A Comparison of Simultaneous and Delayed Conditioning of Visual Stimuli in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder and related disabilities often do not respond to social reinforcers, such as praise, in a manner that is consistent with typically developing peers. Conditioning procedures are commonly used to establish new reinforcers with this population; however, there are few published studies examining conditioning procedures with this population. This study compared the effectiveness of simultaneous and delayed conditioning to establish conditioned reinforcers in three children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The conditioning procedures involved pairing a neutral stimulus (a picture card) with an unconditioned reinforcer using a response-stimulus conditioning procedure. Conditioning trials occurred following simple responses, such as a motor response or sorting task. In the simultaneous conditioning condition, a card was presented simultaneously with the delivery of an edible. In the delayed conditioning condition, a card was presented, followed by the delivery of an edible, and then the removal of the card. We evaluated the effectiveness of the two conditioning procedures by measuring levels of responding when the simple response was consequated with only the card during probe sessions after every 250 pairing trials and after pairing trials had been discontinued. Neither the simultaneous nor the delayed conditioning procedure was effective to condition the card as a reinforcer, counter to our expectations based on results of basic literature with laboratory animals. Thus, further research is needed to examine methods to reliably condition stimuli to control behavior.