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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #34
CE Offered: BACB
Applications and Refinements of Functional Communication Training and Related Procedures in the Treatment of Problem Behaviors
Sunday, May 29, 2016
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Columbus Hall GH, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Amanda Zangrillo (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
Discussant: Henry S. Roane (Upstate Medical University)
CE Instructor: Amanda Zangrillo, Psy.D.
Abstract: Differential reinforcement procedures (e.g., functional communication training; FCT) and other related procedures (e.g., noncontingent reinforcement; NCR) are commonly used approaches in the treatment of problem behaviors. In this symposium, we will present a series of empirical investigations examining extensions and refinements of the effects of FCT and other related procedures in the treatment of problem behavior. The paper by Owen and colleagues extends the findings of DeRosa et al. by comparing limited versus extended EO exposures during FCT across one response topography (i.e., a card touch). The paper by Mead and colleagues evaluates the relative contributions of teaching a variety of appropriate requests on the development of problem behavior when shifting from a continuous to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement. Slocum et al., evaluate a signaled, reinforcer-thinning procedure during NCR to reduce severe problem behavior maintained by social-positive reinforcement. Finally, The paper by Kopleman et al., evaluates the effectiveness of parent-implemented FCT within a randomized clinical trial. The overall theme and implications of these for empirical studies will be discussed and summarized by Dr. Henry Roane.
Keyword(s): Functional Communication, Noncontingent Reinforcement

The Effects of Limited Versus Extended Establishing-Operation Exposure During Functional Communication Training

TODD M. OWEN (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Brian D. Greer (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Daniel R. Mitteer (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Patrick Romani (University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado), Andresa A. De Souza (University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Treatments for problem behavior often include teaching an alternative response to access a functional reinforcer (i.e., functional communication training; FCT), while simultaneously withholding reinforcement for problem behavior (i.e., extinction; Tiger, Hanley, & Bruzek, 2008). Initially, the individual is immediately prompted to engage in the alternative response, thus limiting their exposure to the relevant establishing operation (EO) for problem behavior. DeRosa, Fisher, and Steege (2015) compared rates of problem behavior and the rate of acquisition of the functional communication response (FCR) when participants used either a vocal or card-based (e.g., exchange, touch) FCR. Use of the card-based FCR resulted in quicker acquisition of the response, less bursting in rates of problem behavior, as well as larger and more rapid reductions in problem behavior. DeRosa et al. proposed that these differences were likely the result of limited (card-based FCR) and extended (vocal FCR) exposure to the relevant EO for problem behavior. In the current study, we extended the findings of Derosa et al. by comparing limited versus extended EO exposure during FCT across one response topography (i.e., a card touch). Results suggest that limiting EO exposure can result in a larger and more rapid reductions in problem behavior during FCT.

Effects of Appropriate Request Repertoire Size on the Development of Problem Behavior
SARAH C. MEAD (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida), Leah Julia Koehler (University of Florida)
Abstract: Decades of research have shown that one effective approach to the treatment of problem behavior consists of teaching a socially-appropriate request as a replacement behavior. However, the preventive effects of acquiring a repertoire of appropriate alternative responses have not been established. That is, would teaching a variety of appropriate requests for a reinforcer actually prevent the onset of problem behavior that otherwise might develop? We conducted a translational investigation to determine if teaching a larger repertoire of appropriate requests (mands) prior to shifting from a continuous to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement would prevent the development of problem behavior. Six preschool-aged children, all of whom were diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability or developmental delay, participated in the project. Results provide preliminary evidence that teaching a large variety of appropriate requests may serve as a preventive factor against the onset of problem behavior. Clinical implications of the findings will be discussed.

Evaluating a Reinforcer-Thinning Procedure to Reduce Severe Problem Behavior Maintained by Social-Positive Reinforcement

SARAH K. SLOCUM (Rollins College), Emma Grauerholz-Fisher (University of Florida), Kerri P. Peters (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

Noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) is a function-based treatment often used to reduce problem behavior. We evaluated a specific application of an NCR procedure which involved providing three subjects with continuous access to the functional reinforcer initially and slowly increasing the amount of time subjects experienced the unavailability of the reinforcer (i.e., extinction). Periods of extinction were signaled with a colored card, and a rule about the card was presented at the beginning of each session. This procedure relates to FCT because the signaled extinction period is analogous to those used in multiple-schedule FCT research. Results show immediate and substantial reductions in aggression for all three subjects.

A Randomized Clinical Trial of Functional Communication Training
Todd G. Kopelman (The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics), DAVID P. WACKER (The University of Iowa), Alyssa N. Suess (University of Iowa), Scott D. Lindgren (The University of Iowa)
Abstract: Functional communication training (FCT) is a widely used approach in the treatment of problem behavior. The purpose of this federally funded project was to evaluate the effectiveness of FCT within a randomized clinical trial (RCT). 38 young children with autism who engaged in problem behavior participated. The children’s parents conducted the sessions within their homes with coaching provided by behavior analysts via telehealth. Following completion of a functional analysis, function-based FCT programs were implemented for all participants. Participants were assigned to one of two groups following the functional analysis. Participants assigned to the immediate group started FCT immediately following the baseline extinction sessions. Participants assigned to the delayed group (control group) were delayed from starting FCT for three months and completed baseline extinction sessions once per month during the wait period. Results showed that participants in both groups engaged in high levels of problem behavior before FCT (Time 1). Problem behavior was reduced substantially only after FCT had been implemented with participants in the immediate (Time 2) and delayed (Time 3) groups. Treatment results maintained for both groups during a 6-month follow-up visit (Time 4). This federally funded project provided the first RCT of FCT, and the results support the use of FCT to treat problem behavior.



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