Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Catia Cividini-Motta, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Kimberly Crosland, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Andrew Samaha, Ph.D., BCBA-D


automatic reinforcement, conditioned reinforcement, developmental disabilities


Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often display impairments in communication. More specifically, children with ASD may have difficulty developing language skills, for e.g., delay in verbal behavior, limited echoic skills, and/or lack of functional communication. A common way to combat this deficit is by increasing vocalizations in these children. Previous research has used various procedures to attempt to condition vocalizations as reinforcers, such as stimulus-stimulus pairing, response-contingent pairing (RCP), and operant discrimination training. Another procedure for conditioning stimuli is observational conditioning (OC), which is a type of observational learning. However, OC has not been assessed as a procedure for conditioning echoics as reinforcers. As such, the current compared the effects of two conditioning procedures, RCP and OC, to determine their efficacy in conditioning vocalizations as reinforcer and their effect on rate of vocalizations of children with autism. Three children, ages 5-10 years old, participated in this study. For two participants, both procedures resulted in an increase in vocalizations; and, a conditioning effect was observed for two of the participants.