Elms Students Present Autism Research at International Conference

CHICOPEE — Two master’s students from Elms College contributed to the growing body of global research in autism-spectrum disorders by presenting posters at last month’s annual meeting for the Assoc. of Behavior Analysis International in San Diego.

Alyssa Clark and Miranda Fogg are in the master of science in applied behavior analysis program at Elms, and both have been working with children with autism on research projects with Laura Hanratty, director of applied behavior analysis and ASD graduate programs assistant professor.

The three collaborated on two posters to present at the conference. The first poster was titled “Evaluating Efficacy of Varied Reinforcers on Learning New Skills.” For this project, the students taught three children with autism 30 to 40 new academic skills, using different reward strategies.

“Using reinforcers is a hallmark in early intervention for autism, and the students were able to share how to make early intervention even more effective for kids who are struggling with academics,” Hanratty explained. “The children in this study were able to master many academic skills to help with communication.”

The second poster was titled “Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior Without Extinction.” In this project, the students worked with a young child with severe problem behavior, including aggression and destroying property.

“The research team completely decreased problem behavior, while teaching the young child communication skills and how to follow adult instruction,” Hanratty said. “By the time they were done, the child was completing up to 15 instructions with multiple steps and completing his academic skills.”

Earlier this year, Clark and Fogg presented the posters at the annual meeting of the Connecticut Assoc. for Behavior Analysis in Hartford.