Variables affecting stimulus fading and discriminative responding in psychotic children

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Overselective attention in autistic children has proven detrimental to learning when prompt-fading techniques are used, as autistics often respond exclusively to the prompt (the extra guiding stimulus) and fail to learn about the training stimuli. Exp I investigated stimulus variables in prompt fading that might reduce the attentional requirements for discrimination learning. Ss were 8 institutionalized autistic children, each of whom was either mute or echolalic, with minimal intelligible verbal behavior. Two variables were assessed: distinctive vs nondistinctive feature fading, which signified whether a prompt was a feature contained only in the positive stimulus (S+) or contained both in S+ and in the negative stimulus, and within- vs extrastimulus fading, which signified whether the prompt was superimposed on S+ during fading or presented spatially separate from S+. Significant main effects were found for both variables, due to the success of the within-stimulus and the distinctive feature conditions; the combination of within-stimulus and distinctive feature fading was the most effective procedure. Exp II was conducted with the same Ss to assess whether they were still responding only to that pretrained feature after fading. Results show that discriminative responding was maintained when the pretrained feature was made irrelevant, showing that Ss attended to multiple features of S+, but that it was disrupted when the whole letter containing the pretrained feature was made irrelevant, showing that Ss still learned a restricted portion of the S+ word. (48 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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