UTSA to develop language assessment for children with autism

Americas, Misc., September 11 2017

The TEAM Autism Research Center, an organized research unit in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) College of Education and Human Development, recently received an Innovative Treatment Model grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop a language assessment for children with autism.

Stimulus Control Ratio Equation (SCoRE) looks at the ways in which different behaviors and environmental factors affect language development in children with autism. The assessment is an extension of work previously done at the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

“The significance of the SCoRE is its focus on behavioral relativity,” said Lee Mason, UTSA associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching and director of the TEAM Autism Research Center. “The verbal behavior of children with autism and other language impairments is often under disproportionate levels of stimulus control. This disproportionality is the primary deficit of the autism spectrum disorder.”

SCoRE will be used to assess the children currently receiving applied behavior analysis services from the center in order to develop individualized treatment plans and evaluate current and future treatment efforts.

“The verbal behavior SCoRE has significant implications for how we address the language deficits of children with autism,” said Mason. “With information from the assessments, we can now more precisely arrange the environment to support language at the individual level.”

Both graduate and undergraduate students in special education and educational psychology are currently being trained in how to implement the SCoRE. The students, Mason said, will gain an unparalleled experience in verbal behavior assessment and intervention.

“The TEAM Autism Research Center’s mission has always been to research and disseminate applications of behavior analysis for children with autism,” Mason said. “The Innovative Treatment Model grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board propels the college, and our research, into the state and national spotlight.”

The SCoRE will take place over the next two years. In that time, the center, Mason said, hopes to significantly contribute to the study of autism spectrum disorders.

“The puzzle piece has long been used to represent autism spectrum disorders. We want to change this,” said Mason. “The SCoRE helps to elucidate the underlying deficits that have made autism so mysterious up until now. As research on autism continues to grow, the conduction becomes less and less ‘puzzling.’ Data, from instruments like the SCoRE, point us in the right direction.”

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