Research

ACI Research

ACI Learning Centers research team of BCBA’s travels to a variety of national conferences presenting groundbreaking research and offering interactive workshops.


Current Research

2019- An Evaluation of Typically Developing Children's Sociodramatic Play and Language Skills

Nancy Champlin, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA


Play is a child’s work that captures their attention and interest. Play stands out as a distinct domain because of its systematic relationships with other developmental domains. Through play, children acquire various skills critical to their development including language and social skills. When looking at object play it has been identified that the diversity of object play is theoretically predictive of communicative word use, lexical density growth, and future language (Tomasello, Striano, & Rochat, 1995; Yoder, 2006). The long-term effects of an impoverished play repertoire are observed in social interactions later in life. McConnell (2002), discovered that children with disabilities spend more time in isolate play, make fewer attempts to initiate social interactions, are less likely to respond to the social initiations of peers, and spend less overall time engaged in direct interactions with peers. The purpose of this study was to assess the pretend sociodramatic play skills of typically developing children, ages 2–5. Typically developing boys and girls were video-taped playing in dyads in a designated play room with 15 different play schemes. Researchers coded and evaluated the play to identify variations in play across the age spans including gender differences, scheme preference, and abstract play.
Figure 12a. Shows the average number per 10-minute sample of play schemes engaged with.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12b. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of play actions.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12c. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of toys engaged with.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12d. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of vocalizations emitted.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12e. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of vocalizations emitted within each play scheme. Figure 12f. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of play actions across category of play.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12g. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of different play actions produced by scheme.

2018- An Evaluation of Typically Developing Children's Sociodramatic Play and Language Skills

Nancy Champlin, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA


Play is a child’s work that captures their attention and interest. Play stands out as a distinct domain because of its systematic relationships with other developmental domains. Through play, children acquire various skills critical to their development including language and social skills. When looking at object play it has been identified that the diversity of object play is theoretically predictive of communicative word use, lexical density growth, and future language (Tomasello, Striano, & Rochat, 1995; Yoder, 2006). The long-term effects of an impoverished play repertoire are observed in social interactions later in life. McConnell (2002), discovered that children with disabilities spend more time in isolate play, make fewer attempts to initiate social interactions, are less likely to respond to the social initiations of peers, and spend less overall time engaged in direct interactions with peers. The purpose of this study was to assess the pretend sociodramatic play skills of typically developing children, ages 2–5. Typically developing boys and girls were video-taped playing in dyads in a designated play room with 15 different play schemes. Researchers coded and evaluated the play to identify variations in play across the age spans including gender differences, scheme preference, and abstract play.
Figure 12a. Shows the average number per 10-minute sample of play schemes engaged with.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12b. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of play actions.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12c. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of toys engaged with.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12d. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of vocalizations emitted.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12e. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of vocalizations emitted within each play scheme. Figure 12f. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of play actions across category of play.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 12g. Shows the average frequency per 10-minute sample of different play actions produced by scheme.

2018- Examining Independent Pretend Play Skills in Typically Developing Children

Melissa Schissler, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA


Research identifies a number of complex stages in the typical developmental sequence of play. Deficits in play are linked to poor social relationships, limited expressive language, and high rates of stereotypic behavior (Casby, 2003; Lifter, 2005). Early language development and symbolic play are correlated developmentally and are related in time, content, and structure (Casby, 2003). The purpose of this study was to assess independent play skills of typically developing children, ages 2–5. Each participant was video-taped for two 10-minute play sessions in an isolated room with 2 play schemes, 3 figures (e.g., dolls, action figures), and 2 abstract items. The play sessions were analyzed to identify differences in independent play across age groups, gender, and play schemes. Consistent with the results of this study, Case-Smith (2008) evaluated gender differences in play and identified that boys enjoyed simpler fantasy themes when compared to same age girls. Additional components were examined including the category of play, vocalizations during play, agent of play, abstract play, and advanced play.
Figure 11a. Shows the average frequency per 5-minute play opportunity of play actions.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 11b. Shows the average frequency per 5-minute play opportunity of words emitted.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 11c. Shows the average frequency per 5-minute play opportunity of play actions across category of play.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 11d. Shows the average frequency per 5-minute play opportunity of engagement with passive or active figures.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 11e. Shows the average frequency per 5-minute play opportunity of engagement in abstract play including object substitution and imaginary objects.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group. Figure 11f. Shows the average frequency per 5-minute play opportunity of advanced play including rotating, combining and character roles.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group. Figure 11g. Shows the average frequency per 5-minute play opportunity of toys engaged with.  The dark grey bars represent the boy in each age group and the striped bars represent the girl in each age group.  The line graph represents an average for each age group

2018- Teaching Children Diagnosed with Autism a Chain of Play Actions and Corresponding Vocalizations

Bailey Bosc, BCaBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA


Play in children with autism is often referred to as stereotypical and lacking in symbolic qualities and flexibility (Lifter, Sulzer-Azaroff, Anderson, & Cowdery, 1993). The purpose of this study was to utilize the developmental sequence of play and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching a series of 8 components to acquire the 2nd stage of pretend play: chaining play. Least-to-most prompting was used to teach a chain of 3 play actions and vocalizations to 4 children diagnosed with autism, ages 3-5. All 4 children were taught each chain of play actions across agent of play: self as agent, passive figure, and active figure. Advanced play was targeted in the form of rotating between play schemes and combining play schemes both independently and with peers. Lastly, the essential skills to sociodramatic play, initiating, responding, and expanding were targeted throughout the sequence. The outcome of this study demonstrated the efficacy of the 8 teaching components as steps to teach all 4 children a chain of play actions with corresponding vocalizations across agent of play and object of play, independently and with peers.
Figure 9a. Shows the cumulative trials to acquisition for all 24 targets in Stage 2 for the first participant, Taylor.  The dark grey bars represent the self-as-agent targets, the grey bars represent the passive figure targets, and the light grey bars represent the active figure targets. The line graph is displayed on the secondary access and represents the average trials to criterion per phase. Figure 9b. Shows the cumulative trials to acquisition for all 24 targets in Stage 2 for the second participant, Kaden.  The dark grey bars represent the self-as-agent targets, the grey bars represent the passive figure targets, and the light grey bars represent the active figure targets. The line graph is displayed on the secondary access and represents the average trials to criterion per phase. Figure 9c. Shows the cumulative trials to acquisition for all 24 targets in Stage 2 for the third participant, Katy.  The dark grey bars represent the self-as-agent targets, the grey bars represent the passive figure targets, and the light grey bars represent the active figure targets. The line graph is displayed on the secondary access and represents the average trials to criterion per phase.

2017- Teaching a Sequence of Play Actions and Vocalizations to a Child Using Speech Generating Devices

Whitney Wehrkamp, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA


Speech-generating devices (SGDs) are electronic augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) that have assisted non/limited-vocal individuals to effectively mand. SGDs have also aided learners in expanding their verbal repertoires to include tacts and intraverbals, but have not been included in the acquisition of play skills. Research has established a correlation between language development and play skills.  The inability to emit vocal output serves as a limiting factor in language and social development. SGDs should be incorporated in all areas of programming, including play and socialization. The purpose of this study was to teach a four year old non-vocal boy with autism to respond, initiate and expand on a peer’s play action utilizing a SGD to emit vocalizations. Three different play schemes were taught using a forward chain consisting of play actions and corresponding vocalizations. Maintenance and generalization probes were conducted. The outcome of this study demonstrates the effectiveness of using SGDs during play skills to improve appropriate engagement with toys, language skills, and socialization with peers.

Figure 9. Shows the frequency of independent actions and corresponding vocalizations out of 16 per session across 3 play schemes.

2017- The Use of PlayTubs™ to Teach Children with Autism to Expand Appropriate Play Sequences

Mollie Richert, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to utilize the developmental sequence of play and evaluate the effectiveness of using a systematic approach delineated into 9 teachable components. Individualized treatment packages incorporated the use of behavioral interventions including priming, script fading, or video modeling. Each participant was taught 7 play actions and corresponding vocalizations including responding, initiating, and expanding play while rotating and combining play schemes. A multiple baseline across participants study was conducted with 3 males diagnosed with autism, ages 5, 5 and 6. The outcome of this study demonstrated the efficacy of the 9 teachable components (independent play, active figure play and play with peers) from the developmental sequence of play to teach a chain of 7 actions and corresponding vocalizations to all 3 participants.

Figure 8a. Shows the frequency of independent actions and corresponding vocalizations out of 16 per session.  Participant 1 was taught the camping play scheme using script fading.  The top graph represents the primary role and the bottom graph represents the secondary role.  Generalization to adults and peers is noted on the graph for the primary role.

Figure 8b. Shows the frequency of independent actions and corresponding vocalizations out of 16 per session.  Participant 2 was taught the grocery store play scheme using in-vivo modeling.  A visual script was adding in during teaching of the secondary role to increase rate of acquisition.  The top graph represents the primary role and the bottom graph represents the secondary role.

Figure 8c. Shows the frequency of independent actions and corresponding vocalizations out of 16 per session.  Participant 3 was taught the pet store play scheme using video modeling.  The top graph represents the primary role and the bottom graph represents the secondary role.  Generalization to adults, peers, and figures is noted on the graph.

2017- Teaching the Foundational Components of Pretend Play to Children with Autism

Melissa Schissler, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to utilize the developmental sequence of play and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching a series of 19 components encompassing the first developmental stage of play.  Least-to-most prompting was used to teach single play actions and vocalizations to 3 male children diagnosed with autism, ages 3-5. All 3 children were taught play actions to self, with passive figures, and acting as figures across for 3-4 familiar play actions and corresponding vocalizations. Abstract play, responding and initiating exchanges with peers were also targeted throughout the 9 components. A multiple baseline across participants was conducted. The outcome of this study demonstrated the efficacy of the 9 teaching components as steps to teach all 3 participants single play actions with corresponding vocalizations.

Figure 7a. Shows the cumulative number of trials to acquisition for 3 A/Vs.  Participant 1 acquired 12 out of 19 targets for A/V 1, 15 of the 19 targets for A/V 2, and 14 of the 19 targets for A/V 3. Consecutive targets at the same level on the y axis indicate the participant acquired the target without training.

Figure 7b. Shows the cumulative number of trials to acquisition for 3 A/Vs.  Participant 2 acquired 19 out of 19 targets for all 3 A/Vs. Consecutive targets at the same level on the y axis indicate the participant acquired the target without training.

Figure 7c. Shows the cumulative number of trials to acquisition for 3 A/Vs.  Participant 3 acquired 19 out of 19 targets for all 4 A/Vs. Consecutive targets at the same level on the y axis indicate the participant acquired the target without training.

2017- Assessing Typical Children’s Imaginary Play to More Effectively Program for Children with Autism

Nancy Champlin, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to assess the pretend play skills of typically developing preschool-age children between the ages of 2 ½ to 5. A total of 37 typically developing male and female children were video-taped engaging in sociodramatic play in a designated play room with 15 different play schemes (e.g., ice cream shop, camping) set up. Researchers coded the play using a specified developmental play sequence to identify the play actions and vocalizations across the age spans. Researchers coded the number of toys, play schemes, play actions, and vocalizations per child per minute.  Additionally, the agent of play (self as agent, passive figure, active figure), category of play action (familiar, observed, and community), the three essential skills (initiating, responding, expanding), and advanced play (rotating and combining schemes) we calculated.  Results were divided by age group.
Figure 6a. Shows the average frequency per minute of play actions and abstract play actions per age Figure 6b. Shows the average frequency per 10 minutes of abstract play and play actions by age separated into category of action: familiar, observed, and community Figure 6c. Shows the average frequency per 10 minutes of play actions by age separated into agent of play: self as agent, passive figure, active figure. Figure 6d. Shows the average frequency per minute of advanced play by age separated into rotating play schemes, combining 2 or more play schemes, and identifying character roles. Figure 6e. Shows the average frequency per minute of sociodramatic play by age separated into the 3 essential skills: initiating play with a peer, responding to a peer, and expanding on a peer’s play action.

2016- A Comparison of Script Fading with Video Modeling to Teach Independent Pretend Play to Children with Autism

Melissa Schissler, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to compare script fading with video modeling to teach children diagnosed with autism pretend play skills. Participants included two males and one female between the ages of 3 and 4. Results demonstrated a varied rate of acquisition and maintenance across participants. The first participant acquired and maintained the play sequence taught using script fading in fewer teaching trials. The second client acquired the play sequence using video modeling in fewer teaching trials and demonstrated maintenance for both play sequences. The third client acquired the play sequence taught using video modeling in fewer teaching trials and demonstrated better maintenance of the play sequence taught using script fading.

Figure 6. A multiple baseline graph displaying the percentage of independent responses on the y axis.  Two sequences of play were taught, the open circles represent the burger shop play sequence and the closed circle represents the birthday party play sequence. The graph notes the intervention used per participant with each scheme.  The session number is noted on the x axis.

2016- The Use of Priming to Teach Children Diagnosed with Autism Three Essential Skills During Sociodramatic Play

Nancy Champlin, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA


In this study a priming strategy was used to teach the three essential skills of sociodramatic play to three participants diagnosed with autism between the ages of 4 and 6.  Priming was systematically faded by increasing the duration of time between priming and the play opportunity. Participants were taught to generalize previously acquired independent combining play schemes to peers by utilizing the essential skills for age appropriate sociodramatic play. The three essential skills for sociodramatic play are 1) initiating a new cooperative play action, 2) responding to a peer’s play action, and 3) expanding on a peer’s current play action. A multiple baseline across participants study demonstrated the efficacy of priming as an effective intervention to teach the three essential skills to all three participants.  Generalization across peers and environments was assessed.

Figure 5. A multiple baseline graph displaying the average frequency of the three essential skills on the primary y axis as the triangle and the percentage of intervals with inappropriate play on the secondary y axis as the open circles. A generalization probe is noted as the square on the graph and corresponds to the primary y axis. The session number is noted on the x axis.

2016- Teaching Character Role Switches and Play Scheme Combinations to Children Diagnosed with Autism

Mollie Richert, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of errorless teaching and least-to-most prompting to teach character role switches and play scheme combinations to children diagnosed with autism. Participants included three male children between the ages of 4 and 6. The participants were taught a sequence of play actions and corresponding vocalizations incorporating character role switches and play scheme combinations. All three participants acquired character role switches and play scheme combinations through the package intervention of errorless teaching and prompting.
 
Figure 4. A multiple baseline graph displaying the percentage of independent responses for targeted play combinations and role switches per session.

2016- The Effectiveness of Priming to Teach Children Diagnosed with Autism Generalized Object Substitutions within Play Schemes

Molly Sylvester, BCBA; Nancy Champlin, BCBA; Melissa Schissler, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of priming to teach generalized object substitutions within mastered play schemes. The three participants had diagnoses of autism and were between the ages of 5 and 6. Rates of acquisition, generalization across play schemes, and maintenance were assessed. Priming was demonstrated to be an effective intervention. All three participants engaged in a sequence of seven mastered play actions and corresponding vocalizations and correctly substituted three common objects in place of the previously learned play item. Object substitutions generalized to novel play schemes for two of the three participants and generalization was observed into the home environment.

Figure 3. A multiple baseline graph displaying the percentage of independent abstract actions and vocalizations out of three per session.

2011- Verbal Operants of Typical Preschool Children

Nancy Champlin, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to assess the vocal-verbal operants of typically developing children during free-play opportunities in their preschool classroom. Participants included two boys and two girls from the 3- and 4-year-old classrooms. Outcomes of the study demonstrated that typical 3- and 4-year-olds language is multiply controlled and that typically developing children engage in a variety of verbal operants, with higher rates of tacting observed across all four participants.

2008- The Effects of a Play Script on Symbolic Play

Nancy Champlin, BCBA


The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a visual script to teach symbolic play to four boys with autism. The participants were between the ages of 3 and 6. The outcomes of the study demonstrated the effectiveness of a script fading intervention to teach symbolic play actions and corresponding vocalizations. Three of the four participants acquired the seven play actions and corresponding vocalizations. The fourth participant was non-vocal and acquired the seven play actions in the absence of vocalization.