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A Function-Based Approach to Establishing Social Skills: The Effect of an Interdependent Group Contingency on Preference for Social or Non-Social Reinforcers
AuthorFalletta-Cowden, Neal Andrew
AdvisorWilliams, Wilfred L.
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AbstractSocial deficits are a commonly observed phenomenon among children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Social skill deficits may lead to isolation from peers and a lack of contact with naturalistic settings that are crucial to children’s development. Group-oriented contingency research has proved to be a fruitful avenue in terms of producing technologies that promote social interactions between peers and reduce maladaptive behavior. Specifically, interdependent group contingencies have been shown to improve social interaction quality between youths with ASD and their typically developing (TD) peers. The current study sought to analyze the effect of an interdependent contingency on children’s preferences for social or non-social reinforcers. It also sought to analyze social interactions in terms of both their quality (positive, neutral, or negative) and their contextual relevance. The effect of access to computers as a reinforcer was also analyzed. Across two experiments, interdependent contingency tasks were implemented with two sets of dyads; one with two ASD peers and one with an ASD child and a TD peer. The results showed that the relevance of utterances made by participants appeared to show greater functional control over preferences than their positive, neutral, or negative qualities. The results also showed that interdependent tasks may lead to higher rates of interactions between peers, and that access to computers can harm or augment social interactions between peers depending on the arrangement of individuals and their content preferences. Implications for future research as well as key takeaways for applied practitioners are discussed.