Behavioral Intervention and Perspective Taking

By: Marlena N. Smith

In a recent study, Evelyn Gould and other CARD researchers found preliminary evidence suggesting that behavioral intervention may be effective in teaching perspective taking skills to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Children with ASD commonly display deficits in perspective taking, (i.e., the ability to interpret another’s point of view). An important component of perspective taking is the ability to follow another’s gaze. The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of behavioral intervention in teaching children with ASD to identify what someone else can see.

Participants included three children with ASD, ages 3 to 5 years. Training involved table-top tasks conducted with stimulus cards. Each stimulus card depicted the profile of an individual, which was oriented to the left or right toward one of four stimuli illustrated on the card. Participants were asked to identify what the individual on the card sees. The training also involved a most-to-least prompting procedure and the delivery of reinforcement for correct responses. Generalization was measured via table-top tasks using novel stimuli and natural environment tasks in which participants were asked to identify what a familiar person could see based on the direction of their gaze.

All participants demonstrated significant improvements in table-top tasks, and skills successfully generalized to novel stimulus cards. While the participants did demonstrate some improvement in natural environment tasks, generalization to the natural setting was limited.

This study is of the first to investigate the use of behavioral intervention to teach perspective taking skills to children with ASD. The findings reveal preliminary evidence that behavioral intervention may be effective in teaching children with ASD to follow another’s gaze. Further research is needed to explore the use of behavioral intervention in training the ability to follow another’s gaze as well as other components of perspective taking.

References

Gould, E., Tarbox, J., O’Hora, D., Noone, S., & Bergstrom, R. (2010). Teaching children with autism a basic component skill of perspective taking. Behavioral Interventions. doi:10.1002/bin.320

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