Receptive identification in ABA and its application to the natural environment


Listening to a speaker and understanding what they are saying is an essential skill for everyone. Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle with this communication skill. This ability is called receptive language skills. Sometimes this is known as listening skills or even listening comprehension (Fischer, et. Al., 2019).

Receptive identification of visual stimuli is a common goal for many children with autism spectrum disorders who receive applied behavior analysis. This is especially common in young children receiving early intervention ABA services.

An example of receptive identification could be a scenario where a child is seated at a table and the behavioral technician providing ABA services is seated near him. The Behavior Technician has three flash cards on the table that display images of a bowl, spoon, and mug. The behavioral technician says to the child, “Show me the spoon. The child points to the spoon – which would be considered a correct answer.

It is important in ABA services to consider how all of the goals that are taught in discrete trial training (as in the scenario above) apply to the child’s natural daily life.

In the case of receptive identification, being able to respond to a speaker asking the listener to identify a specific item is extremely important for day-to-day functioning. The above example could be generalized in a natural setting, in the child’s daily environment, in a situation where his mother says to the child: “Take me a spoon, please” .

If the child does not have effective receptive identification skills, he will not be able to participate in this interaction with his mother as well as in many other times and experiences of typical activities of daily living.

Fisher, WW, Retzlaff, BJ, Akers, JS, DeSouza, AA, Kaminski, AJ and Machado, MA (2019), Establishing initial auditory and visual conditional discrimination and emergence of initial tacts in young children with autism spectrum disorder . Jnl of applied behavioral analysis. doi: 10.1002 / jaba.586


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