Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Anibal Gutierrez Jr.

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Bethany C. Reeb-Sutherland

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Leslie D. Frazier

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Kyle Bennett

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


discrimination training, discrete trial, receptive discrimination, autism, applied behavior analysis

Date of Defense



Research has found that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) show significant deficits in receptive language skills (Wiesmer, Lord, & Esler, 2010). One of the primary goals of applied behavior analytic intervention is to improve the communication skills of children with autism by teaching receptive discriminations. Both receptive discriminations and receptive language entail matching spoken words with corresponding objects, symbols (e.g., pictures or words), actions, people, and so on (Green, 2001). In order to develop receptive language skills, children with autism often undergo discrimination training within the context of discrete trial training. This training entails teaching the learner how to respond differentially to different stimuli (Green, 2001). It is through discrimination training that individuals with autism learn and develop language (Lovaas, 2003). The present study compares three procedures for teaching receptive discriminations: (1) simple/conditional (Procedure A), (2) conditional only (Procedure B), and (3) conditional discrimination of two target cards (Procedure C). Six children, ranging in age from 2-years-old to 5-years-old, with an autism diagnosis were taught how to receptively discriminate nine sets of stimuli. Results suggest that the extra training steps included in the simple/conditional and conditional only procedures may not be necessary to teach children with autism how to receptively discriminate. For all participants, Procedure C appeared to be the most efficient and effective procedure for teaching young children with autism receptive discriminations. Response maintenance and generalization probes conducted one-month following the end of training indicate that even though Procedure C resulted in less training sessions overall, no one procedure resulted in better maintenance and generalization than the others. In other words, more training sessions, as evident with the simple/conditional and conditional only procedures, did not facilitate participants’ ability to accurately respond or generalize one-month following training. The present study contributes to the literature on what is the most efficient and effective way to teach receptive discrimination during discrete trial training to children with ASD. These findings are critical as research shows that receptive language skills are predictive of better outcomes and adaptive behaviors in the future.





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