Journal of Behavioral Education

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 252–259 | Cite as

Effects of Language of Instruction on Response Accuracy and Challenging Behavior in a Child with Autism

  • Russell LangEmail author
  • Mandy Rispoli
  • Jeff Sigafoos
  • Giulio Lancioni
  • Alonzo Andrews
  • Lilia Ortega
Original Paper


Discrete trial training was delivered using English and Spanish languages to a student with autism from a Spanish-speaking family. An alternating treatments design was used to examine the effects of language of instruction on the child’s response accuracy and challenging behavior. More correct responses and fewer challenging behaviors occurred when instruction was delivered in Spanish compared to English. Results suggest that the language of instruction may be an important variable even when a student initially presents with very little spoken language and comparable scores on English and Spanish standardized language assessments.


English language learner Autism Spanish Academics Stereotypy Discrete trial training Challenging behavior 


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Revised 4th ed ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Barlow, D., & Hayes, S. (1979). Alternating treatment design: One strategy for comparing the effects of two treatments in a single subject. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 12, 199–210.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cheatham, G. A., & Ro, Y. E. (2010). Young English learners’ interlanguage as a context for language and early literacy development. Young Children, 65, 18–23.Google Scholar
  4. Christle, C. A., & Yell, M. L. (2010). Individualized education programs: Legal requirements and research findings. Exceptionality, 18, 109–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cummins, J. (2009). Mulitlingualism in the English-language classroom: Pedagogical considerations. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 43, 317–321.Google Scholar
  6. Didden, R., & Moor, J. (2004). Preference assessment in toddlers with mild developmental and physical disabilities: A comparative study. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 16, 107–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gersten, R., & Baker, S. (2000). What we know about effective instructional practices for English language learners. Exceptional Children, 66, 454–470.Google Scholar
  8. Hakimzadeh, S. & Cohn, D. (2007). English usage among Hispanics in the United States (Research report). Retrieved from Pew Hispanic Center website:
  9. Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  10. Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1999). The social world of children: Learning to talk. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  11. Kremer-Sadlik, T. (2005). To be or not to be bilingual: Autistic disorder. In: Cohen, J., McAlister, K., Rolstad, K., & MacSwan, J. (Eds.) ISBA proceedings of the 4th international symposium on bilingualism. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  12. Lovaas, I. O. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mueller, T. G., Singer, G. H., & Grace, E. (2004). The individuals with disabilities education act and California’s proposition 227: Implications for English language learners with special needs. Bilingual Research Journal, 28, 231–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Paneque, O. M., & Rodriguez, D. (2009). Language use by special educators of English language learners with disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 24, 63–69.Google Scholar
  15. Rispoli, M., O’Reilly, M., Lang, R., Sigafoos, J., Mulloy, A., Aguilar, J., et al. (2011). Effects of language of implementation on functional analysis outcomes. Journal of Behavioral Education. doi: 10.1007/s10864-011-9128-7.
  16. Schloper, E., Reichler, R. J., Devellis, R. F., & Daly, K. (1980). Toward an objective classification of childhood autism: Childhood autism rating scale (CARS). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 10, 91–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Singer, G., Mueller, T., & Grace, E. (2003). Special education teacher beliefs and practices for English language learners with moderate and severe disabilities. UC LMRI final grant report #00-01G-SB, Santa Barbara, CA.Google Scholar
  18. United State Department of Labor. (2006). Bureau of labor statistics. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from
  19. US Census Bureau (2007). American community survey 1 year estimates: R1601. Percent of people 5 years and over who speak a language other than English at home. Retrieved March 16, 2011 from
  20. Weitz, C., Dexter, M., & Moore, J. (1997). AAC and children with developmental disabilities. In S. Glennen & D. De Coste (Eds.), Handbook of augmentative and alternative communication (pp. 395–431). San Diego, CA: Singular.Google Scholar
  21. Zimmerman, I. L., Steiner, V. G., & Pond, R. E. (2002). Preschool language scale (4th ed, Spanish edition ed.). San Antonio, TX: Harcourt Assessment.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell Lang
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Mandy Rispoli
    • 2
  • Jeff Sigafoos
    • 3
  • Giulio Lancioni
    • 4
  • Alonzo Andrews
    • 5
  • Lilia Ortega
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinic for Autism Research Evaluation and SupportTexas State University-San MarcosSan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.The University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  4. 4.University of BariBariItaly
  5. 5.Autism Treatment CenterSan AntonioUSA
  6. 6.Department of Curriculum and InstructionTexas State University-San MarcosSan MarcosUSA

Personalised recommendations