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This is the third of a series of three journal articles that describe the research effort providing the scientific basis for the attentional skills assessment technology developed by BA&T (View full text version).


Assessing Visual Attention in Young Children and Adolescents with Severe Mental Retardation Utilizing Conditional-Discrimination Tasks and Multiple Testing Procedures

Nancy H. Huguenin
Behavior Analysis & Technology, Inc.
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 25, 155-181 (2004)


To effectively reduce overselective attention, a fine-grained analysis of the control exhibited by compound training cues is first needed. Computer software was developed in this study to administer two different stimulus-control testing procedures to assess how three young children of normal development and three adolescents with severe mental retardation attended to stimulus compounds when conditional-discrimination tasks were provided. One test assessed stimulus control by determining response accuracy for each component of the S+ compounds. The other testing procedure measured the response topographies of the compound stimuli using a touch screen attached to a computer monitor screen. After pretraining each stimulus component, all three children attended simultaneously to two elements in a conditional-discrimination task with few errors occurring. The adolescents with mental retardation eventually attended to both elements simultaneously but required more pretraining and exposure to the conditional-discrimination tasks before simultaneous attention occurred. Since the adolescents with severe mental retardation learned to simultaneously attend to multiple cues in the conditional-discrimination tasks, this demonstrated that restricted attention is not an unmodifiable perceptual characteristic among individuals with developmental disabilities. Recording response topographies with a touch screen was also discovered to be a sensitive measure of stimulus preferences for both groups. Utilizing touch-screen technology may prove to be critical for accurately identifying stimulus preferences and contribute to the understanding and treatment of overselective attention in students with attentional deficits.

A full-text version of the paper is also available (View full text version). If you have any questions about the work, feel free to contact us (use the button on the left).