Project Detail
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) logo
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Contingency analyses of observing and attending in intellectual disabilities  

This project addresses the problem of stimulus overselectivity as it may impact stimulus control in functional academics and augmentative/alternative communication (AAC). Overselectivity refers to maladaptive narrow attending that is a common learning problem in children with intellectual disabilities. Overselectivity is often associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but the research foundation for this relation is inconclusive and largely based on procedures that fail to capture the complex and dynamic relational learning aspects of special-education curricula. Recent research has produced methodologies to study overselectivity in contexts that model teaching situations, as well as promising remedial procedures that can reduce or eliminate overselective attending by corrective therapy and/or behavioral prostheses. This research compares stimulus overselectivity in four study populations: Mental age (MA)- and chronological age (CA)-matched children with ASD, Down syndrome, and intellectual disabilities of mixed/unknown etiology; and MA-matched typically developing children. Tests will include stimuli developed for basic research as well as stimulus sets of clinical/educational interest (AAC icons, photos of faces, and printed words). Researchers will determine whether an ASD diagnosis is related to (1) increased prevalence or severity of overselective stimulus control; (2) a deficit in the disengagement of attention and/or indifference to perceptual coherence of stimuli; and (3) the effectiveness, durability, and net gain resulting from intervention and remedial training. Behavior-analytic quantitative models of attention will also be applied to determine whether strategic manipulations of reinforcement parameters can be used to identify and ameliorate overselectivity that emerges from attention biases interacting with the uncontrolled reinforcement contingencies of teaching procedures typically used in special-education settings. Finally, a series of applied studies will examine generalization and durability of remedial interventions for academic tasks in special-education classrooms. Results of the proposed studies will contribute to a better characterization of the learning problems associated with the study populations and to increased understanding of basic stimulus control processes in learning. Application of the resulting knowledge could improve current methods for teaching and evaluating individuals with intellectual disabilities. Project Status


Funder National Institutes of Health
Fiscal Year Funding $298,293.00
Current Award Period 2010-2015
Project Number 1R01HD062582-01A1
Principal Investigator Dube, William
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 4: Which Treatments And Interventions Will Help? (Treatments)
Subcategory Educational
Strategic Plan Objective New! Green dot: Objective has greater than or equal to the recommended funding. 4SG. Support at least five studies on interventions for nonverbal individuals with ASD by 2012. Such studies may include: o Projects examining service-provision models that enhance access to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) supports in both classroom and adult service-provision settings, such as residential service-provision and the impact of such access on quality of life, communication, and behavior; o Studies of novel treatment approaches that facilitate communication skills in individuals who are nonverbal, including the components of effective AAC approaches for specific subpopulations of people with ASD; and o Studies assessing access and use of AAC for children and adults with ASD who have limited or partially limited speech and the impact on functional outcomes and quality of life. IACC Recommended Budget: $3,000,000 over 2 years.
Federal or Private? Federal
Institution University of Massachusetts Medical School
State/Country Massachusetts
Web Link 1 Contingency analyses of observing and attending in intellectual disabilities (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
New! History/Related Projects Not available at this time. This functionality is experimental.