Abduction Prevention in Children with Autism


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

A recent study by Bergstrom, Najdowski, and Tarbox (2014) in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis successfully taught children with autism how to respond to strangers’ attempts to lure them away from their front yard or store settings.  Of course, real strangers were not used in the study and the children were never in any danger.  Instead, the “strangers” were research confederates — actors who were playing a role for the study.

The basic procedure was this — the parent would “leave” the child alone by saying something like “I need to go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”  However, the child was under constant observation throughout the study and was never really “alone.”  Next, a confederate stranger approached the child and offered preferred items if the child followed the stranger back to his/her car.  After the child responded by walking away or following the stranger, the trial ended and the parent immediately returned.  

For training, researchers focused on a few rules — say “no”, run away, and tell an adult you know — and engaged in role-playing sessions to practice.  If the child did not follow the practiced rules during a trial in the community, prompts were given to the child asking about what they were supposed to do in the situation.  All of the participants successfully learned what to do and were able to demonstrate their skills repeatedly over a number of sessions, even in novel community settings.

Do you have experience with this type of training?  We would love to hear from you in the comments below.  Also, don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!   

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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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1 Comment on "Abduction Prevention in Children with Autism"

  1. Thanks for writing about our study! We also made a video tutorial on a similar topic, how to teach children safety skills for if they get lost in public. If folks are interested, they can find it here http://youtu.be/79LiVESgPo0 or search Lost in Public in youtube.

    Jonathan Tarbox

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