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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #329
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Advancements in Functional Communication Training
Monday, May 25, 2015
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Grand Ballroom C1 (CC)
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Discussant: Linda A. LeBlanc (Trumpet Behavioral Health)
CE Instructor: Brian D. Greer, Ph.D.

Functional communication training (FCT) is a differential-reinforcement procedure that involves the delivery of the reinforcer maintaining problem behavior contingent on an alternative communication response. Tiger, Hanley, and Bruzek (2008) found FCT to be the most commonly prescribed function-based treatment for problem behavior. As a result, a large portion of the literature on the assessment and treatment of problem behavior surrounds techniques to improve FCT. This symposium was designed to showcase some of the recent advancements in FCT. Kelley and colleagues investigated how noncontingent reinforcement disrupts both response acquisition and maintenance during FCT. Mitteer and colleagues evaluated a pre-assessment that predicts performance under two types of FCT schedule-thinning procedures. Ghaemmaghami and colleagues compared two approaches for programming delays to reinforcement during FCT schedule thinning. Niebauer and colleagues examined the role of stimulus control in mitigating the resurgence of problem behavior during extinction. The overall theme and implications of these studies will be discussed and summarized by Dr. Linda LeBlanc.


Response-Independent Reinforcer Delivery Competes with Response Acquisition and Maintenance

MICHAEL E. KELLEY (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment and Florida Institute of Technology), Cy Nadler (Division of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences ), Catalina Rey (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment and Florida Institute of Technology), Sarah J. Cowie (University of Auckland), Christopher A. Podlesnik (Florida Institute of Technology)

Response-independent reinforcer delivery (in the form of noncontingent reinforcement; NCR) is a procedure commonly used to decrease levels of problem behavior. As a primary effect of this intervention, response-independent reinforcer delivery abolishes motivation, abates responding, and weakens the functional relation between behavior and consequences. Secondary effects may be undesirable in some cases. For example, some studies (Goh, Iwata, & DeLeon; 2000; Marcus & Vollmer, 1996) showed that response-independent reinforcer delivery treated problem behavior but also might compete with acquisition of an alternative response. In the current study, we extended previous research by (a) showing that response-independent reinforcer delivery competes with both response acquisition and maintenance and (b) extending the generality of the findings by including both basic and applied arrangements.


An Assessment to Inform Selection of Multiple-Schedule or Response-Restriction Treatments During Functional Communication Training

DANIEL R. MITTEER (University of Nebraska Medical Center Munroe-Meyer Institute), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute)

Fisher, Greer, Querim, and DeRosa (2014) found that when functional communication training included multiple schedules of reinforcement (mult FCT), individuals who were unable to discriminate between the multiple-schedule components engaged in exceedingly high rates of the functional communication response. Response-restriction (RR) procedures were later shown to prevent this problem while maintaining low rates of problem behavior. In the current investigation, we evaluated three childrens successive- and simultaneous-discrimination abilities prior to evaluating Mult FCT or RR FCT. For one child, we conducted Mult FCT and RR FCT concurrently, albeit in separate contexts, and found the assessment accurately predicted the childs discrimination performance during each treatment. For the other children, we used the discrimination-test results to guide the selection of RR FCT to quickly teach the simultaneous discrimination and reduce problem behavior to near-zero levels. Results are discussed in terms of how selecting treatments matched to each individuals skills may be advantageous when evaluating treatments for problem behavior.

Efficacy of Contingency-Based Delay Tolerance Training and Preference for Predictable Versus Unpredictable Delays
MAHSHID GHAEMMAGHAMI (Western New England University), Gregory P. Hanley (Western New England University), Joshua Jessel (Western New England University)
Abstract: The effectiveness of treatments for problem behavior, like functional communication training (FCT), depends on the extent to which the treatment can be successfully extended to typical environments that include unavoidable and unpredictable reinforcement delays. Time-based delay (TBD) often result in loss of acquired communication responses and a re-emergence of problem behavior, whereas contingency-based delay (CBD) appears effective for increasing tolerance for delayed reinforcement (Hanley, Jin, Vanselow, & Hanratty, 2014). No direct comparison of TBD and CBD has been conducted, however. We first compared the relative efficacy of TBD and CBD across progressively longer delays using probabilistic reinforcement. Four individuals who engaged in a range of problem behaviors (e.g., aggression, vocal and motor disruptions, self-injury) participated. Lower rates of problem behavior and emotional responding were observed during CBD than TBD. We then evaluated the efficacy of, and participants’ preference for, predictable versus unpredictable CBD. Results from one participant showed that both predictable and unpredictable CBD were highly effective at maintaining optimal rates of communication, low rates of problem behavior, and high rates of compliance during delay. Unpredictable CBD, however, was preferred to predictable CBD and a control condition.

Improving Functional Communication Training by Mitigating the Resurgence of Problem Behavior

ASHLEY NIEBAUER (University of Nebraska Medical Center Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)

Despite being proven successful as a treatment for reducing problem behavior, functional communication training (FCT) does not address what happens to problem behavior during times in which functional communication responses go unreinforced. Previous research has shown that periods of extinction following FCT produce resurgence of problem behavior (Mace, et al., 2010; Volkert, Lerman, Call, & Trosclair-Lasserre, 2009), and such periods of extinction are likely when caregivers implement FCT. The current study evaluated whether establishing strict discriminative control over the FCR with the use of a multiple schedule mitigates the resurgence of problem behavior. With three children who engaged in problem behavior, the effects of a multiple-schedule FCT intervention was evaluated when discriminative stimuli were present or absent during a rigorous extinction challenge developed from Nevin and Shahans (2011) Equation 7 of behavioral momentum theory. Results for one child are compared to rates of problem behavior predicted by Nevin and Shahans (2011) Equation 7. Results are discussed in terms of how stimulus control can offset resurgence of problem behavior during periods of extinction.




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