Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Anibal Gutierrez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Leslie D. Frazier

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Bethany C. Reeb-Sutherland

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Kyle Bennett

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Applied Behavior Analysis, Developmental Psychology

Date of Defense



Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine differences in effectiveness and rate of skill acquisition between a recently developed and empirically validated instructional sequence, Motor and Vocal Imitation Assessment (MVIA), and a commonly used instructional sequence in a curriculum guide, Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP).

Methods: Children with ASD were randomly assigned to two treatment groups to determine difference in imitation performance. The treatment group followed the instructional sequence proposed in the MVIA. The comparison group followed the instructional sequence proposed in the VB-MAPP. Initial levels of imitation were assessed via the MVIA. The intervention consisted of discrete trial training (DTT). A trained therapist presented a fixed number of stimuli in massed trial format. Prompted and unprompted imitative responses were reinforced using edibles. A most-to-least with a progressive time delay prompting strategy was used to help the learner engage in the target response.

Results: Participants in the MVIA treatment group had significantly more skill acquisition than participants in the VB-MAPP comparison group. Participants in the MVIA treatment group also acquired these skills more efficiently, spent less time on skills that never reached mastery and demonstrated higher levels of responding. Additionally, pre-treatment imitation was found to predict autism severity and expressive language.

Conclusions: These results indicate that the MVIA protocol provides an appropriate sequence ordered from simple to complex for selecting targets for intervention. These findings suggest that organizing and sequencing skills in increasing difficulty, as with the MVIA protocol, leads to more appropriate target selection. Targeting skills that are appropriate for the child’s current skill level, in turn leads to more effective and efficient intervention. Results also replicate previous findings that demonstrate that imitation performance plays a critical role in other areas of development.





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