G-5: Use modeling and imitation training ©

Important note: Fictionalized clients are used to demonstrate the skill items in the second half of the task list, sections F-I. They make the most sense when read in order. Please remember that there is not substitute for real-life supervision and consultation. Get your case-specific advice from professionals – not from the internet! These examples are just that – examples of how behavior analytic skills might be applied.


Case example: Jada is an elementary school student. She experiences Level 3 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Level 3 is the severity level of Autism which is characterized by “requiring very substantial support.” Jada has also been diagnosed with a severe Intellectual Disability (ID). Jada has just transferred to a private school for individuals with global needs. She loves all kinds of play and messy activities, such as finger paint and water play. She also enjoys swinging on the playground, eating popcorn, and watching Disney movies. She loves to be read to, and laughs when staff make dramatic gestures while reading picture books. Jada does not use any vocal speech. She makes noises sometimes, such as humming. Jada engages in motor stimming, including upper body tensing and flapping her arms. Jada engages in severe challenging behavior, including self injury (hand to head and head to surface) and aggression (including hitting and biting). Jada has a mom, dad, and older brother living together in one home. Jada’s family has advocated for her to attend a private program, and they are excited for her to get high quality services. Jada’s new behavior analyst is Dr. Brown-Davis, who is a BCBA-D employed by the private program.

Example of Item G-5: Dr. Brown-Davis knows that if Jada can start to learn from watching other people’s behavior (imitate a model), this skill will help her pick up many other useful behaviors which may help her have a happier life. Jada presents with some imitation in structured contexts (such as when staff say “do this” and then touch their nose, but she does not imitate multi-step tasks and does not engage in spontaneous/unplanned imitation (such as with peers). Dr. Brown-Davis designs programming to systematically teach Jada to imitate others in less structured contexts (such as in the lunchroom or on the playground). At first, a staff member engages in a behavior to achieve something they know Jada wants (such as retrieving food). A second staff member then prompts Jada from behind to engage in (imitate) the modeled behavior. Data collection informs the fading of prompts.



Case example: Donovan is a high school student. He has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). He attends a public school and has been placed in a support program for students with social/emotional/behavioral needs. Donovan enjoys playing video games and drawing in his sketchbook. He would like to be a welder when he is an adult. Academic achievement and attendance have been challenges for Donovan historically, and he is currently not on track to graduate with his peers due to missed work and failing grades in several classes. Donovan’s team has identified challenges including frequent non-attendance to school, walking the halls during class times, non-attendance at expected guidance appointments, and non-completion of classwork. Donovan lives with his mother and older brother. Donovan’s mother is concerned about her son’s school challenges and expresses frustration about his “lack of commitment” to his education. She wants Donovan to understand how important it is to graduate from high school. Donovan’s behavior analyst is Ms. Bailey, who has just started contracting with Donovan’s school district through the agency she works for.

Example of Item G-5: During Ms. Bailey’s 1:1 time with Donovan, she utilizes modeling to teach Donovan the steps for appropriately asking for a break (see E-8 Use Chaining). She then provides feedback and coaching to Donovan to help facilitate quick acquisition of the appropriate set of responses.

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