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Public defense: Brittany Marie DiSanti

Brittany Marie DiSanti will defend her thesis "Comparing Two Training Procedures to Establish Auditory-Visual Conditional Discriminations in Children with Autism" for the PhD in behaviour analysis.

Brittany DiSanti is a PhD student at the PhD programme in behaviour analysis.

Zoom link

Zoom link trial lecture and public defense (oslomet.zoom.us).

Webinar ID: 616 2590 0736

Passcode: 270122

The trial lecture starts at 15:00 in Zoom.

Title: Teaching to Criterion: Acquisition, Generalization, and Maintenance of Auditory-Visual Conditional Discriminations.

Public defense

The candidate will defend her thesis at 16:30.

Title of the thesis: "Comparing Two Training Procedures to Establish Auditory-Visual Conditional Discriminations in Children with Autism"

Ordinary opponents

Leader of the public defense

Supervisors

Digital defense information

Due to limitations on physical participation as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the public defense will be conducted as a webinar on the zoom digital platform.

OsloMet students and employees may use the OsloMet account (oslomet.zoom.us). Others can download Zoom (zoom.us) or use a browser.

About the thesis

  • Abstract

    Children with autism typically display deficits and challenges in acquiring listener behavior skills (also referred to as receptive labels), which are fundamental for language acquisition and maintaining functional communication skills. This is opposed to their typical developing peers, who are generally more successful in learning these skills within their natural environment and through ordinary social contingencies.

    The establishment of these skills is foundational towards early language development and everyday functioning, which is why EIBI curricula places a significant emphasis in training these skills. Research comparing discrimination training procedures to teach these skills has continued to examine the effectiveness between two commonly used procedures, structured mix and random rotation (previously referred to as simple-conditional method and conditional-only method, respectively).

    Although both procedures have been successful in establishing conditional discriminations, results have consistently favored the random rotation procedure; therefore, causing this procedure to be considered the gold standard. Despite limited findings, clinicians have also been cautioned towards using the structured mix procedure, due to previous research suggesting the emergence of faulty stimulus control and error patterns due to the training structure of this procedure (i.e., training stimuli in isolation, two-choice format, presentation of massed trials).

    A closer examination of the efficiency and effectiveness of each procedure, particularly following modifications to one or both procedures, was prioritized to provide further clarification for researchers and practitioners. A large focus of the current research was placed upon adjustments to the structured mix procedure, particularly through eliminating steps where stimuli were trained in isolation. This was carried out to determine whether this procedure leads to faulty stimulus control and error patterns, particularly during the final steps of the procedure.

    The initial study compared learners with differing verbal repertoires and showed that the structured mix procedure was more effective for those participants with a limited verbal repertoire. The random rotation procedure was found to be more effective for those participants with an advanced verbal repertoire. Following these findings, it seems that the sequential format of training provided by the structured mix procedure may benefit children with a limited verbal repertoire. Despite these positive findings, sources of alternative stimulus control could not be ruled out considering comparable data was not taken for the random rotation condition.

    The second study examined further modifications to both procedures, but adjustments were predominately made to the structured mix procedure. Modifications included eliminating neutral distractors used during  initial training steps, decreasing the number of mass trials, and eliminating blocks of mass trials.

    The results for the second study showed that for most participants the structured mix procedure was more effective. Additionally, the modified structured mix procedure appeared more effective compared to the structured mix procedures implemented in previous studies. Furthermore, analysis of error patterns was examined across both conditions and results indicated that if error patterns were present for the structured mix condition, they were also present for the random rotation condition.

    The final study compared procedures to teach arbitrary stimuli to neurotypical  adults and results were comparable to participants who possessed advanced verbal repertoires in previous research conducted as part of the dissertation. Most participants acquired the receptive labels across both conditions using the minimum number of trials, but the random rotation procedure was more efficient and effective in establishing conditional discriminations.

    The results across studies provide further evidence towards the benefits of selecting procedures based on participant characteristics and their current verbal language repertoire. Results also provide further evidence supporting the use of a structured mix procedure, especially following modifications to this procedure. Random rotation may continue to be referred to as the gold standard approach, particularly for those participants with a more advanced verbal repertoire, but clinicians should be aware of the possibility for faulty stimulus control to emerge during this procedure as well.