On Saturday, Faith Torres presented a workshop to a group of parents and educators about how to program for generalization when teaching learners with autism.
Faith likened generalization to the story Green Eggs and Ham. In that book, Sam initially won’t eat green eggs and ham anywhere nor with anyone. By the end, he is able to eat the green eggs and ham in a box, in a house, with a fox and with a mouse. By the end, he has generalized eating the green eggs and ham to a variety of settings and with a variety of people.
In the world of autism, as practitioners, educators and parents, we know that just because you are able to teach a learner to exhibit a skill in one setting, with one person and with one material does not mean that they will then be able to perform the same skill in a different setting, with other people, etc. For example, if I teach a child to label the picture of a dog with a picture of a golden retriever, there is no guarantee that she will be able to label a picture of a German Shepard as a dog without direct training. This example has to do with stimulus generalization. Faith explained the difference between the different types of generalization—stimulus generalization, response generalization, response maintenance, and over generalization.
Faith taught participants how to program for generalization such as identifying the natural contingencies of reinforcement in the target setting (i.e. what reinforcement will the learner get from exhibiting the behavior in the setting you want him to exhibit it). Some other important things to consider when programming for generalization include identifying all components of the behavior, teaching a variety of examples, teaching when not to exhibit the behavior and reinforcing generalization when it occurs.
The participants broke out into small groups to work on applying what they learned to help fictional learners generalize skills such as increasing compliance with babysitter demands, parents implanting a behavior plan at home, brushing their hair, playing with siblings, greeting peers at school, answering “wh” questions with grandparents, writing their name, reading and completing math problems. They then share their generalization plans with the group and received further feedback and suggestions from Faith.
The workshop wrapped up with talking about how to apply the concepts learned in the workshop to identify three ways the participants could promote generalization with their learner.
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Written by Nichole O’Donnell, B.A., BCaBA, Community Outreach Director, Including Kids, Inc.