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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Symposium #132
CE Offered: BACB
Alterative Communication Systems for Individual with Developmental Disabilities: Comparisons of Acquisition, Generalization, and Response Strength
Sunday, May 29, 2005
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Stevens 2 (Lower Level)
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Johns Hopkins University)
Discussant: David P. Wacker (University of Iowa)
CE Instructor: Iser Guillermo DeLeon, Ph.D.

Individuals with developmental disabilities frequently display serious deficits in verbal abilities. Researchers and clinicians have therefore adopted or developed various alternative/augmentative communication systems to strengthen or supplement the communicative abilities of these individuals. Popular forms of alternative communication include manual signs, pictures exchange systems (or PECS), and microswitch-activated devices. Each of these systems are associated with distinct relative advantages and disadvantages that make them more or less appropriate for use depending on individual circumstances. The present series of studies will explore the conceptual bases for, and applied implications of, differences among these systems. More specifically, these studies involved meaningful comparisons with regard to factors including the assessment of prerequisite skills, ease of acquisition of one form versus another, generalization to new settings and communicative partners, preference across modalities, and the effects of prompts. Collectively, the studies will provide valuable, evidence-based insights towards the selection and promotion of one system versus another.

Structured Assessment to Predict Ease of Acquisition for Manual Sign and Picture Exchange Communication Systems
MEAGAN GREGORY (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Johns Hopkins University), David M. Richman (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Abstract: Certain prerequisite skills are required for an individual to successfully acquire and use alternative and augmentative communication systems. For manual signing, these skills include (but are not limited to) motor imitation and gross and fine motor skills. For picture exchange systems, the skills necessary include identity matching and the ability to scan an array of pictures and discriminate among them. The purposes of the current investigation were to, first, design and implement a brief assessment battery to predict an individual’s success with an alternative communication system based on their prerequisite abilities and, second, to validate the predictions of the assessment by attempting to teach the participants 4 unrelated mands using both forms of alternative communication. Three individuals with developmental disabilities and extremely limited vocal verbal abilities participated. Assessment results suggested that two of the individuals would be able to rapidly acquire varied mand responses using both communication systems, whereas a third would have difficulty acquiring mand responses using either communication system. These predictions were subsequently validated during mand training. The results are discussed in terms of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two communication systems and the need for evidence that the assessment has more specific discriminative validity.
An Evaluation of Communication Modality
TERRY S. FALCOMATA (University of Iowa), Joel Eric Ringdahl (University of Iowa), Eric Boelter (University of Iowa), Tory J. Christensen (University of Iowa)
Abstract: We conducted an assessment to determine the most effective modality for communication to be used by a woman with developmental and communication disabilities. Using a differential reinforcement schedule, three modalities of communication were evaluated separately (speech, picture exchange, and microswitch activation). In addition, we evaluated the effect of specific prompts on communicative behavior. Two conditions were conducted within each modality: prompt and no prompt. The final phase of the assessment consisted of an evaluation of choice of communication modality (i.e., each modality was available and under identical reinforcement schedules). Results of the assessment demonstrated a clear effect both modality and prompt presence. In addition, an apparent preference for one communication modality (microswitch actiation) was demonstated. Interobserver agreement was obtained during at least 20% of all sessions and averaged above 90% for all target responses.
Comparing the Acquisition, Generalization, and Emergence of Untrained Verbal Operants for Two Mand Forms in Adults with Severe Developmental Disabilities
MEGAN M. ZIOMEK (Southern Illinois University), Ruth Anne Rehfeldt (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: We compared the number of training trials required to master mands for preferred items using PECS and manual sign in three adults with severe developmental disabilities. Generalization across settings and communicative partners was evaluated for both communication modalities. Next, in order to ensure that mands were truly under control of establishing operations and not multiply controlled by the presence of the preferred items, participants were taught to mand for several inaccessible items that were needed to complete one of several chained tasks, thus establishing control by transitive conditioned establishing operations. Finally, throughout all training phases, participants were probed for their ability to use PECS and manual sign to tact or answer questions about items that were used in mand training. Preliminary results suggest that participants acquired mands using both communication modalities, but mands using PECS were acquired within a shorter time period than mands using sign.



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