Leslie Quiroz received her MS in applied behavior analysis from Western New England University under the supervision of Dr. William Ahearn at the New England Center for Children. Currently, she is studying with Dr. Tina Sidener in the doctoral program in behavior analysis at Caldwell University, where her research interests include observational learning, early intensive behavioral intervention, parent training, and verbal behavior. Leslie’s doctoral dissertation is on contingent imitation (CI), a naturally occurring parent-child phenomenon that has been studied in children for more than 60 years. Also termed “contingent interactions and mirroring,” CI is adult imitation of a child’s motor and/or vocal behavior. Due to effects observed in typically developing children, researchers and clinicians became interested in how CI might be used to increase prosocial behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most notably, CI has been included in naturalistic intervention packages for children with ASD, such as reciprocal imitation training. However, it is currently unknown how CI produces its effects, and children with ASD may respond differentially based on their skills and characteristics. Therefore, the purpose of Leslie’s study will be to evaluate the reinforcing effects of CI in typically developing children and children with ASD. First, a concurrent-operants zoned reinforcer assessment preparation will be used with typically developing preschoolers to determine whether previous research findings with typically developing infants can be replicated with this arrangement and this age group. Second, the reinforcer assessment will be conducted with preschoolers with ASD to evaluate the value of CI as a reinforcer. Last, participant characteristics obtained from a battery of skills assessments (i.e., imitation, joint attention, verbal skills) will be examined to identify any relations between specific skills and results of the reinforcer assessment. The Bijou grant will assist with expenses for skills assessments, session materials, participant travel, and a Pupil eye-tracking headset system.
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