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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #401
CE Offered: BACB
Functional Communication Training
Monday, May 28, 2018
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Grand Hall C
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Katie Lichtblau (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Discussant: Jeffrey H. Tiger (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
CE Instructor: Jeffrey H. Tiger, M.A.

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is an effective treatment for reducing problem behavior and increasing communication responses. This symposium explores various aspects of FCT in the treatment of problem behavior (i.e., reinforcement schedule thinning, client preference, multiple schedules), while highlighting advantages and limitations. Presentations will focus on a) client preferences of schedule thinning procedures, b) the clinical utility of treatment chaining, c) variables contributing to discriminated responding within multiple schedules, and d) prevalence of resurgence during reinforcement schedule thinning. The discussant will provide a synthesis of research findings and discuss implications for clinical practice and future research.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): autism, functional communication, multiple schedules, resurgence
Target Audience:

Practitioners treating severe behavior disorders

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe how to assess client preference of different schedule thinning arrangements (e.g., chained vs. multiple schedules) ; (2) state the prevalence and magnitude of resurgence during reinforcement schedule thinning; and (3) describe the advantages and limitations of using differential reinforcement of compliance versus functional communication training to treat escape-maintained problem behavior.

An Evaluation of the Variables Controlling Responding Within Multiple Schedule Arrangements

ELIANA MARIA PIZARRO (University of Florida)

One limitation of functional communication training (FCT) is that although problem behavior has decreased, the functional communication response (FCR) might be emitted at exceedingly high rates (Betz et al., 2013). One potential solution to this problem is establishing stimulus control of the FCR through a multiple schedule. However, several studies have demonstrated difficulty with establishing discriminated responding across multiple schedule components (Saini, Miller, & Fisher, 2016). It is unclear if the production of discriminated responding within a multiple schedule is due to the programmed stimuli, or if some other variable is responsible for the development of stimulus control. The current study seeks to evaluate the controlling variables within a multiple schedule arrangement. More specifically, if programmed stimuli, contingencies, or therapist behavior is responsible for the development of stimulus control with 3 participants with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A pre-assessment was used to determine the verbal repertoire of all participants and results provide preliminary evidence that some level of prerequisite skill might be necessary to establish discriminated responding in the context of a multiple schedule.

The Clinical Utility of Treatment Chaining: Differential Reinforcement of Compliance and Functional Communication Training
WILLIAM SULLIVAN (Upstate Medical University), Nicole M. DeRosa (SUNY Upstate Medical University), Henry S. Roane (Upstate Medical University)
Abstract: Differential reinforcement of compliance (DRC) and functional communication training (FCT) are two effective procedures for reducing escape-maintained challenging behavior. However, there are limitations with both procedures (i.e., a lack of functional communication [DRC] or compliance [FCT]). The current study, based on Lalli, Casey, and Kates (1995), evaluated the effects of chaining DRC to FCT in three children that engaged in multiply maintained challenging behavior (i.e., escape-to-tangible). The present study consisted of four phases: (1) a concurrent treatment preference assessment, (2) a multielement comparison of DRC vs. FCT, (3) a treatment chaining analysis in which compliance produced access to FCT under a multiple schedule arrangement, and (4) demand fading. Each child preferred FCT, and FCT produced greater reductions in challenging behavior over DRC. However, during FCT none of the children complied with task demands. Thus, we chained the procedures and observed increases in compliance while reductions in challenging behavior maintained. Finally, we conducted demand fading in which the requirement for compliance systematically increased before the FCT component of the multiple schedule was presented. Overall, reductions in challenging behavior and elevated levels of compliance maintained throughout fading. The clinical utility of chaining DRC to FCT will be discussed.

Prevalence of Resurgence of Destructive Behavior When Thinning Reinforcement Schedules During Functional Communication Training

ADAM M. BRIGGS (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute), Ryan Kimball (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute)

Functional communication training is a well-established treatment for socially reinforced problem behavior that typically includes differential reinforcement of the functional communication response (FCR) in combination with extinction of problem behavior. However, when the schedule of reinforcement for the FCR is thinned, problem behavior may resurge. Currently, data are unavailable on the prevalence and characteristics of resurgence during reinforcement schedule thinning. In this study, we examined previously published data (i.e., Greer, Fisher, Saini, Owen, & Jones, 2016) and evaluated the prevalence of resurgence during reinforcement schedule thinning on a per-case and per-schedule-step basis. We identified resurgence in 19 of the 25 (76%) applications of reinforcement schedule thinning. In addition, we determined the magnitude of resurgence in relation to the functions of destructive behavior. In some cases, the magnitude of resurgence exceeded the mean levels of destructive behavior observed in baseline. We discuss these results relative to prior translational and applied research on resurgence.


Systematic Changes in Preference for Schedule-Thinning Arrangements as a Function of Relative Reinforcement Density

JESSICA AKERS (Baylor University), Adam M. Briggs (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Billie Retzlaff (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)

We treated destructive behavior maintained by both social-positive (i.e., access to tangibles) and social-negative (i.e., escape from demands) reinforcement in an individual diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder using functional communication training (FCT). We then thinned the schedule of reinforcement for the tangible function using a multiple schedule (mult FCT) and later thinned the availability of escape using a chained schedule (chain FCT). Both treatments proved effective at maintaining functional communicative responses while decreasing destructive behavior to near-zero levels. In addition, treatment effects maintained when we rapidly thinned mult FCT to the terminal schedule. Throughout chain-FCT schedule thinning, we assessed client preference for each schedule-thinning arrangement (mult FCT or chain FCT) using a concurrent-chains procedure. Client preference reliably shifted from chain FCT to mult FCT as the response requirement increased and the proportion of session spent in reinforcement began to favor mult FCT. We discuss the clinical implications of these findings.




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