Identifying and validating indices of happiness and unhappiness in autistic children and examining them as quality of life indicators during presession pairing

Tuhina Agarwal, Devon Ramey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Objectives
Happiness is paramount to an improved quality of life (QoL), but there are barriers to assessing the happiness and overall QoL of autistic children using traditional measures. To address this, Study 1 aimed to identify and validate the idiosyncratic mood indices of three autistic children. In Study 2, these indices were measured as QoL indicators during discrete trial teaching (DTT) sessions that followed presession pairing. Task engagement was recorded as a secondary measure.

Methods
Three preschool boys on the autism spectrum participated in both studies. Their individualized indices of happiness and unhappiness were first identified and validated using an abbreviated procedure that extended previous research. The effects of presession pairing were then examined using a concurrent multiple baseline design across participants. The idiosyncratic mood indices were measured using 10-s partial interval recording, while task engagement was measured using 15-s whole interval recording.

Results
Study 1 demonstrated that the abbreviated procedure was efficient for identifying and validating the idiosyncratic mood indices of the participants. Study 2 found that presession pairing improved the mood of all three children during DTT, but there were minimal increases in task engagement. Percentage of nonoverlapping data (PND) scores initially revealed no effects for indices of happiness (M = 43.2%), large effects for indices of unhappiness (M = 76.4%), and no effects for task engagement (M = 37.6%). Contrary to this, omnibus Tau-U scores suggested large effects for indices of happiness (Tau-U = 0.7), very large effects for indices of unhappiness (Tau-U = 0.9), and moderate effects for task engagement (Tau-U = 0.5).

Conclusions
Individualized indices of happiness and unhappiness can and should be used as QoL indicators during behavioral interventions for autistic children.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Early online date22 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 22 Aug 2023

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