Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. Today’s article is titled, Intervention for Food Selectivity in a Specialized School Setting: Teacher Implemented Prompting, Reinforcement, and Demand Fading for an Adolescent Student with Autism (wonder if they could make that a little longer?). A journal called Education and Treatment of Children published the article and Maria Knox, Hanna C. Rue, Leah Wildenger, Kara Lamb, and James K. Luiselli authored it. (If you want to read the entire article, you will find it on www.freelibrary.com)
Many children with autism engage in picky eating or what researchers call “food selectivity“. For example some children live on a white foods diet (chicken nuggets, french fries, and bread) while others remain stuck in pureed foods.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one intervention that has been demonstrated repeatedly to be effective at addressing picky eating behavior. However, the intervention often results in challenging behaviors that make it difficult for parents and caregivers to implement on their own. In fact, most of the research to date has been implemented by highly trained therapists.
Purpose of the Study
Thus, authors set out to determine if an intervention could be implemented by school staff in the school setting.
Study Method: Participants
The authors enrolled one child in the study. “Anna” was 16 and had autism. She was verbal and she could follow simple instructions. Anna could feed herself. However, she limited her diet to a few brand-specific crackers, dry cereal, and apple juice . During the study, Anna’s mother provided new foods including one main food (chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, or turkey and cheese sandwich) and two side foods (cheese cubes, vegetable chips, carrots, mandarin oranges, or apples).
The authors implemented all study procedures at the school in Anna’s lunchroom or her classroom. The teacher and the teaching assistants collected all the data for the study.
Study Method: Design
The authors used a changing criteria design which is one type of single subject design. In this design, the expectations are gradually increased across phases. Thus, the teacher required Anna to eat more and more food across the study.
In baseline, the food were presented. If Anna did not eat within 2.5 minutes, the food was removed. After 10 minutes, Anna was allowed to eat her preferred foods.
Study Method: Intervention Technique
The researchers taught the teacher how to implement the intervention prior to the beginning of intervention.
Prespecified Reinforcement (First-Then)
During intervention, the teacher presented the new food on a separate plate and told Anna when she ate the new food (small amount at first), she could have her preferred food.
Additionally, Anna earned verbal praise and stickers for eating new food. Anna cashed her stickers in for small trinkets.
The teaching staff verbally prompted Anna to eat her lunch, if, 30 seconds after swallowing she had not taken her bite.
Demand Fading (Increasing the Volume Slowly)
Gradually, the teaching staff increased the amount of food that Anna needed to eat in order to get her preferred foods.
By the 23rd lunch session, Anna consumed 100% of the new food and she repeated this on the 24th and 25th lunch sessions. The authors came back to assess her eating 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 7 months later. Anna continued to eat 100% of her new food.
Congrats to Anna and the research team on such a successful intervention. ABA works!
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