Fluency Research for Children with Autism

Principal Investigator(s):
Richard M. Kubina, Jr. Ph.D.
Grant Type:
Applied Research
The Pennsylvania State University 
State College, Pennsylvania
Year Awarded:
Year Completed:
Education and School Aged Children


The maintenance of program gains for children with autism is a significant issue for clinicians, educators, and parents of children with autism. While “Precision Teaching” has an established history of research in education, providing a viable measure for behavioral and decision-making progress in young learners, the technique, particularly as it pertains to “fluency” in skill acquisition and retention, has not yet been researched with autistic students.
Fluency means that a person can competently perform a behavior with high degrees of accuracy (Binder, 1993,1996). There are three recognized associated “critical learning outcomes” (according to Binder) that occur with fluency: (1) long-term retention of the behavior after practice has been terminated, (2) endurance -the ability to perform a behavior at a steady pace in the face of external distraction, and (3), application or the integration of one element or component behavior to a composite or compound behavior. As noted by Kubina in his proposal, several applied and experimental studies have demonstrated the positive effects of fluency, but these studies do not contain comparable information for students with autism. One common learning difficulty children with autism exhibit is lack of “maintenance” or the ability to perform an acquired behavior over a long period of time.
This study will establish a series of experiments studying the effects of fluency for students with autism. The three experiments will critically examine the learning outcomes associated with fluency for these students. The first segment of the project will analyze the comparative effects of mastery and fluency on the retention of a receptive language skill. The second phase will compare the effects of fluency and traditional maintenance for a receptive language skill. The third experiment will explore the relationship of a fluent receptive labeling skill and the applications to an expressive labeling skill. All of these experiments will involve multiple students with autism. The outcomes may positively impact education and therapeutic interventions by experimentally demonstrating both practical and salubrious effects of fluency.

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