Observational Effects on the Preferences of Children with Autism

Introduction Behavioral theories indicate that people learn behavior pattern through methods based on ‘nurture versus nature’ debate.

The article by Leaf et al. (2012) targets to illustrate the possibility altering autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children’s “preferences from highly preferred toys to toys that were originally less preferred using an observational pairing procedure” (Leaf et al., 2012). The article describes how autistic children require an active reinforcement for them to acquire new behavior. For the purpose of the research, the participants were three different kids of the same gender, boys; 7 year old Hank with pervasive developmental disorder, IQ of 117, 67 score on Social Skills Rating Scale Parent, good conversational skills, deficits of social and play skills, aggression and noncompliance; 6 year old Buddy with autism, IQ of 87, 63 score on Social Skills Rating Scale Parent, good conversational skills, deficits of social and play skills, no aggression and compliant; and 5 year old; Larry with Asperger’s syndrome, IQ of 89, 106 score on Social Skills Rating Scale Parent, good conversational skills, spoke and understood full sentences, limited play and social skills and engaged in scripted and ritualistic play(Leaf et al.

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, 2012). The concept of the research ws to influence the children to like a particular toy after watching a particular person playing with the toy. The material for research was toys and items that the children preferred, toys, and items that the children did not prefer. The first step of the research was to identify two key issues; initial low preference (ILP) item and initial high preference item (IHP). MethodsThe research chose to use Paired preference assessment. The research was carried out in two different methods and approaches for the boys.

Hank setting was in an “empty preschool classroom that contained play mats, a sink, a table with chairs, an indoor slide, and a one-way observational Mirror” (Leaf et al., 2012). This was for done twice per day, sessions 90 minutes apart and 5 days a week. Buddy and Larry session were guided in an empty room, with the mirror for monitoring, twice a day, session 1 hour apart and 2 days a week. Hank, Buddy, and Larry had the same IHP stimulus; Hank and Buddy shared the same ILP stimulus; Larry had a different ILP from Hank and Buddy.

Results The experiment result was that the participant changed their IHP preference to ILP after an observation procedure. During the first baseline; Hank selected the ILP stiimulus more frequently than the IHP stimulus after only two sessions; Buddy selected the IHP stimulus more frequently than the ILP and control stimuli in five of six sessions; Larry selected the IHP stimulus more frequently than the ILP stimulus in all nine sessions. In the second baseline, Hank, buddy and Larry demonstrated a high preference for ILP over IHP at an immediate effect. Discussion The study found out that similar antecedent observation of a preferred adult relationship with an item can alter the preferences of children with an ASD. However, the author notes that it is typically difficult to identify potential reinforces for these children due to their narrowed range of interest in toys and activities. The results of the study would be relevant for the clinicians and parents to alter the behavior patterns of children with autism.

Critique The study overlooked the issue of gender as all the participants in the study were boys; which does not give a balanced result; it makes hard to interpret and implement the study across the other gender. The study also had other disparity issues such as the preferred adults activeness of the participants and exposure of participants (on the basis of social-economic class).