Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Respond to Unknown Questions

In a recent study, Ingvarsson and Hollobaugh effectively taught four children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to use the phrase “I don’t know, please tell me” in response to unknown questions. Though verbalizing the correct answer to a question is desirable, verbalizing this phrase in response to an unknown question may reduce anxiety towards unknown questions. Also, requesting unknown information provides children with ASD exposure to correct answers, which may transfer into knowledge of the answer.

Participants included four children with ASD. The participants had no prior knowledge of the phrase “I don’t know, please tell me” or the appropriate occasions to use this phrase. Training involved behavioral intervention, specifically prompting and reinforcement based on each child’s individual needs.

Two of the participants quickly learned the verbal response and were able to generalize the response across various questions. The other two participants required implementation of individualized behavioral techniques in order to learn and generalize the response.

The findings suggest that learning phrases like “I don’t know, please tell me” allows children with ASD to appropriately answer unknown questions and request unknown information, which in turn provides them exposure to correct answers.
Ingvarsson, E. T., & Hollobaugh, T. (2010). Acquisition of intraverbal behavior: Teaching children with autism to mand for answers to questions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43(1), 1 – 17.

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