An evaluation of a procedure to teach children with autism to tact private events

Principal Investigator(s):
Sandhya Rajagopal
Grant Type:
Graduate Research
Florida Institute of Technology
Melbourne, Florida
Year Awarded:
Year Completed:
Cognition and Executive Function; Education and School Aged Children; Social and Communication Skills


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be unable to communicate sensations such as pain to caregivers and other individuals. Inability to describe pain may have serious implications for quality of life, family interactions, and medical care. Recent research investigating pain in children with ASD suggests that this skill deficiency does not result from insensitivity or experiencing pain differently than typically developing individuals. Since parent report is not a sufficient indicator of pain in children with developmental delays, it is imperative that children with ASD learn to describe sensations such as pain when possible. A behavior analytic view suggests that children can learn to label, or tact, private events (i.e., those only observable to the individual behaving) when a publicly observable event occurs simultaneously. The present study will evaluate a proposed method of teaching children with ASD to express stimulation of specific body parts by various objects. In a multiple probe design across participants, each participant will experience a baseline phase, followed by an intervention phase in which tacts of stimulation to three body parts will be taught, and the evaluation will conclude with tests of generalization to three novel body parts. It is expected that participants will acquire tacts of sensations, and it is possible that they will acquire tacts regarding untaught body parts, as well. This study will provide a foundation for research investigating teaching children with ASD to tact sensations such as pain.
Keywords: pain expression, autism, tact, private events

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