Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Richard Malott

Second Advisor

Kelly Kohler

Third Advisor

Amanda Devoto


Joint attention behaviors may be essential to the development of language and social interaction skills (Whalen and Schreibman, 2003). Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often lack these behaviors which may explain the difficulty many of them have communicating appropriately with others (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Previous research has shown that prompting procedures and social reinforcement have been successful in teaching children with ASD to shift their eye gaze between an adult and the object of interest when prompted to do so (Taylor and Hoch, 2008). This present study set out to create and test a procedure designed to teach responding to bids for joint attention in a discrete trial classroom designed for children with ASD. Interactive attention and social praise were used to reinforce looking at the target object when the adult pointed to it. Distractor stimuli were gradually increased in the controlled training environment. In the final phases, the trials took place in less controlled areas, in order generalize those skills to other similar environments, much like those in the home. The results of this study will also help improve the classroom curriculum by offering a method of increasing joint attention behaviors in children with ASD which, in turn, will facilitate development in other critical areas such as language and appropriate play with other children.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Final Draft of PowerPoint - Shelby Esman.pdf (376 kB)
Defense Presentation