Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

The Effects of a Treatment Package in Establishing Independent Academic Work Skills in Children with Autism

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

The Effects of a Treatment Package in Establishing Independent Academic Work Skills in Children with Autism

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment package in producing independent work by three children with autism with minimal supervision by an adult. The package included: (a) delayed reinforcement for on-task and on-schedule responding, (b) fading of instructional prompts and of the instructor's presence, (c) unpredictable supervision, (d) response cost for off-task responding. It was found that the treatment package resulted in increased levels of on-task and on-schedule responding during treatment for all three children with a supervising adult only occasionally present. Two children required minimal adult supervision in maintenance. Generalization probes showed that the behavior of all three children transferred across both novel material and a novel setting in the absence of adult supervision.

Key words: Delayed reinforcement, fading supervision, response cost, autism, independent skills, intervention package, unpredictable supervision.

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Numerous publications describe the variety of procedures that have been developed over decades to ameliorate the behavioral deficits and/or excesses that are typically displayed by persons with autism. The most effective studies have taught precisely targeted behaviors in structured educational settings (DeMyer, Hingtgen, & Jackson, 1981; Dunlap, Koegel, & O'Neil, 1985; Koegel, Rincover, & Egel, 1982). Despite these successes, learned behavior has not generalizeed to novel settings and/or persisted once the treatment contingencies have been withdrawn (Dunlap & Johnson, 1985; Dunlap, Koegel, & Johnson, 1987; Stahmer & Shreibman, 1992). Additionally, persons with autism frequently do not independently initiate tasks or remain appropriately engaged with materials even though they may have displayed mastery of the specific tasks in structured settings (Dunlap & Plienis, 1988; Fowler, 1988; MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1993; Sailor, Goetz, Anderson, Hunt, & Gee, 1988). The presence of a supervising adult who wi ll prompt engagement continues to be a requirement for many persons with autism to function in their environments (Dunlap & Johnston, 1985; Dunlap, Koegel, & Johnson, 1987; Stahmer & Shreibman, 1992). Furthermore, people with autism may also have difficulty acquiring lengthy response sequences. Thus, even though a child with autism may have learned to complete a morning routine (e.g., brush teeth, get dressed, and go to breakfast), she may need prompts to initiate each activity or each part of an activity (MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1993). Again, successful completion of the sequence requires monitoring from a supervising adult.

Integration of persons with autism and developmental disabilities into mainstream society continues to be a dominant priority in the field of education. Simply teaching children with autism a variety of skills is not enough to prepare them for a functional life in society. For instance, it is important that persons with autism learn to display already acquired skills in the absence of a supervising adult. Krantz and McClannahan (1999) suggest that in order to program for integration the following six response classes should be addressed: (a) following adults' instructions, (b) exhibiting generative language, (c) emitting low rates of inappropriate behavior, (d) sustaining engagement, (e) responding to temporally delayed consequences and (f) generalizing skills across settings. If children with autism are to share the same experiences as their nondisabled peers, it is imperative to identify procedures to successfully teach these skills to them.

As mentioned earlier, typically, the removal of close supervision, whether in group or in individualized settings, leads to the recurrence of stereotypic and off-task behaviors and a decline in appropriate, productive responding (Dunlap & Johnson, 1985; Marholin & Steinman, 1977). …

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