The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 5–23 | Cite as

An Analysis of Autism as a Contingency-Shaped Disorder of Verbal Behavior



This paper analyzes autism as a contingency-shaped disorder of verbal behavior. Contingencies of reinforcement in effect during the first to third year of a child’s life may operate to establish and maintain those behaviors that later result in a diagnosis of autism. While neurobiological variables may, in some cases, predispose some children to be more or less responsive to environmental variables than others, our analysis suggests that reliance on neurobiological variables as causal factors in autism is unnecessary. We present six paradigms that may play critical etiologic roles in the development of behaviors labeled as autistic. Recognizing these contingencies and their resulting behaviors during the first two years of a child’s life may contribute substantially to earlier identification, more effective treatment and, quite possibly, to the development of Applied Behavior Analysis programs for the prevention of autism that could be implemented immediately. Conceptualizing autism as a contingency-shaped disorder of verbal behavior may provide a new and potentially more effective paradigm for behavioral research and treatment in autism.


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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autism Early Intervention CenterTampaUSA
  2. 2.Westfield State CollegeUSA

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