Student Research Focuses on Techniques for Getting Teenagers on Spectrum to Drink Water during Exercise
Caldwell graduate student Danielle Schatz will present her thesis research project, “The Effects of a Tactile Prompt on Water Consumption during Exercise in Adolescents with Autism,” at the International Association of Behavior Analysts in May. Schatz, a resident of Little Ferry, N.J., who is completing her master of arts in applied behavior analysis, recently presented at the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis conference. She found that applied behavior analysis techniques were effective in prompting those on the autism spectrum to consume water while exercising.
Schatz, an instructional paraprofessional working with people on the autism spectrum, said the impetus for the project came after she observed that some of the adolescents she was working with day to day exercising in the gym never consumed water. “They always had a water bottle available to them, but they never took a drink from it without someone telling them to,” she said. “When I personally exercise, I reach for and drink from my water bottle consistently throughout my workout.” Because of their skill deficits, individuals with autism may not understand that if they are hot or thirsty they can drink water to gain relief, she said.
“After going through the literature, I was troubled that the research in this particular area and population was scarce. So, not only was there a gap in the learners’ skill sets, but there was a gap in the overall literature,” Schatz said.
Her faculty advisor, Ruth DeBar, Ph.D., was supportive, saying the topic choice was “very timely given the focus on childhood obesity in the United States.”
It was a big project for Schatz, but she said the many months of research paid off. “As we like to say throughout the thesis process, you become ‘married’ to your project. In the beginning stages, you research and learn everything you can about the topic. Then, based on what you’ve learned, you create a procedure that you think would give you the ultimate result. Finally, you run the project and hope that all your work pays off,” Schatz said. “I am extremely proud to have been able to run such a project and proud of my participants for learning such an important skill.”
Schatz plans to sit for the exam to become a board-certified behavior analyst, and continue working with and learning from individuals with autism.
“The Caldwell University ABA program has prepared me by teaching the concepts, terminology and techniques necessary for work within the field of ABA and working with individuals with autism. They have given me the tools necessary to further my career through research and clinical settings as well as fill the demand for ABA professionals,” she said.