Using relationship-focused intervention to enhance the social-emotional functioning of young children with autism spectrum disorders

Introduction: This study focuses on relationship-focused (RF) intervention that encourages parents to use responsive interactive strategies, such as turning taking and following the child’s lead. When using RF intervention for children with autism, it is considered to be a “promising intervention” rather than “best practice”. This study examines the effect of RF intervention on the socio-emotional behavior of children with autism using a newly developed early intervention curriculum, Responsive Teaching (RT). RT teaches parents to use responsive interaction strategies to address their child’s needs. This study mainly focuses on mother-child relationships.

Results: The objectives for RT are split into 4 domains:

  • Cognitive: includes social play, initiation, exploration/manipulation, problem solving, and practice
  • Communication: includes joint activity, joint attention, vocalization, intentional communication, and conversation)
  • Socio-emotional functioning: includes trust/attachment, empathy, cooperation, and self-regulatio
  • Motivation: includes interest, persistence, enjoyment, feelings of competence, and feelings of control

Results show that changes to mother’s style of interaction was significant. There was an improvement in responsiveness and affect. Results also show that there were significant improvements on children’s social-emotional behavior. There were improvements in attention, persistence, interest, cooperation, initiation, joint attention, and affect. The children were reported to be less detached, have fewer problems in self-regulation, and were more socially active. Changes in maternal responsiveness also accounted for 25% of the changes in children’s social behavior.

Discussion This study provides the idea that interventions help parents be more responsive in their children’s socio-emotional wellbeing.

References: Mahoney, G., & Perales, F. (2003). Using relationship-focused intervention to enhance the social-emotional functioning of young children with autism spectrum disorders. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23, 77-89.

 Thirty years of research on the functional analysis of problem behavior

Introduction: This paper is a review of 158 studies published from 2001-2011 on the functional analysis (FA) of problem behavior. FA is used to determine the underlying cause or motivation for the problem behavior. The problem behaviors mostly studied were self-injurious behaviors, aggression, disruption, vocalization, and property destruction. Functional analyses were categorized by assessment model, inclusion of supplementary assessments, condition types, number of test conditions, assessment duration, session duration, experimental design, and method of data presentation.

Results: Most of the studies were conducted with children, and others with adults or a mix of children and adults. Based on all the results, 29.7% of the participants maintained their behavior by social-negative reinforcement, 29.2% by social-positive reinforcement, 17.2% by attention, and 12% by access of preferred items and activities. The percentage of cases in which problem behavior was maintained by multiple treatments increased.

Discussion: Throughout the 30 years, FA methodology had become an important part of behavioral assessment. As the goal of applied behavior analysis is to solve problems of social significance, there are endless possible extensions of FA methodologies that have yet to be accomplished.

References: Beavers, G. A., Iwata, B. A., & Lerman, D. C. (2013). Thirty years of research on the functional analysis of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46, 1-21.