Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Corey Stocco

First Committee Member

Matthew Normand

Second Committee Member

Stephanie Hood


Previous research has shown that individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may dwell on restricted topics of interest during conversations (Mercier et al., 2000; Smerbeck, 2019). Stocco et al. (in press) found that individuals may prefer a conversational-skill intervention that includes access to restricted topics over an intervention that only provides high-quality attention for speech about experimenter-led topics. We replicated and extended Stocco et al. in two ways. First, we evaluated if speech about restricted topics (a) occurred at high levels and (b) was sensitive to interested responses from a listener. Second, we experimentally evaluated the additive effects of using restricted topics as reinforcement on participant preference for intervention. Finally, we sought to evaluate the reliability and generality of previous findings by conducting this study using telehealth. All participants spoke about restricted topics at high levels, and their speech was sensitive to different qualities of attention. Additionally, two out of three participants preferred an intervention with access to restricted topics, compared to an intervention that only included differential attention. These outcomes may have implications for practitioners who are asked to conduct virtual assessments or interventions for clients who engage in speech about restricted topics.



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Psychology Commons