Using an Elicited Orienting Response and Respondent Conditioning to Increase Eye Contact in Response to a Name Call in Children with Autism
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One of the earliest and most noticeable characteristics of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is impaired eye contact. Difficulty with making eye contact presents concerns for children regarding academic, social, and safety skills—for instance, failing to respond to a teacher calling a child’s name to give instructions, looking at a peer during play, or orienting toward an adult speaker warning the child of a risky situation. Currently published research on increasing responding to name with eye contact has primarily involved separate and combined procedures such as physical prompting, visual prompting, differential reinforcement, and overcorrection. The current study evaluated the effects of an auditory orienting response using a variety of short, non-social sounds within acceptable levels of auditory perception to elicit eye contact. Non-social sounds are those that are made by an inanimate object, such as a phone ringing or a recording of a car horn. When eye contact occurred following presentation of the non-social auditory stimulus, the experimenter used respondent conditioning to pair the presentation of the participant’s name with a highly preferred stimulus. This procedure was used as a supplement to differential reinforcement to increase eye contact in four young children with ASD. Results suggest the current procedure may be an effective way to teach young children with ASD to make eye contact in response to a name call.