Date of Award

8-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Rehabilitation

First Advisor

Rehfeldt, Ruth Anne

Abstract

This investigation evaluated the use of multiple exemplar instruction (MEI) to teach perspective-taking skills to adolescents with high-functioning autism. The first experiment used a multiple probe design to examine the use of MEI to teach participants to respond appropriately to the deictic frames of I-You, Here-There, and Now-Then. Participants were instructed and tested using developmentally appropriate perspective-taking protocols, and generalization of perspective-taking skills to a more natural social interaction format was also assessed. The second experiment used a multiple probe design to examine the use of MEI to facilitate defusion from negative thoughts and feelings related to social interaction. Participants were trained to discriminate between different aspects of their own perspective (i.e., self-as-content and self-as-context). Defusion was measured using ratings of the believability and comfort associated with negative thoughts, and the percentage of time engaged in appropriate social interaction was recorded for each participant. Results from Experiment 1 showed the emergence of deictic relational responding in the presence of novel relations for all participants following MEI, and varying degrees of generalization of perspective-taking skills to a natural presentation of social interaction were observed based on the complexity of the deictic relation. Results from Experiment 2 revealed a decrease in believability and an increase in comfort associated with problematic thoughts for all participants following MEI in the absence of directly observed changes in social interaction in the natural environment. These results support the use of MEI as an instructional strategy for teaching perspective-taking skills to individuals with autism. Findings are discussed according to a Relational Frame Theory analysis of perspective-taking.

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