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Autism Spectrum Disorders & Applied Behavior Analysis

A. Pervasive Development Disorders (PDD)

a. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

i. Autism (severe to moderate to mild disability)

ii. Asperger’s Syndrome (moderate to mild disability)

iii. PDD-NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) (severe to moderate to mild disability)

iv. ALL demonstrate uneven development and sometimes have huge gaps/holes in skills

B. Autism Spectrum Disorders affects all areas of development:

a. Cognition – children demonstrate severe (autism) to moderate or mild (autism & PDD-NOS)
to no deficits with their intelligence

b. Learning – has a direct relationship to cognitive abilities – affects how the child’s brain
obtains and uses information from the environment

c. Social Interaction – most obvious skill deficits across spectrum – child appears to lack interest
in others or only interacts to gain something for himself

d. Play – child shows lack of ability to engage in pretend/symbolic and functional play – does
play with toys or objects as they were designed

e. Communication – deficits are central to the disability and affect all other abilities –unable to
effectively use functional language to convey ideas, desires or needs to others.

f. Adaptive Behavior – this skill area of self-help and self-care shows the most uneven
development compared to other skills – necessary for independent living and social
interaction within one’s community

g. Behavior – problem behaviors are many of the most challenging and stressful issues for
teachers and parents. Inappropriate behaviors can result in significant barriers to effective
social interaction, educational placement and development.

h. Motor – display of deficits or highly developed gross and fine motor skills

i. Sensory - demonstration of atypical reactions or sensitivities to various stimuli in

environment – children are hyper- or hypo-sensitive to things in their environment

*Use Form 1-1: ASD Characteristics: Student Profile

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Autism Spectrum Disorders & Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – methodology and practice

ONLY research-based intervention that is proven to makes consistent, significant and lasting
change for children with autism spectrum disorders

• A-B-C Paradigm
– The ABC Paradigm is a system of analyzing the cause and effect of behavior
– The three-term contingency:

A - B - C
Antecedent Behavior Consequence

Antecedent: It is what happens directly before the behavior. It is the cause
for the behavior occurring.
• Behavior: A distinct, describable and measurable response displayed after the
• Consequence: It is the response that occurs immediately after the behavior
and only occurs because the behavior happened. A consequence either
increases or decreases a behavior.
• Reinforcer: any consequence that maintains and increases the
occurrence of a behavior. Something is only a reinforcer if the person
wants it and it increases the occurrence of a behavior (the reinforcer
itself does not have be desirable or acceptable in general).
• Punisher: any consequence that decreases the occurrence of a
behavior. Something is only a punisher if it is aversive to the person
and decreases the occurrence of a target behavior.
– A-B-C Paradigm also incorporates analyzing and determining the Setting Event
(context) in which a behavior occurs.
• A setting event (SE) is the environment (i.e. bus, dinnertime, playground,
bathroom), ecological event (i.e. lack of sleep, medication), or activity (i.e.
math time, playing with Legos, bath time) that sets up an antecedent to
trigger the occurrence of a behavior.

SE - A - B - C
Setting Antecedent Behavior Consequence
– By recording the occurrence of a behavior and the events that occurred immediately
before and after the behavior on is able to evaluate the context (setting event), the
cause (antecedent), and the effect (consequence) of a behavior.
• By using a data collection system to maintain a record of the behavior, along
with the setting events, antecedents and consequences of each occurrence,
an instructor is able to track and analyze patterns of behavior and thus make
changes to these occurrence to improve a student’s behavior in the future.

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Autism Spectrum Disorders & Applied Behavior Analysis

*See SE-A-B-C data collection sheet

• Discrete Trial Training (DTT) method

– DTT is a method for teaching children with ASD based on the ABC Paradigm.
• It is used to focus on analyzing the learning behavior of a student.
• It is the structure that organizes the teaching provided to a student.
– The three-term contingency of DTT based on the ABC paradigm:

SD - R - SR
Discriminative Response Consequence

•Discriminative Stimulus: The instruction, question or relevant materials

presented to the student (the antecedent)
• Response: The student’s reaction to the SD (the behavior)
• Consequence: The reaction provided by the instructor to the student in
response to the student’s behavior (the consequence).
– DTT is a method of teaching that involves the following:
• breaking a skill into smaller parts,
• teaching each part until it is mastered,
• providing concentrated teaching on one specific thing or concept,
• providing prompting and fading as needed, and
• using reinforcement procedures to increase correct responses.
– Each DTT teaching session involves a number of trials, each of which has a distinct
beginning and end which is what makes it discrete.
• It is distinguishable from traditional teaching methods because it provides a
very small unit of information and immediately seeks the student’s response
– active instructor and student involvement is an essential element of DTT.
• Instructor is constantly checking student understanding and analyzing and
changing teaching based on student’s responses.
• Analysis and needed changes can only occur if a data collection system
is used that assists in maintaining a record of student responses to
specific instructions and the consequences that follow those

*See DTT session data collection sheet

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