Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

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Symposium #186
CE Offered: BACB
Treating Problem Behavior with Functional Communication Training: Variables that Impact Response Selection and Stimulus Control
Sunday, May 28, 2006
1:30 PM–2:50 PM
Centennial Ballroom IV
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston, Clear Lake)
CE Instructor: Dorothea C. Lerman, Ph.D.

Functional communication training is commonly used to treat problem behavior. However, further research is needed on factors related to the selection and maintenance of communication responses, especially during periods of extinction. In the first paper, Laura Grow and colleagues demonstrate a methodology for identifying communication responses that are already in the individuals repertoire prior to treatment and for determining if the responses are in the same response class as problem behavior. In the second paper, Carrie Dempsey and colleagues examine the benefits of using signaled versus unsignaled reinforcement while maintaining communication responses on VI schedules. In the third paper, Jeffrey Tiger and colleagues present a study on the use of signaled reinforcement with preschool-aged children. The authors examine the effects of signaled reinforcement on childrens tolerance for periods of extinction and assess the children's preference for signaled versus unsignaled reinforcement. Finally, Anna and colleagues examine a strategy for teaching children with autism to discriminate between periods of reinforcement versus extinction under multiple, naturally occurring situations.

The Emergence of Mands During Extinction of Problem Behavior.
LAURA L. GROW (Marcus Autism Center and Georgia State University), Michael E. Kelley (Marcus Autism Center, Kennedy Krieger Institute, and Emory University School of Medicine), Henry S. Roane (Marcus Autism Center, Kennedy Krieger Institute, and Emory University School of Medicine), M. Alice Shillingsburg (Marcus Autism Center), Richard K. McCranie (Marcus Autism Center), Karen Myers (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a differential reinforcement procedure in which communication responses are reinforced while problem behavior is placed on extinction (Carr & Durand, 1985). Generally, a functional analysis is followed by training of an alternative behavior using the same consequences identified as the maintaining variable. Although previous studies have investigated the conditions under which appropriate behaviors may be acquired (e.g., Shirley et al., 1997) and maintained (e.g., Fisher et al., 1993), alternative responses in these and other studies are often arbitrarily selected. To date, no studies have examined the extent to which the application of extinction may evoke behaviors in the same response class as problem behavior as an aid for selecting an alternative response. The purpose of the current investigation was to determine whether exposing problem behavior to extinction would evoke appropriate behavior without explicit training. Results indicated that appropriate behaviors were (1) emitted during periods of extinction of problem behavior and (2) maintained by the consequence that maintained problem behavior. These findings are discussed in the context of both typical acquisition training procedures and the effects and side effects of extinction procedures.
Effects of Signals on Responding during Reinforcement-Schedule Thinning.
CARRIE M. DEMPSEY (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida), Pamela L. Neidert (University of Florida), Jennifer N. Fritz (University of Florida), Jessica L. Thomason (University of Florida)
Abstract: Once a response is acquired through functional communication training (FCT), it is desirable to thin the reinforcement schedule to facilitate maintenance in the natural environment. Results of previous studies suggest that the inclusion of discriminative stimuli during schedule thinning may result in low rates of problem behavior and clinically desirable rates of communication. The purpose of this study was to examine patterns of responding when reinforcement was delivered according to a variable interval (VI) schedule and when the availability of reinforcement was signaled. Study 1 involved a basic demonstration of the effects of signaled and unsignaled reinforcement. Results showed that more moderate rates of responding were associated with signaled versus unsignaled reinforcement. Study 2 involved an evaluation of signaled reinforcement during VI schedule thinning following FCT for individuals who exhibited problem behavior. Results indicated that signaling reinforcement during VI schedule thinning resulted in low rates of problem behavior (e.g., self-injury) and moderate rates of communication.
Towards a Proactive Strategy to Teach Preschoolers Tolerance for Unavailable Reinforcement.
JEFFREY H. TIGER (University of Kansas), Gregory P. Hanley (University of Kansas), Kylie Larsen (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Tiger and Hanley (2004) arranged teacher attention into a multiple-schedule of reinforcement (i.e., periods of reinforcement and extinction were correlated with continuously presented discriminative stimuli and were rotated according to a time-based schedule) as a potential means of teaching children to tolerate periods in which attention was unavailable. The present study evaluated a potentially more practical variation of this multiple-schedule arrangement in which reinforcement and/or extinction components were signaled via a brief vocal signal for 4 preschool-aged children. Further, children's preferences for these arrangements were assessed via a concurrent-chains arrangement. Results showed that brief signals were effective discriminative stimuli, but for one child, continuously presented stimuli were found to be more effective than those presented briefly. All children preferred the multiple-schedule arrangement in which both reinforcement and extinction components were briefly signaled relative to arrangements in which either (a) extinction was not signaled or (b) both reinforcement and extinction components were not signaled. The results are described in terms of preventing the development of young children's problem behavior during conditions of non-reinforcement. Interobserver agreement was assessed during a minimum of 20% of sessions across participants and averaged above 85% for all dependent measures.
Teaching Individuals With Autism to Attend to Naturally Occurring Discriminative Stimuli During FCT.
ANNA E. CHIRIGHIN (Kennedy Krieger Institute), David E. Kuhn (Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Louis P. Hagopian (Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Katrina Marie Zelenka (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Mandy M. Triggs (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Once latent problem associated with communication-based interventions is the potential for responding at extremely high rates. Fisher, Kuhn, and Thompson (1998) evaluated a multiple schedule arrangement using picture cards (discriminative stimuli) to reduce communications when reinforcement was not available (i.e., not signaled). The current study was designed to extend the findings of Fisher et al. by using naturally occurring discriminative stimuli (e.g., caregiver behavior), as opposed to arbitrary stimuli (e.g., picture cards). Two children diagnosed with Autism participated in this study. Following successful treatment evaluations with functional communication and extinction, each participant was taught to differentially request attention based on whether the caregiver was engaging in “busy” (e.g., talking on the phone) or “non-busy” (e.g., reading a magazine) behavior. Multiple busy and non-busy situations were taught. During training, each participant began allocating all communication responses to times when caregivers were engaged in non-busy behavior. Reliability data were collected during more than 33% of all sessions and interobserver agreement coefficients averaged above 80%. These results demonstrate a first step towards integrating a function-based treatment with social skills training.



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