Teaching Object Labeling during Play to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
A. D. Duenas1,2 and J. B. Plavnick1, (1)Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, (2)Michigan State University, Okemos, MI

Language impairment is a significant area of delay for many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD do not engage in early play interactions with adults or frequently label objects as a means to share information with others and learn about the environment. This limits their opportunities to engage in social interaction related to objects of interest (Paul, 2008). Although interventions have been developed to teach object labeling to children with ASD, these protocols are administered in highly structured arrangements separate from the naturally occurring conditions typically known to occasion language (Reichow, Barton, Boyd, & Hume, 2014).

Natural language interventions combine a behavior analytic and developmental approach to language in which an adult embeds opportunities for learning in socially relevant contexts throughout the child’s daily routine (Lane, Lieberman-Betz & Gast, 2016). Despite the effectiveness of natural language training procedures for teaching requests to children with ASD, few researchers have applied a similar approach to other types of functional responses, such as object labeling. Procedures that teach object labeling within a naturalistic context need to be developed and empirically tested to offer additional instructional strategies to service providers.


The purpose of the present investigation was to test the efficacy of a procedure that incorporated strategies used within natural behavioral interventions for teaching requests and imitation while embedding repeated object labeling trials within a play-based routine for children with ASD.


Three 4-year-old children diagnosed with ASD attending an Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI) program housed within a child development laboratory preschool participated. A multiple-probe across behaviors design (Gast & Ledford, 2014) was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the play-based procedure on acquisition of targeted object labels. Experimental sessions involved a play routine consisting of three distinct subroutines (e.g. pulling toys out of a box, playing with toys, and cleaning up toys). The play routine was centered on a thematic set in order to create an environment similar to those observed when children play in early childhood environments. Subroutines were developed to contrive opportunities for participants to label target stimuli three times within a session, creating a total of nine object labeling trials per session.


Participants demonstrated rapid acquisition of object labeling during the training procedure and maintained responses during a two-week follow-up probe. The results demonstrate play-based intervention procedures that mimic the conditions and environment in which language occurs may be beneficial for children with ASD.


In addition to rapid acquisition of all targets, two participants for whom we administered transfer of training assessments both labeled objects in novel contexts (i.e., transfer of training). Early childhood providers rated the procedures as highly acceptable. The procedures and outcomes of the present investigation extends naturalistic interventions to teach object labeling to children with ASD.