Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Behavioral Analysis

First Advisor

Catherine Nicholson

Second Advisor

Kimberly Sloman

Third Advisor

Felipa T. Chavez

Fourth Advisor

Robert A. Taylor


Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often struggle to understand and describe private events, such as emotions. When an individual cannot communicate appropriately, it can lead to various problem behaviors. Previous literature suggested that we teach children to tact their emotions (e.g., "I am sad," "I am angry") in an attempt to decrease their problem behavior. The primary purpose of the current study is to teach children with autism to tact their emotions. The secondary purpose is to evaluate the effects of empathy statements on problem behavior. Four children participated, three with problem behavior maintained by access to tangibles and one whose problem behavior was maintained by escape from demands. Functional analyses were conducted with each participant to confirm suspected functions. We then taught each child to tact an emotion generally associated with their affect during episodes of problem behavior. All four participants successfully learned the emotions tacts and generalized them to their parents. Two participants appeared to exhibit decreased levels of problem behavior subsequent to the tact training. Implications for practitioners are discussed.

Available for download on Sunday, July 30, 2023