropriate social behaviors. The study was conducted in a special education classroom in an autism school in Kuwait. Examination of LISTEN Intervention Strategy applications included: duration of targeted behavior; methods used to teach the strategy; classroom activities used to teach the appropriate behavior; rewards provided to the participant; data collection and analysis; results; and final recommendations to the Kuwait Ministry of Education (KMOE) regarding future research. Study results revealed that implementation of the LISTEN strategy modified the targeted inappropriate social behavior of the participating autistic student. Observational data showed that repeated modeling by the teacher was required during the first two steps of the LISTEN strategy before understanding of the strategy by the student could be verified. Additionally, when the teacher integrated symbols familiar to the student into the second step of the strategy, the student was able to follow the strategy and remained seated in the presence of a visitor in the classroom.

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In 1943, autism was first identified at The Johns Hopkins Hospital; in 1981 it was categorized as an independent term (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008; Turnbull, Tumbull, Smith, & Leal, 2002). In fact, some of the earliest published descriptions of a behavior comparable to autism date to the 18th century (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008). In 1999, the Kuwait Ministry of Education (KMOE) established the first school for students with autism, while other private schools included students with autism in classrooms for those with other disabilities in a school-within-a-school environment (Al-Shammari, 2005).

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities characterized by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008). Autism, in general, is a chronic disorder that appears in the first three years of life, revealing deficits in social interaction, communication skills and behaviors (Autism Society of America; Collins et al., 2006; Loukusa et al., 2007; Turnbull, Turnbull, Shank, Smith & Leal, 2002; White, Scahill, Klin, Koenig, & Volkmar, 2007). The etiology of the disorder remains unidentified, although current research is focused on genetic, pharmacological, and environmental factors (Bailey, LeCouteur, Gottesman, Bolton, Simonoff, Yuzida, & Rutter, 1995; Whitely, Rodgers & Shattock, 1998). Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism's occurrence (Autism Society of America; British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2000).

In this research, a case study was conducted involving a male student with autism who exhibited an inability to interact socially with other individuals; namely those persons unfamiliar to him. Concern was valid since this behavior is common among persons with autism.As supported by Edelson (2008), one of the most prevalent symptoms of autism is a dysfunction in social behaviors.

Brief Review of Literature as Setting for Study

The social difficulties associated with autism vary from individual to individual and include lack of eye contact, poor joint attention, failure to initiate verbal exchange, and inability to establish age-appropriate relationships (Dawson, Toth, Abbott, Osterling, Munson, & Estes, 2004). Children with autism characteristically display a lack of spontaneous play of all kinds (Boucher & Wolfberg, 2003). In addition, children with autism typically have difficulty generalizing learned skills to new settings and are unable to use new skills with new people or materials (Handleman, 1999).

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