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Rather than creating specific times for communication intervention, teachers incorporate the strategies throughout the school day. Emphasis is on naturally occurring routines and interactions such as morning arrival, mealtime, play and leisure activities and personal care, as well as academic instructional routines. Naturalistic teaching is featured in Project Core as it encourages generalization of communication across contexts and communication partners.

Download this annotated bibliography on naturalistic teaching here. Romski, M. Breaking the speech barrier: Language development through augmented means.


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Baltimore: Paul H. This was one of the first multi-year studies of adolescents with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities who had not yet been successful learning to communicate with symbols. The authors observed 13 students, their parents, and their school team for two years as they implemented the System for Augmenting Language SAL at home and school.

Naturalistic Observation in Psychology

SAL is one of the first systems to prioritize teaching device and symbol use through natural communication exchanges. This study demonstrated that embedding communication into everyday settings and activities, and encouraging, but not requiring students to use symbols, allowed students to learn to communicate with symbols across settings and communication partners. Pindiprolu, S. A review of naturalistic interventions with young children with autism.

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The Journal of International Special Education, 12 1 , This systematic review of the literature sought to understand the effect of naturalistic interventions. Children in all twelve studies reviewed were able to learn and use the targeted language skills, including core vocabulary e. They were better able to use these skills to communicate with new partners or in new settings than their peers who were taught in isolated contexts with highly structured, prompt dependent approaches. Cowan, R. Using naturalistic procedures to enhance learning in individuals with autism: A focus on generalized teaching within the school setting.

Naturalistic Intervention

Psychology in the Schools, 44 7 , This article reviews the literature base for using naturalistic teaching with children with autism. Across the reviewed literature, naturalistic teaching begins by arranging the teaching environment to encourage interest as teaching interactions are initiated by the student. Results indicate that children who are engaged by materials that interest them and interact with adults who follow their lead by attributing meaning to their attempts to communicate, make gains in language that are generalized across context, activity, and communication partner.


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  • This article not only supports the premise that children with autism can learn in naturalistic contexts, but that when teachers use a naturalistic approach, their students will be able to use what they learn outside of the classroom. Woods, J. Journal of Early Intervention, 26 , This study investigated the impact of training caregivers to use teaching strategies within their everyday play routines with their toddlers with developmental disabilities. Parents of four toddlers with developmental disabilities worked with interventionists to identify play routines they already engaged in with their children.

    The children used the targeted communication skill more frequently when caregivers embedded teaching strategies into daily routines. These increases in communication also generalized to new play and care-taking routines. During the s and 70s, the study of operant learning treatment approaches for autism increased Hingtgen et al.

    Early work in this area demonstrated the effectiveness of operant methodology to teach a variety of skills: language Lovaas et al.

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    Ivar Lovaas, the main pioneer of the application of learning principles to children with autism, and other investigators believed these children were largely unsuccessful in learning skills from the natural environment and thus the environment should involve simplified instruction and potent reinforcers. Then the focus would shift to generalizing these skills. Lovaas This publication, and subsequent studies demonstrating efficacy of early intervention led to two main trends in the provision of autism early intervention.

    First, parents began advocating for their children to receive early intensive behavioral intervention, which led to changes in educational policy and, more recently, insurance reform that increased availability and funding for early intervention. Second, discrete trial training DTT , the behavioral intervention approach used in the Lovaas study, became increasingly popular.

    Briefly, DTT involves one system of implementation of operant methodology in which skills are broken down into separate components and taught one at a time in discrete trials, until the desired behavior is acquired. The common approach within DTT to first teach response topographies e. These limitations, plus the success of behavior analysts such as Lovaas, encouraged investigators from varied disciplines to focus their efforts in improving and expanding autism interventions.

    Advances in the developmental sciences, particularly those pertaining to factors associated with learning, have set the stage for advancing early intervention methodologies beyond DTT.

    What is Naturalism? (Ontological vs Methodological)

    Concurrent with intervention research occurring in the area of ABA during the s and s, there was also an explosion of new research on infant and child development. The result was an emergence of more sophisticated and detailed models of early developmental learning processes involved in communication, language, and social learning.

    These studies were soon carried out in autism as well, leading to new understanding of the early core social and communicative impairments associated with the disorder Dawson and Adams ; Rogers et al. These insights began to influence the development of new treatment strategies and models for autism. For example, autism interventionists began targeting skills that were key precursors to language development, such as joint attention Mundy et al.

    Studies of typical infants and toddlers also emphasized the role of the social relationship as an essential context for developing imitation and the foundations of communication Rogers and Pennington These studies demonstrated that learning is facilitated by an affective exchange between the child and therapist. At the same time, other research suggested that children with autism have deficits in affective sharing and social motivation Dawson et al.

    Thus, interventionists began incorporating strategies to promote affective engagement e. As developmental science began to focus on atypical as well as typical learning and growth trajectories, a corresponding interest in autism intervention arose in the field across disciplines. It was recognized that often there was discrepancy between the highly-structured teaching strategies used in DTT and the principles of child learning documented by developmental sciences.

    Another line of studies demonstrated that young children with ASD followed developmental paths that were more similar than different from typically developing children within various developmental domains Tager-Flusberg et al. The theoretical underpinnings of the developmental psychology influences in the NDBIs originate from the works of Piaget , Bruner , Vygotsky , Snow , Gibson , and others.

    This research shows that children learn best when they are engaged as active participants Kuhl et al. Children learn most easily the skills that are just beyond their present knowledge, and follow regular developmental sequences in virtually all developmental domains Vygotsky ; Piaget Lifter et al. In addition, developmental psychology research examining environmental factors that promote child social cognition, language learning, and play has been mined to construct interventions for children with autism and other developmental disorders.

    For example, young children develop their skills in the context of affectively rich social interactions involving play with both people and objects. Identical information delivered outside the context of an affectively engaged social exchange does not result in the same degree or depth of learning Kuhl Interventions anchored in developmental principles aim to effectively and efficiently promote learning characterized by cross-domain integration of social, language, and cognitive skills and knowledge.

    For children with ASD, this is viewed as particularly important because of their core difficulties in these areas Tsatsanis and Powell Application of developmentally-informed principles in early intervention is also designed to promote generalization throughout the intervention process as well as socially appropriate and functional use of new skills and knowledge. Such techniques included varying teaching stimuli Dunlap and Koegel , alternative prompting strategies Schreibman et al. These newer approaches used natural rather than artificial arbitrary response-reward contingencies rewards Koegel and Williams , child-preferred materials McGee et al.

    Despite apparent differences, the highly structured teaching approaches e. In addition, both naturalistic and highly structured teaching approaches are enhanced by research in areas of experimental analysis of behavior, such as shaping, fading, discrimination training, and errorless learning McGee et al. Early applications of NDBI in early autism found that generalization improved substantially as a result of teaching in the context of naturally occurring activities Carr and Kologinsky ; McGee et al.

    Procedural comparisons subsequently showed that teaching in the context of natural environments, in which the cues were continually changing, yielded better generalization and decreased the need to directly teach each skill in multiple and varied situations McGee et al. Related findings showed that children with autism learned more rapidly when there was a natural, rather than an arbitrary, relationship between a response and the reward for using that response e. Naturalistic behavioral interventions to autism have demonstrated special promise when children are very young and are less likely to have established patterns of maladaptive behavior.

    In addition to previously referenced generalization gains, the following procedural benefits have been associated with the use of these interventions in young children with ASD: a reduced dependence upon prompts McGee et al. Research also has demonstrated that naturalistic interventions are conducive to promoting social development in that they typically involve interactive exchanges between the child and an adult or typically developing peer Morrier et al.

    Parents can readily implement these strategies in their natural environments and during ongoing activities such as meals, bath time, and visiting a park McGee ; Schreibman and Koegel Interest in naturalistic behavioral methodologies occurred at about the same time that autism researchers were identifying early signs of autism in toddlers and discovering the benefit of providing interventions to children with autism at younger ages Fenske et al.

    Handout D: Naturalistic Intervention Strategies

    For example, research supported the idea that teaching new skills, such as play actions, to children with autism at their developmental, rather than their chronological age leads to improved acquisition, generalization and maintenance of new skills Lifter et al. Naturalistic behavioral interventions provided a different perspective and approach to handling unwanted and challenging behaviors, which led to a diminishment of their frequency McGee and Daly With a greater focus on development, some challenging behaviors, such as tantrums, were viewed as normative for young children with or without autism.

    Many toddlers are expected to have tantrums and challenging behaviors; using interventions that had begun to take into account developmental level proved to be successful in helping children to learn to regulate their own behaviors much as young typically developing children do. Further, when children participate in naturalistic interventions, they receive instruction where they want to be, doing what they want to be doing.

    Importantly, and not surprisingly, naturalistic strategies are associated with reduced escape- and avoidance-motivated behavior Koegel et al. While we are focusing here on naturalistic behavioral interventions it is imperative to emphasize that although an important impetus for the development of these interventions was addressing some limitations of highly-structured behavioral interventions, these new behavioral approaches likely would not exist without the prior successful highly-structured interventions such as DTT. In addition we acknowledge that while massed trials may be used in the initial stages of DTT intervention, in later stages DTT researchers focus on reducing the massed trial aspect of treatment and incorporate other strategies as well.

    Many researchers and clinicians using contemporary DTT-based interventions now incorporate NDBI approaches as part of a continuum of teaching approaches used with individual learners. So for many DTT investigators and practitioners massed trial may be only a small part of the overall approach and in fact some eschew any massed trials at all Green ; Grow and LeBlanc From a NDBI standpoint beginning with highly structured, decontextualized programming used in typical DTT-based intervention might not be required.

    Perhaps children with autism actually do learn from the natural environment when learning opportunities are structured appropriately, especially if they are taught key skills for learning in that context e. It is also important to acknowledge that massed trial DTT teaching remains the approach of choice for certain skills at certain times, for all human learners, and it remains an important tool in the autism intervention toolbox Jobin Furthermore, it is likely that some children may learn more quickly using a more structured approach, such as DTT, whereas other may flourish using a NDBI approach.

    As a controlled randomized trial has yet to be conducted with a head-to-head comparison of NDBI versus DTT, an important research goal involves learning for whom, and for what skills, naturalistic versus highly structured teaching is most helpful. Historically, behavioral and developmental research reflected two fields that operated from diverse and somewhat distinct perspectives, theories, and methodologies, with different implications for clinical practice.

    Behavioral scientists often were less attuned to the rich body of information on typical child development when formulating behavioral interventions, and developmental researchers often were less attuned to the learning science principles crucial for fostering rapid skill building.

    As both fields matured and were challenged by the need to intervene in developmental problems earlier and earlier, it became apparent that interventions needed to take into account both what had been learned about early child development, and how infants and toddlers learn when choosing treatment targets and teaching strategies for young children.

    For example, research showed that teaching foundational skills such as joint attention, gesture, and shared affect facilitated the later acquisition of language Kasari et al. Thus, an appropriate treatment goal for language development is to focus on these foundational skills rather than trying to teach language via verbal imitation alone.

    Interventions began to emerge that were mutually informed by developmental and behavioral principles, demonstrating that these two fields could be integrated and that interventions could incorporate the strengths offered by each perspective.

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    Core components of NDBIs fall into three general areas: the nature of the intervention targets; contexts in which the interventions are delivered; and instructional strategies. The intervention targets within NDBIs often include the entire range of developmental domains, including cognition, social, language, play, and motor systems e. Furthermore, in contrast to highly-structured teaching approaches, NDBIs emphasize the integration of knowledge and skills across developmental domains and promote generalization of newly learned skills at every phase of the intervention process.

    In other words, NDBIs reflect a developmental systems approach, in which the goal is to ensure that development of a skill in one domain e.

    staging.dlabs.ai/more-shorts-2014.php The core components of learning that support development of a wide range of skills involve such abilities as attending to others, imitating others, sharing emotions and interests via joint attention, sharing a common frame of reference with a partner about an environmental event, engaging in coordinated, reciprocal activities with others, and understanding that meanings are transmitted between people via gestures, sounds, expressions, and words.