A newsletter by the ASD Network
NE ASD Network 14th Annual Conference 
March 30th and 31st 2017 
Younes Conference Center in Kearney Nebraska

Are they Looking?  Joint Attention and the Young Child with ASD

Teri McGill M.Ed., BCBA
Young children with autism are a very diverse group of children who have similarities in the way they process information and understand the world.  In many ways, young children with autism communicate; interact and play differently than other children.  Although young children with autism each present with different characteristics they all display deficits in communication and social. 
Joint attention and joint engagement are primary deficit areas for young children with autism.  Joint engagement is the ability to engage with another person and leads to joint attention.  Joint attention is a triad between you, the child and an object.  Think of it as a shifting of eye gaze between an object and a communication partner for the purpose of requesting something (cookies in the cupboard) or shared enjoyment (child will look at the airplane, look back at you and then look back at the airplane....as to say "mom, do you see that airplane" but without words). (Jones & Carr, 2004)
Joint attention also includes eye gaze shifts between two social partners, pointing and following a partner's point, sharing expression of emotion with a social partner and responding to name.  In typical development, engagement and joint attention emerge in infancy and lead to cooing, babbling and the emergence of language and other more complex forms of social sharing.  Due to the delay or absence of joint attention and joint engagement skills in young children with autism, we want provide many opportunities that support the acquisition of these critical skills. (Jones & Carr, 2004)
Here are some activities you can do to improve joint engagement and joint attention. 
Joint Engagement and Joint Attention Activities:
Time Delay: Use time delay or a "purposeful pause" when playing and interacting with your child and with the following activities.....
Follow the child's lead - - imitate everything they do and then STOP- - wait to see if the child looks toward you- -and then reinforce!  Resume activity and repeat!!
Face to Face Games- - (Peek-a-boo, bouncing on knee, tickling) to increase gaze shift.  Use a purposeful pause- -stop and see if the child will look toward your face- -reinforce and repeat!!
"Spotlighting"(Gutstein, Sheely, 2002)- - Indirect, yet powerful surprise signals we use to shift a child's eye gaze our way (loud clearing of throat, magnified cough, exaggerated surprise sound or sigh etc. )
Plexi-Glass Activities- - Hold plexi-glass up by your face with child on the other side...draw on the plexi glass and then stop- - wait for child to look toward you and then reinforce and resume activity
Bring Object's to Joint Line of Regard - - Hold desired in front of child and then move item up and then slowly bring down toward your face and eyes- - reinforce child as they follow the item and look toward your face
Reinforcing items out of reach - - if child uses your hand to get to item-- stop and get down to their level and help them point to item- - then STOP- - to encourage child to look toward you (pointing AND looking= communicative gesture)
Shared interaction Toys- -  Wind-up toys/activation toys that need an adult to turn on- - start toy and let it stop- - PAUSE- -wait for child to look at you (encourage the child to look at toy and then look at you- - beginning 3 Point gaze)
Gutstein, Steven, E., Sheely, Rachelle, K., (2002). Relationship Development Intervention with Children, Adolescents and Adults. United Kingdom: Jessica Kinsley Publishers.
Jones, E.A., & Carr, E.G. (2004). Joint attention in children with autism: Theory and intervention. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 19,13-26.
Chandler, S., Christie, P.,Newson,E., & Prevezer, W.,(2009) First Steps in Intervention with Your Child with Autism

8th Tri-State Webinar: Autism and the Very Young Child  
9th The Principles of Structured Teaching Review 5 part Video - ESU 7
30th & 31st NE ASD State Conference - Younes Conference Center Kearney NE
  Keynotes and Breakout Sessions on:

Assistive Technology
Verbal Behavior
Early Childhood and more.

Good Behavior Game
by Pam Sharping


The Good Behavior Game (GBG) is a user-friendly, preventative intervention that is applied class-wide. The purpose of the game is to reduce disruptive behaviors during academic periods while increasing on-task behavior. The components of the GBG are based on sound behavioral principles (i.e., differential reinforcement of low rates of behavior, clear expectations, monitoring of behavior, and frequent feedback) that are not age limited (Mitchell, Tingstrom,  Dufrene, Ford, & Sterling, 2015).

  • Easy-to-implement intervention with demonstrated effectiveness in decreasing problem behavior (Lannie & McCurdy, 2007).
  • Increase in instructional time as the teacher can focus on teaching and less time on addressing problem behavior.
  • High acceptability for the intervention among teachers and students.
  • IT is typically implemented during a 30-minute academic period such as reading, math, group instruction, silent reading, etc.
  • This intervention is proven to be effective from pre-school age through adulthood.
  1. Identify and define what behaviors are disruptive (e.g., call outs, talking to other students, name calling, out-of-seat, throwing objects). Choose 2-3 behaviors that are most problematic. Identify and define what on-task behaviors you want to occur (e.g., looking at the teacher during lecture, writing answer to math worksheet).
  2. Identify reinforcers that will be valuable to the students. Have the students fill out a reinforcer survey by rank ordering their preferences (e.g., free time, school supplies, edibles, five extra minutes at recess, homework passes, extra credit/bonus points). This may increase buy-in to the game.
  3. Determine when the game will be played. The teacher has flexibility of choosing what activities and how often the game will be played.
  4. Determine the criterion for earning a reward. Gather baseline data to make your decision. For example, when students are divided into groups, if you count on average five disruptive behaviors, set your criterion slightly below the current average (e.g., 4 or less).
  5. Prior to implementing the Good Behavior Game, explain the rules of the game to the class. For example, raise your hand and wait be called on; keep hands, feet, and objects to self; remain in seat. Tell the students the criterion for earning a reward.
  6. Divide the class into equal teams (e.g., 2 or more). Balance the teams to ensure each team has a chance to succeed. If a team breaks a rule, the teacher reminds the team the behavior he/she would like to see instead. For example, if a student on Team 2 calls out an answer instead of raising his hand, the teacher could respond by saying, "Team 2, I am looking for hand's raised when answering questions."
  7. Start the game, set a timer, record data, and REWARD: Set a timer or clearly state when the game will start and end. For secondary learners, it may be more age respective to call the game a "competition". Record data by adding a tick mark next to the team's name when a rule is broken. We want low scores! The teams that meet criterion earn a reward.
  8. It is important not to single out one student's behavior when playing the Good Behavior Game. Focus on what behaviors you want the students to engage in instead, and remain neutral when giving a team a mark for breaking a rule.
  9. Keep record of the teams that earn rewards. If you observe that a team doesn't often earn rewards, investigate the barriers. Team members may need to be split up and changed to a different team or a particular student that may need an individualized reinforcement program that doesn't penalize the rest of the group.
  10. Have fun and praise, praise, praise! This game is meant to be fun for all involved, including the teacher. Be enthusiastic and provide behavior specific praise by telling students what behaviors they are doing well. For example, "Wow! You are sitting there so quietly." This will increase the probability of those behaviors increasing in the future.
Babyak, A. E., Luze, G. J., & Kamps, D. M. (2000). The good student game: Behavior  management for diverse classrooms. Intervention in School and Clinic, 35(4), 216.

Barrish, H. H., Saunders, M., & Wolf, M. M. (1969). Good behavior game: effects of individual  contingencies for group consequences on disruptive behavior in a classroom. Journal of  Applied Behavior Analysis, 2(2), 119-124.

Donaldson, J. M., Vollmer, T. R., Krous, T., Downs, S., & Berard, K. P. (2011). An evaluation of
the good behavior game in kindergarten classrooms. Journal of Applied Behavior  Analysis, 44(3), 605-609.

Lannie, A. L., & McCurdy, B. L. (2007). Preventing disruptive behavior in the urban classroom:  Effects of the good behavior game on student and teacher behavior, Education &
Treatment of Children, 30(1), 85-98.

Leflot, G., van Lier, P. A., C., Onghena, P., & Colpin, H. (2010). The role of teacher behavior  management In the development of disruptive behaviors: An intervention study with the
good behavior game. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(6), 869-82.

Mitchell, R. R., Tingstrom, D. H., Dufrene, B. A., Ford, W. B., & Sterling, H. E. (2015). The effects
of the good behavior game with general-education high school students. School  Psychology Review, 44(2), 191- 207.

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