An evaluation of choices across social contexts by children with disabilities exposed to bilingual environments: The role of stimulus and language preference

Principal Investigator: Patricia Kurtz

For children with disabilities who are exposed to bilingual environments, variations in the language in which leisure items (e.g., books, magazines, music) are presented, the language spoken by the adult and the child during play or leisure time, the language of adult attention (e.g., conversational topics, praise), and the language in which tasks are presented may influence children’s preference for these stimuli.

Children’s preferences have often been evaluated using stimulus preference assessments. Stimuli identified as highly preferred using preference assessment methodology have been found to be more effective reinforcers than those found to be moderately or less preferred and therefore are more effective during behavioral interventions (Fisher & Mazur, 1997; Piazza, Fisher, Hagopian, et al., 1996).

We hypothesize that type of language may impact stimulus preferences due to changes in the quality of the stimuli or the response effort (as measured by proficiency) required to engage with the stimuli. We further hypothesize that the impact of type of language on stimulus preferences will be highly individualistic.

The purposes of the proposed study are (a) to replicate the preference assessment procedures of the previous study to further demonstrate the relationship between language and stimulus preference, (b) to conduct reinforcer assessments to evaluate the reinforcing value of the identified preferred stimuli, and (c) to identify whether participants’ language proficiency in their L1 and L2 was related to their language preferences.

Participants will be recruited through the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI). Language proficiency assessment, preference assessments, and reinforcer assessments will be conducted in the children’s homes during weekly visits. Participants’ language proficiency in their first and second language will first be evaluated. Then, three preference assessments across three contexts: attention/talking, tangible/playing, and demands/working will be conducted. Finally, reinforcer assessments will be conducted to test the reinforcing value of stimuli identified in the preference assessments.