Research Methodologies

ABA Research

TeachTown: Basics Scientific Background

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the practice of observing behavior and developing scientifically validated interventions to change behavior. ABA has been shown in many research studies to be one of the most effective and nationally accepted intervention approaches for Autism Spectrum Disorders. ABA can be delivered in more structured or more naturalistic settings. Research indicates that structured teaching and naturalistic instructional methodologies may both have benefits that positively effect students in different ways (e.g. Bernard-Opitz, Ing, & Kong, 2004). To provide a program that is more likely to benefit different types of children and to provide multiple learning opportunities, the TeachTown: Basics program includes a structured approach (On Computer Lessons) and a naturalistic approach (Off Computer Activities). The instructional methodology behind TeachTown: Basics includes a variety of developmentally appropriate lessons and activities that are specifically presented to each student on an individualized basis. The entire delivery of instruction, whether the student is working on the computer or engaging in an Off Computer Activity, is presented and intended to incorporate the components of Pivotal Response Training ([PRT], Koegel, 1987) and Discrete Trial Training ([DTT], Lovaas, 1987). All On Computer Lessons, which deliver instruction in the DTT format, are tied to Off Computer Activities, which are ideally implemented using a naturalistic teaching paradigm such as (PRT) (Koegel, et al, 1989), Incidental Teaching (McGee, Daly, & Jacobs, 1994), or the Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism (Rogers & Dawson, 2010).

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Importance of Generalization

The two major instructional methods in the TeachTown: Basics curricula, DTT and PRT, include effective teaching strategies for acquisition skills (i.e., new targeted goals and objectives). Another equally significant instructional method within and throughout the TeachTown: Basics curricula is programming and planning for generalization. The importance of planning for generalization was identified by the National Research Council (2001) as critical to the design of treatment and intervention programs for students with autism. Generalization of skills is an area where many children with autism have struggled (Openden, D., Whalen, C., Cernich, S., & Vaupel, M., 2009, p. 3). Several studies have demonstrated that using motivating teaching techniques can naturally result in generalization (e.g. Koegel, Camarata, Valdez-Menchaca, & Koegel, 1998). TeachTown: Basics incorporates the systematic and structured learning of DTT methods, the naturalistic and motivating approaches to PRT, and provide generalization opportunities and emphasis in both On Computer Lessons and Off Computer Activities curricula.
How does TeachTown: Basics incorporate Generalization? >>

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Importance of Motivation

One of the most important components of an effective intervention is to keep student motivation high. Motivation has been shown to improve attention to task, skill acquisition, and generalization (e.g. Koegel, O’Dell, & Koegel, 1987). It has also been shown to reduce problem behaviors (e.g. Koegel, Tran, Mossman, & Koegel, 2006). TeachTown: Basics has been shown to improve motivation in multiple research studies (e.g. Whalen, et al., 2006; Whalen, et al., 2010) and the company has made this its most recent focus by joining forces with a state-of-the-art animation studio. The program will likely be even more motivating for students and we are expecting even better treatment outcomes in our research with a more motivating intervention.
How does TeachTown: Basics incorporate Motivation? >>

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Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Discrete Trial Training is a behavioral treatment intervention using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and derived from the work of Lovaas (1987). Discrete Trial Training takes a large or long term goal and breaks it down into small achievable steps that are presented in the format of a discrete trial. A particular trial may be practiced numerous times until the skill is mastered. Discrete Trial Training programs often start by training pre-learning skills (sitting, attending, looking at trainer), play skills, social skills, safety and basic pre-academics and concepts. A particular emphasis on communication and imitation may be the initial focus of the curriculum if students are non-verbal or have limited communication skills.
How does TeachTown: Basics incorporate DTT? >>

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Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is a behavioral treatment intervention based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and derived from the work of Koegel, Schreibman, Dunlap, & Horner. PRT incorporates task interspersal, direct reinforcement, and role of choice. Key pivotal behaviors have been identified for students with autism and include motivation and responsivity to multiple cues (Koegel & Koegel). PRT has demonstrated positive changes in these “pivotal behaviors” exhibiting widespread effects on many other behaviors associated with language and social interaction. PRT provides an instructional method for teaching numerous skills and has been most successful for language, play and social interaction skills in children with autism.
How does TeachTown: Basics incorporate PRT? >>