Stimulus-Stimulus Pairing and Direct Reinforcement in Mand Training of Autistic Children
Sturgeon, John A.
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Based on the behavioral concept of automatic reinforcement, the use of both stimulus stimulus pairing and direct reinforcement was examined in relation to the acquisition of vocal vowel sounds in autistic children with severe language delays in order to establish the necessary vocalizations for intensive behavioral language therapy. It was hypothesized that by first using a stimulus-stimulus pairing of target vocalizations with a preferred stimulus, a speech sound could be established as an automatic reinforcer, and then strengthened through direct reinforcement to extend the duration of the learning by establishing the vocalization as a mand. This experiment is a partial replication of the Esch, Carr, and Michael (2005) study with the use of additional non-target trials to strengthen learning during stimulus-stimulus pairing. Results demonstrate a gradual increase in target vocalizations upon the use of direct reinforcement for 2 distinct vocal topographies. The use of stimulus-stimulus pairings to establish a novel vocalization in a non-verbal child with autism, paired with the subsequent use of direct reinforcement in order to establish the new vocalization as a mand function, appears to have demonstrated a clinically significant effect in establishing the verbal repertoire necessary in implementing a subsequent speech therapy program.
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