Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) involve social and language impairments and repetitive behavior. Prevalence rates have grown 20-fold, and ASD now affects about 1 in 91 children. Without effective treatment, long-term outcomes for individuals with ASD remain bleak; few maintain friends, jobs, or independent living. A principal barrier to successful community life for this group is the presence of destructive behavior (e.g., aggression). The greatest recent advancement in the treatment of destructive behavior has been the development of functional analysis (FA), which is used to prescribe effective treatments. One such treatment, functional communication training (FCT), is often prescribed when an FA implicates social reinforcers (e.g., attention) for destructive behavior. With FCT, the consequence that heretofore reinforced destructive behavior is delivered contingent on an appropriate communication response and problem behavior is placed on extinction. Although this straightforward approach to the treatment of destructive behavior can be highly effective, many pitfalls and practical challenges arise when this treatment is implemented by caregivers in natural community settings. The presentation will feature data and describe a line of research aimed at increasing the effectiveness, efficiency, and practicality of FCT for individuals with ASD who display destructive behavior in typical community settings.
Review Wayne Fisher’s biographical statement.