Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Teaching Safety Responding to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Teaching Safety Responding to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Article excerpt

Abstract

Children have been taught to demonstrate a safety response when they encounter a dangerous stimulus using behavioral skills training (BST). However, little research has evaluated the usefulness of BST to teach safety skills to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the current study, we evaluated BST to establish a generalized repertoire of safety skills in children with ASD. Three categories of safety skills were identified and multiple exemplars were taught to program for generalization to stimuli and settings not associated with training. The 3 participants demonstrated an appropriate safety response after BST training across trained and untrained exemplars and settings. Additionally, responding to trained exemplars maintained up to four weeks following training. High levels of social validity were also found. These results suggest BST is a viable training approach for training individuals with ASD to demonstrate safety skills and results are discussed in light of previous studies.

Keywords: behavioral skills training, safety skills, generalization, autism spectrum disorder

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Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children in the United States over the age of one year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). In 2014 alone, over 5,000 children died as a result of unintentional injury. Although the causes of these deaths vary, a portion of these deaths are likely avoidable as they involve contact with dangerous stimuli. For example, unintentional poisoning, fire/burns, and firearms were the third, fourth, and eighth leading causes of death for children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Some of these deaths are likely avoidable if children are taught to demonstrate a safety response when they encounter such dangerous stimuli. A typical safety response consists of three components: not making physical contact with the dangerous stimulus, moving away from the dangerous stimulus, and reporting the presence of the dangerous stimulus to an adult (Miltenberger, 2012). If children correctly demonstrate a safety response consisting of these components, the probability of injury or death due to the dangerous stimulus may be reduced.

Behavioral skills training (BST) has shown to be an effective means to train children to respond safely within the context of dangerous stimuli. BST consists of four components: instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback (Miltenberger, 2008) and is considered an active training approach because the trainee is required to perform the safety response in the presence of the trainer, who provides positive and corrective feedback based on the performance (Miltenberger & Gross, 2011). Generally, when BST is used to train individuals to respond safely to dangerous stimuli, the trainer will describe the appropriate response (e.g., "don't touch, move away, and tell an adult") for the trainee to imitate. Next, the trainer models the components of the safety response while the trainee observes. Following the instruction and modeling components, an opportunity is provided for the trainee to engage in the safety response within the context of a role-play scenario (i.e., rehearsal). Last, the trainer delivers positive and corrective feedback based on the trainee's performance. Rehearsal and feedback continue until the trainee demonstrates the safety response at a predetermined criterion. Although effective, many individuals do not perform the safety response in situations outside the context of BST (Miltenberger, 2012). To address this possibility, in situ training is frequently provided. In situ training (1ST) consists of arranging a scenario in which the trainee is placed in a naturalistic setting with the dangerous stimulus present. The trainer discreetly observes, provides feedback, and requires the trainee to practice the safety response until a certain criterion performance is achieved if the trainee does not engage in the safety response (Himle, Miltenberger, Flessner, & Gatheridge, 2004). …

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