Theses Doctoral

Vocal and Non-Vocal Verbal Behavior Between Mothers and Their Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Greer, Ashley Briggs

I conducted a descriptive analysis on the emission of vocal and non-vocal social/verbal interactions between 35 dyads of preschool-aged-children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their mothers. Using previously recorded videos of 5-min isolated free-play sessions between the mother-child dyads, I transduced each occurrence of verbal operants, attempted verbal operants (i.e., emissions not reinforced by a listener), and additional verbal behaviors such as fantasy play emitted by the child, and approvals and disapprovals emitted by the mother. Each verbal behavior was defined as either vocal verbal behavior, non-lexical vocal verbal behavior, or non-vocal verbal behavior, all with a function to communicate. The procedure consisted of identifying each instance of verbal behavior emitted between the mother and child rotating across listener and speaker responses until either no response occurred, or the session concluded. The listener and speaker responses were further transduced into individual initiated conversational units (speaker-listener-speaker rotations). These data were statistically analyzed with previously collected child educational variables and mother demographic variables: child's level of verbal behavior in accordance with the Verbal Behavior Developmental Assessment-Revised (VBDA-R), number of acquired objectives on the Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to Schooling International Curriculum and Inventory of Repertoires for Children from Preschool through Kindergarten (C-PIRK), the Autism Diagnosis Observation Schedule-Second Edition (ADOS-2) severity scores, and the scores on the Vineland-3 Adaptive Behavior Scales-Third Edition (VABS-3). The mother demographic variables were level of education and household income. The results of the study were as follow: (1) a significant relationship was shown between the child's level of verbal behavior (extracted from the VBDA-R) and performance on the C-PIRK, VABS-3, and between the ADOS-2 Modules used to assess for ASD severity; (2) the results did not show a significant difference between the child's level of verbal behavior and the number of child-initiated conversational units. The differences in the verbal behavior exchanged between the mother and child were, however, indicated across the child's form of verbal behavior - vocal, non-lexical, and non-vocal verbal behavior - emitted with the mother. Results are interpreted as parents of children without vocal verbal behavior require parent training tailored to their child's verbal developmental repertoires rather than their chronological age to ensure all communicative opportunities are captured. Educational implications, limitations, and future avenues of research are discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Behavior Analysis
Thesis Advisors
Greer, R. Douglas
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2018