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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #468
CE Offered: BACB
Advances in Functional Communication Training
Monday, May 31, 2021
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jeffrey H. Tiger (Marquette University)
Discussant: Wayne W. Fisher (Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School)
CE Instructor: Wayne W. Fisher, Ph.D.

Functional communication training is the most empirically supported intervention for the severe problem behavior exhibited by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Despite this strong research base, the translation from the highly controlled clinical settings in which the process has been described to more normative environments has been imperfect. This group of researchers presents work addressing the challenges of this transition including the use of antecedent strategies, the programming of procedures to support delay tolerance, and in the transition from motor to vocal alternative responses.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): FCT, Function-based intervention, Functional assessment
Target Audience:

Practicing BCBAs who work with individuals displaying severe problem behavior.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to (1) identify antecedent strategies to reduce problem behavior during FCT; (2) describe fading steps to transition from motor to vocal functional communication responses; an 3) manipulate reinforcement schedule and delay characteristics to promote resilience to errors of omission in the normative environment.

Sustaining Behavior Reduction by Transitioning the Topography of the Functional Communication Response During Functional Communication Training

KAYLA RECHELLE RANDALL (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Brian D. Greer (Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School), Ryan Kimball (University of Saint Joseph), Sean Smith (University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Research on functional communication training (FCT) has shown that when behavior analysts select a functional communication response (FCR) they can physically guide (e.g., card touch), rates of destructive behavior are generally lower than had they selected a vocal FCR because the former approach minimizes exposure to the establishing operation for destructive behavior (DeRosa, Fisher, & Steege, 2015; Fisher et al., 2018). However, interventions that include alternative response materials require the continued availability of those materials for the FCR. When intervention materials go missing, destructive behavior may recur more quickly or at higher rates than had those materials remained in place, yet become inoperative (e.g., Kimball, Kelley, Podlesnik, Forton, & Hinkle, 2018). Therefore, it may be ideal to initially train individuals to use an FCR that can be physically guided but later transition that communication response to a topography (e.g., vocal FCR) that cannot be lost. We evaluated this possibility in a translational study. In Experiment 1, we compared rates of target behavior during FCT when the card-based FCR was removed to rates during FCT when the vocal FCR was placed on extinction. In Experiment 2, we evaluated a potential solution by systematically transitioning a card-based FCR to a vocal FCR.

Incorporating Antecedent Strategies in Functional Communication Training for Problem Behavior Maintained by Social Avoidance
SARAH SLOCUM (Marcus Autism Center and Emory School of Medicine), Mindy Christine Scheithauer (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: We initially implemented standard functional communication training (FCT) to treat problem behavior maintained by social avoidance. After a reversal, we embedded a multiple schedule in which the subject had to tolerate periods of time in which requests to be left alone would not be reinforced. As we increased the s-delta interval in the multiple schedule, the intervention fell apart. We were not even able to re-capture therapeutic treatment effects under a fixed-ratio 1 schedule of reinforcement. Subsequently, we conducted the same intervention first evaluating FCT followed by an embedded multiple schedule; however, we also included some antecedent strategies such as pairing and fading the averseness of social intervention from the beginning of our treatment evaluation to increase tolerance. The implications of embedding additional antecedent strategies in the treatment of social-negative functions for problem behavior will be discussed.

Providing Noncontingent, Alternative, Functional Reinforcers During Delays Following Functional Communication Training

MARGARET RACHEL GIFFORD (Marquette University), Meagan E Sumter (BlueSprig Pediatrics), Jeffrey H. Tiger (Marquette University), Hannah Effertz (Marquette University), Caitlin Fulton (University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Functional Communication Training (FCT) involves arranging extinction for problem behavior and reinforcement for a more desirable, functionally equivalent, communicative response (FCR). Although effective under ideal arrangements, the introduction of delays to reinforcement following the FCR can result in increased problem behavior. Austin and Tiger (2015) showed that for individuals whose problem behavior was sensitive to multiple sources of reinforcement, providing access to alternative, functional reinforcers during delays mitigated this increase in problem behavior during delay fading. The current study replicated the procedures of Austin and Tiger with two individuals displaying multiply controlled problem behavior. Providing alternative functional reinforcers reduced problem behavior during 10- min delays for both participants without requiring delay fading.

Using Progressive Ratio Schedules to Inoculate Against Commission Errors: A Proof of Concept
MICHAEL P. KRANAK (Oakland University), ALEXANDER Rodolfo AREVALO (Kennedy Krieger Institute ), Théo Paul Robinson (Florida Institute of Technology), Griffin Rooker (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Functional communication training (FCT) is an effective behavioral intervention for problem behavior that involves identifying the reinforcers maintaining problem behavior and rearranging behavioral contingencies such that reinforcement is delivered following a new communicative response (the FCR) instead of following problem behavior. Over the course of implementation, it is likely that FCT will experience treatment challenges. Those challenges can result in degraded treatment integrity, potential relapse of problem behavior, and subsequent treatment collapse. Some strategies have been designed to inoculate against several treatment challenges. However, no strategies have been designed to inoculate FCT specifically against commission errors (i.e., reinforcing problem behavior rather than the FCR). Using a human-operant arrangement, we evaluated a novel FCT modification that paired a distinct stimulus with a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement for the proxy problem behavior prior to exposing individuals to commission error challenges. Results indicated that proxy problem behavior was less likely to reemerge in the presence of the progressive ratio stimulus when exposed to commission errors compared to its absence. Implications for practice and future research will be discussed.



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