Extinction and its effects on over-selected stimuli in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

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Tomlin, Jenny
Issue Date
BA in Psychology
Dublin Business School
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As recently as a few decades ago, autism was still regarded as a medical curiosity to some degree, conjuring up visions of a child who walks on tip-toe, stares vacantly into space, or rocks back and forth repetitively, but at the same time excel at the Embedded Figures Task (Shah and Frith, 1983). The prevalence of autism around this time period (1960's) was reported to range from 0.7 to 4.5/10,000 children, compared to a current estimate of every 5-6 of 1000 children receiving the diagnosis today (Gupta, 2004). The aim of the current study is to determine the efficacy of extinction as a treatment for stimulus over-selectivity in children with ASD, through the use of a discriminationlearning task. The first hypothesis was that extinction would decrease stimulus over-selectivity for children with ASD across all functional levels. The second hypothesis was that extinction would have a greater efficacy as an intervention for over-selectivity in high functioning children with ASD than with either moderate or low functioning participants, and finally it was hypothesised that extinction would have greater efficacy as an intervention for over-selectivity in moderate functioning participants than for low functioning participants. The research was conducted in the hope that this study will enhance knowledge of the issue of over-selection within both the area of autism but also any relevant setting, and will yield clinically useful information with regard to extinction as an intervention for this problem.