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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #436
CE Offered: BACB
Current Research on Refinements to Functional Communication Training Programs
Monday, May 27, 2019
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency West, Lobby Level, Crystal Ballroom A
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Tara Hays (Children's Hospital Colorado )
Discussant: Nathan Call (Marcus Autism Center)
CE Instructor: Tara Hays, M.A.

Using functional analysis to develop functional communication training (FCT) programs is a well-established mode of behavioral assessment and treatment. Broadly, refinements to FCT programs include helping practitioners and researchers make these programs more socially acceptable (Hays & Romani), address multiply maintained problem behaviors (Hardee, Mitteer, Fisher, Briggs, & Greer), and address treatment relapse following FCT (DeRosa, Sullivan, DeBartelo, & Roane; Shpall, Falcomata, Ramirez-Cristoforo, & Londono). Hays and Romani address social acceptability by evaluating procedures to introduce naturally occurring stimuli into FCT conducted within a multiple schedules arrangement. Hardee and colleagues show the effectiveness of using an “omnibus” functional communicative request to rapidly decrease multiply maintained problem behaviors. DeRosa and colleagues and Shpall and colleagues evaluate how the response topography used during FCT affects treatment relapse and the persistence of communication. Taken together, this symposium will provide attendees with an update on the most current research related to applying FCT in a variety of contexts.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Functional communication, Multiple schedule, Resurgence
Target Audience:

Practitioners and researchers studying and implementing functional communication training.


Transferring Stimulus Control to Naturally Occurring Stimuli During Functional Communication Training

TARA HAYS (Children's Hospital Colorado ), Patrick Romani (University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus)

Therapist-arranged stimuli (e.g., red/green cards) during functional communication training (FCT) conducted within a multiple schedules design can call unnecessary attention to the individual and the stimuli can be lost or forgotten. To address these limitations, the current study evaluated stimulus fading to transfer stimulus control from therapist-arranged to naturally occurring stimuli during FCT. First, we demonstrated stimulus control using a therapist-arranged discriminative stimulus and S-Delta for two children engaging in problem behavior to access attention. Next, within a multiple baseline across contexts design, we gradually reduced the size of the therapist-arranged stimuli in the context of (a) an adult on their phone and (b) an adult looking through cabinets. The size of the cards were reduced until they were eliminated. By gradually decreasing the size of the therapist-arranged stimuli, we transferred treatment effects (i.e., decreased problem behavior, appropriate communication) to naturally occurring stimuli. These data will be discussed in terms of increasing the acceptability and effectiveness of FCT procedures.

Evaluation of an Omnibus Functional Communication Response in the Treatment of Multiply Controlled Destructive Behavior
ALEXANDRA HARDEE (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Daniel R. Mitteer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Adam M. Briggs (Eastern Michigan University), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Abstract: Functional communication training (FCT) is a commonly used and effective treatment for socially reinforced destructive behavior. However, when a functional analysis suggests that destructive behavior is multiply controlled (e.g., by attention, tangibles, and escape), teaching and evaluating separate functional communication responses (FCRs) can be time-consuming or only partially effective when failing to address all establishing operations simultaneously. We evaluated the use of an omnibus FCR that produced access to attention, tangibles, and escape within each functional-analysis test condition for two boys with autism spectrum disorder who displayed multiply controlled destructive behavior. The omnibus-FCR treatment resulted in low rates of destructive behavior and high percentages of independent FCRs within each antecedent condition for both children. We then collaborated with each child’s caregivers to develop an FCT-based intervention that accounted for changes in each reinforcer’s availability (e.g., using a conditional multiple schedule, teaching precise FCRs). Our data suggest that using an omnibus FCR can teach communication skills and reduce destructive behavior quickly prior to introducing other treatment components.
Using Progressive-Ratio Schedules to Improve the Efficacy of Functional Communication Training
NICOLE M. DEROSA (SUNY Upstate Medical University), William Sullivan (Upstate Medical University), Jacqueline DeBartelo (Student at Kaplan Universtiy), Henry S. Roane (Upstate Medical University)
Abstract: Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a commonly used reinforcement-based intervention for challenging behavior. Although the majority of FCT research has focused on response-specific variables (i.e., effort) that affect outcomes, additional procedural variables have received increased attention. For example, invariant responding under single-operant arrangements may affect maintenance of therapeutic outcomes during FCT when treatment challenges are introduced (i.e., schedule thinning). Furthermore, researchers have evaluated the presence and impact of treatment relapse (i.e., resurgence) during FCT generalization. The purpose of the current study was threefold. First, we assessed participants’ proficiency and preference across functionally equivalent communication responses. Next, we evaluated the effects of progressive-ratio (PR) schedules of reinforcement, under a concurrent-operant arrangement on varied communication and maintenance of clinically significant reductions in challenging behavior. Finally, we examined the effects of introducing multiple communication responses during FCT on resurgence of challenging behavior during treatment challenges. Clinical implications and areas of future research will be discussed.
Further Evaluations of the Effects of Mand Topography Proficiency on Persistence of Communication and Resurgence of Problem Behavior
CAYENNE SHPALL (Student), Terry S. Falcomata (The University of Texas at Austin), Andrea Ramirez-Cristoforo (The University of Texas at Austin ), Fabiola Vargas Londoño (University of Texas at Austin)
Abstract: interventions for problem behavior. One element that has been shown to impact treatment outcomes relating to FCT is the proficiency with which individuals can utilize individual mand topographies that are targeted during the treatment. Ringdahl et al. (2009) found that higher proficiency resulted in better outcomes during FCT relative to low proficiency mands. Despite the demonstrated robustness of FCT as a treatment for problem behavior, recent studies have also shown resurgence of problem behavior can ensue during FCT when challenges to the treatment occur. We evaluated the effects of mand proficiency on resurgence of problem behavior during FCT. First, we conducted a mand proficiency assessment (MPA) with children who engaged in problem behavior. Based on the results of the MPA, FCT was implemented with high and low-proficiency mand topographies. Next, we evaluated resurgence (i.e extinction of mands and challenging behavior) across the two-mand topographies as well as persistence of engagement in the respective mands. Resurgence of problem behavior was similar across conditions; however greater persistence in high proficiency mands was observed during extinction phases relative to low proficiency mands. Potential clinical implications of the results will be discussed.



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