Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor's Name

Anibal Gutierrez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Stefany Coxe

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Leslie Frazier

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Kyle Bennett

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Keywords

autism, ADOS, social initiation, social motivation, language

Date of Defense

4-30-2015

Abstract

Children diagnosed with autism show marked impairments in social and communicative behaviors. According to social motivation and social orienting models of autism, decreased social interest leads to less social input and fewer social learning opportunities (Chevallier et al., 2012; Mundy & Neal, 2001). These models suggest that the ability to initiate and participate in social interactions are important factors in language development. Research in this area has focused on the role of joint attention in language development however; the current study takes a broad view of social interest and posits that not only joint attention, but all socially mediated behaviors are important in language development. The aim of the current study was (1) to evaluate a novel behavioral-coding scheme of social approach behaviors and (2) evaluate the relationship between social approach behaviors and language development. The social approach coding scheme used frequency counts of seven social behaviors emitted during an administration of the ADOS. These behaviors were coded as being either initiated by the child or occurring in response to the parent or examiner, however, no distinction was made on the basis of on the function of the behavior. Social approach rates gleaned using this novel coding scheme were correlated with existing measures of social motivation suggesting that social approach coding is capturing a similar construct as those of existing measures. Social approach rates were also used to evaluate the relationship between social behaviors and language development. The results indicated that both social initiations and social responses are important in language development. Overall, children with higher rates of both social initiations and social responses showed increased scores on language measures. The coding scheme presented provides an alternative way to quantify behaviors on the ADOS that may be used in treatment development and assessment. Given the relationship between social approach rates and language development, using this coding scheme may provide a way to determine those behaviors that are most challenging for a child so that they can be targeted in intervention to facilitate not only their social development but also language acquisition.

Identifier

FIDC000058

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