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Evaluating the Emergence of the Transformation of Stimulus Function through Representational Drawing in Children with Autism


The present study aimed to evaluate the utility of representational drawing as an alternative to selection-based responses for evaluating the emergence of the transformation of stimulus function. Two children with autism were initially taught relations among pictures, arbitrary symbols, and arbitrary words. Nonreinforced tests were also conducted to evaluate the possibility of a transformation of stimulus function across stimuli when presented with a generative drawing task. The results suggested that both participants responded at high accuracy following initial training and also were able to transform the functions of these training stimuli such that novel drawings that were never reinforced actually emerged under extinction conditions. These data add to the body of literature supporting the utility of exposing children with autism to applied behavior-analytic interventions that incorporate derived relational responding as a target operant, and this generalized operant also is capable of a transformation of stimulus function.

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Correspondence to Mark R. Dixon.

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Hailey Williams, Caleb R. Stanley, and Jordan Belisle declare they have no conflicts of interest. Mark R. Dixon receives royalties from PEAK curriculum sales.

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All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Williams, H., Stanley, C.R., Belisle, J. et al. Evaluating the Emergence of the Transformation of Stimulus Function through Representational Drawing in Children with Autism. Behav Analysis Practice 13, 186–191 (2020).

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  • Autism
  • Derived relations
  • PEAK
  • Representational drawing
  • Transformation of stimulus function