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  1. 10 Essential Rules for Teaching Concepts to Children With AutismSharon A. Reeve, Ph.D., BCBAKenneth F. Reeve, Ph.D., BCBA January 16, 2009 Presented at the Conference Evidence-Based Interventions for Teaching Individuals with Autism Sponsored by the AJ Foundation For Children With Autism & The Comprehensive Learning Center

  2. The 10 Rules (Presentation Objectives) • Overview of Concepts • Rule #1: Know the Importance of Concepts • Importance to learners with and without autism • Rule #2: Remember the Basics • Generalization, discrimination, etc. • Rule #3: Know How to Use Concept Teaching Procedures • Simultaneous, successive, and conditional discrimination training procedures • Rule #4: Know How to Test for Concept Formation • Behavior necessary to infer concept formation • Rule #5: Teach All Types of Concepts • Perceptual classes, relational classes, equivalence classes

  3. The 10 Rules (Presentation Objectives) • Rule #6: Use Multiple Exemplar Training • Analysis of relevant features of exemplars • Rule #7: Use Multiple Distractors • Reducing “correct” chance responding • Rule #8: Teach in Appropriate Context for Specific Concepts • Identify higher order antecedent stimuli • Rule #9: Concurrently Teach Multiple Concepts • Avoid teaching single concepts in isolation • Rule #10: Use Error Analysis • Determine what is controlling behavior when concepts fail 3

  4. What is a Concept? • Traditional cognitive psychologists talk about internal mental rules that define why certain things “go together” • Cognitive psychologists assert that these internal mental rules ARE concepts • Major problem is that these internal processes are not observable or measureable!

  5. What is a Concept? • Behavior analysts, however, refer to concepts • As sets of stimuli that occasion a common response and… • Within a set of stimuli, some stimuli occasion the behavior without the benefit of explicit teaching • (other names for concepts are “stimulus classes” or “categories”) • What defines the “boundaries” of a concept (how large or small the set is) is often determined by society, culture, schooling, etc. • E.g., color categories across different cultures

  6. What is a Concept? • Behavior analysts identify the characteristics of the stimuli in the “concept” that evoke the behavior, rather than rely on inferred and unobservable “mental structures” to explain conceptual behavior • E.g., what characteristics define “tree” • Behavior analysts also examine how certain kinds of teaching procedures (discrimination training, programming for generalization) affect the likelihood of concept formation • E.g., How expansive will a child’s concept of “dog” be if we only use 3 exemplars to teach it?

  7. Rule #1: Know the Importance of Concepts (In General) • Get something for nothing • New behavior occurs without training • Reduced teaching time • Less need to explicitly teach everything (economical instructional time) • “Psychic” power! • Person can make assertions about the characteristics of something you’ve never encountered before if you know what concept it comes from

  8. Rule #1: Know the Importance of Concepts (Relevance to Autism) • Children with autism have difficulties forming concepts (Burke & Cerniglia, 1990; Bowler, 2006; Johnson & Rakison, 2006; Lovaas, Koegel, & Schreibman, 1979) • May be due to failure to respond to multiple stimulus components (called control by restricted features) • For example, if a child only attends to “4 legs,” they will be unable to learn concept of DOG (since many other features are also relevant to be called a dog and many other animals are 4-legged)

  9. Rule #1: Know the Importance of Concepts (Relevance to Autism) • Problems may also be due to responding to only a limited range of stimuli (control by restricted concepts) • For example, maybe only 2 of the following 4 stimuli are labeled as a “DOG” by a learner with autism

  10. Rule #1: Know the Importance of Concepts (Relevance to Autism) • Control by restricted features and/orrestricted conceptsis referred to as stimulus overselectivity(Lovaas, Koegel, & Schreibman, 1979) • This leads to: • communicative delays in speech and language • problems in academic skills • social delays (Hoffner-Barthold & Egel, 2001) • Therefore, behavior analysts need to have a better working knowledge of stimulus control issues to remediate these difficulties in concept formation for individuals with autism…

  11. Rule #2: Remember the Basics • Stimulus Control - study of how antecedent events affect likelihood of a behavior’s occurrence • Discriminative stimulus (SD or S+) is an antecedent stimulus that sets the occasion for reinforcement of a specific behavior • Are many within a concept • S-delta (SΔ or S-) or extinction stimulus is an antecedent stimulus that sets the occasion for NON-reinforcement of a specific behavior • Often called “distractor stimuli” (non-concept members)

  12. Differential Reinforcement: SD or SΔ • When a person responds in one situation but not in another (or responds differently), we say that the person discriminates between the situations. • E.g., Child throws a ball in the yard but not in the living room • Simplest way to teach discrimination is to reinforce a specific behavior in one situation (SD) and withhold reinforcement in the other (SΔ) • E.g., Child asks for the ball in the yard and is allowed to enjoy playing with the ball. No ball is provided in the living room. • “Stimulus control” also refers to a change in behavior that occurs when either an SD or SΔ is presented. • SD presented = probability of target response increases • SΔ presented = probability of same response decreases • E.g., Child learns to ask for ball in the yard but not when in the living room

  13. Generalization vs. Discrimination • Discrimination = target behavior occurs in one situation but not in others • We discriminate “among or between settings, people, stimuli” • E.g., Regarding ball playing, the child can discriminate between the yard and the living room • Generalization = target behavior occurs across multiple situations • We generalize “across settings, people, stimuli” • E.g., Child will ask for a ball in the neighbor’s yard, Grandma’s yard, and the school playground

  14. Stimulus Generalization • Why does generalization occur across new stimuli following teaching? • Occurs when new stimuli share common properties or features with the original discriminative stimulus (or stimuli) used in teaching • Will “appropriate” generalization occur automatically? (that is, will concepts form?) • Maybe yes, maybe no…

  15. Stimulus Discrimination • Why does discrimination occur between stimuli? • Occurs when other stimuli do NOT share common features with the original discriminative stimulus (or stimuli) used in teaching. Or, does not share sufficient numbers of common features. • Will “appropriate” discrimination occur automatically? (will learner discriminate one concept from another?) • Maybe yes, maybe no…

  16. Role of Generalization and Discrimination in Concept Formation • Target behavior generalizes WITHIN the concept (i.e., within a set of stimuli, each concept member occasions a common response) • E.g., Child says “That’s a cat” in the presence of many different cats • Target behavior does NOT generalize to OTHER concepts (i.e., learner discriminates among different concepts) • Nothing is said, or some other expressive label (“That one’s a dog!”) is given for members of other concepts

  17. Rule #3: Know How to Use Concept Teaching Procedures • One method is to arrange the presentation of SDs from different concepts (called “exemplars”) so that one follows an other (called successive discrimination training). • Teach behavior that is appropriate for each SD (or teach learner NOT to respond to an SΔ) • See simple successive discrimination training example on next slide…

  18. “If you see money, take it” Learner receives reinforcement for taking the money

  19. “If you see money, take it” Learner receives NO reinforcement for taking the ball

  20. Rule #3: Know How to Use Concept Teaching Procedures • In alternative procedure, simultaneous discrimination, the SD for one concept is presented with multiple SΔs (members of other concepts) at the same time • Learner is taught to respond to the SD. • See simple simultaneous discrimination training example on next slide…

  21. “If you see money, take it” Learner receives NO reinforcement for taking the clock or ball Learner receives reinforcement for taking the money

  22. Rule #3: Know How to Use Concept Teaching Procedures • In another procedure, conditional discrimination training, the presence of a “sample stimulus” (such as a visual stimulus or different instructions given to a learner) dictates which of two or more “comparison stimuli” or “distractors” the learner should select. • The “sample stimulus” changes from one trial to another • See example on next slide…

  23. One sample trial Another trial “Pick the money” “Pick the ball” Learner receives reinforcement for taking the ball Learner receives reinforcement for taking the money

  24. Conditional Discrimination • The behavioral function of each comparison changes depending on the presence of the sample. • That is, sometimes a comparison stimulus is an SD for selecting it and in other situations the SΔ • The correct response is “conditional on” (dependent on) the specific sample stimulus • Conditional discrimination is an “IF-THEN” rule

  25. Conditional Discrimination = Matching To Sample • Because the conditional stimulus is referred to as a sample and the choices we respond to are called comparisons, this procedure is also called matching to sample (MTS) • More examples…next slide

  26. Conditional Discrimination = Matching To Sample • Identity matching (match one thing to itself)

  27. Conditional Discrimination = Matching To Sample • Perceptual similarity-based matching (e.g., match one dog picture to a similar dog picture)

  28. Conditional Discrimination = Matching To Sample • Arbitrary matching (e.g., match one dog picture to dissimilar stimulus such as a word) DOG HOP CAT

  29. Rule #4: Know How to Test for Concept Formation • Specific behavioral properties must be demonstrated in the presence of the stimulus members to infer that they are functioning as a concept: • Each stimulus in the set occasions a particular response • This generalization emerges after training has occurred with only a subset of all the possible stimuli in the potential class (Lea, 1984; Herrnstein, 1990). • Stimuli in other sets do not occasion that same response (Adams et al., 1993; Fields, Adams, Buffington, Yang, & Verhave, 1996; Wasserman & DeVolder, 1993).

  30. Rule #4: Know How to Test Concept Formation Example: If teaching the concept of “dog,” how does an instructor infer that the child has learned the concept? Child says “That is a dog” to many different dog pictures (this happens even though child was directly taught to respond to only some of the pictures) Child does NOT say “That is a dog” to pictures of lions or tigers or bears, etc. 30

  31. Rule #5: Teach All Types of Concepts • 1. Perceptual class = stimuli in the set share some physical characteristics • Examples: dogs, flowers, children, chairs, cars, etc. • 2. Relational class = stimuli in the set characterize some abstract relationship • Example: “bigger than,” “same/different” • 3. Equivalence class = stimuli do NOT share any physical characteristics (Stimuli “go together” just because society says so) • Example: numeral 1 = written one = spoken “WUN”

  32. 1. Perceptual Classes • In these concepts, there is a perceived similarity across the stimuli within the concept • It is difficult, however, • (a) to define all stimulus properties (features) of concept members, and • (b) to identify the range or “boundaries” of the concepts (these characteristics are ill-defined or fuzzy) • stimuli in perceptual classes contain different combinations of multiple possible features • For example, what features define DOGS? Rachmaninoff music? TREES? • (Adams, Fields, & Verhave, 1993; Blough, 1990; Cerella, 1979; Cook et al., 1990; Herrnstein, 1990; Lea, 1984; Rosch & Mervis, 1975)

  33. Perceptual Classes: Control of Responding • Presumably, category members contain some combination of multiple possible features (I.e., a tree contains a certain number of tree features: leaves, bark, tall, etc.) • If a stimulus does not contain enough of these features, then it will probably be excluded from class membership • (Herrnstein, 1990; Jitsumori, 1993, 1996; Lea & Ryan, 1984; Medin & Smith, 1984; Rosch & Mervis, 1975; Smith & Medin, 1981; Wasserman, Kiedinger, & Bhatt, 1988)

  34. Teaching & Testing Procedures • During teaching, learners are exposed to multiple different stimuli from each potential perceptual class • called multiple exemplar training (MET) (Becker, 1971; Cook et al., 1990; Haring, Breen, & Laitenen, 1989; Homa & Little, 1985) • Stimuli can be presented either one at a time (successive discrimination), or concurrently (simultaneous discrimination), or in conditional discrimination.

  35. Successive discrimination trial with one car exemplar “What is this?” Learner receives reinforcement for saying “car”

  36. Successive discrimination trial with another car exemplar “What is this?” Learner receives reinforcement for saying “car”

  37. Successive discrimination trial with a non-car distractor “What is this?” Learner receives NO reinforcement for saying “car” (but does receive reinforcement, of course, for saying “truck” if that concept is also being taught)

  38. Simultaneous discrimination trial with one car exemplar and two distractors “Point to the car” Learner receives reinforcement for pointing to car Learner receives NO reinforcement for pointing to the motorcycle or truck

  39. Simultaneous discrimination trial with another car exemplar and another two distractors “Point to the car” Learner receives NO reinforcement for pointing to the motorcycle or truck Learner receives reinforcement for pointing to car

  40. Testing for the Concept • Additional NOVEL stimuli from the same concept must occasion the same target behavior even though they had never been presented before (this is generalization to new concept members) • Likewise, the learner should NOT emit the target behavior in the presence of novel NON-members (discrimination between categories) • To assess this…

  41. Generalization test trial (successive discrimination trial) with a novel car not used in teaching “What is this?” Child says “Car” but no programmed consequences

  42. Generalization test trial (simultaneous discrimination trial) with another novel car not used in teaching “Point to the car” No programmed consequences

  43. Training & Testing Procedures: Conditional Discrimination • establishment of perceptual classes can also involve conditional discrimination procedures, such as matching to sample

  44. Training & Testing Procedures: Conditional Discrimination sample • Following presentation of the sample, some observing response, such as touching the sample, must be emitted.

  45. Training & Testing Procedures: Conditional Discrimination • Next, at least two additional stimuli, called comparisons, are presented. • One is drawn from the same potential perceptual class as the sample and is called the positive comparison • Other comparison comes from a different class and is called the negative comparison

  46. Training & Testing Procedures: Conditional Discrimination Sample 1 - comparison + comparison

  47. Sample 1 - comparison + comparison

  48. Training & Testing Procedures: Conditional Discrimination Sample 2 - comparison + comparison

  49. Sample 2 + comparison - comparison

  50. Testing Procedures: Conditional Discrimination • New NOVEL stimuli must occasion selection of other concept members even though they had never been paired together before in a match-to-sample trial (generalization to new concept members) • Likewise, novel stimuli must NOT occasion selection of stimuli from a different concept (discrimination between concepts) • To assess this…