An Errorless Approach to Management of Child Noncompliance in a Special Education Setting

By Ducharme, Joseph M.; DiAdamo, Carolyn | School Psychology Review, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview
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An Errorless Approach to Management of Child Noncompliance in a Special Education Setting

Ducharme, Joseph M., DiAdamo, Carolyn, School Psychology Review

Abstract. Many commonly employed strategies used by teachers to manage noncompliance and problem behavior in the classroom focus on suppression of problem responses through reductive consequences. Errorless compliance training was developed to provide a nonaversive alternative to reducing child noncompliance and has been demonstrated effective as a home-based intervention approach for parents. In the present study, the effectiveness of errorless compliance training as a classroom approach in a special education setting was investigated. A graduate student implemented the intervention with two 5-year-old girls with Down syndrome, who demonstrated severe noncompliance to teacher requests. The intervention was associated with substantial increases in child compliance in the classroom.


The prevalence of problem behavior in children with developmental disabilities is higher than in typically developing children. Baker, Blacher, Crnic, and Edelbrock (2002) and Baker et al. (2003) found that parents of children with developmental delays were at least three times more likely to score their child in the clinical range of the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach, 1991) than parents of children in a nondelayed control group. Children with Down syndrome may also pose serious management concerns. Coe et al. (1999) found that mothers and teachers reported more behavior problems, including noncompliance, in children with Down syndrome than in control children. In a study by Cuskelly and Dadds (1992), parents' and teachers' reports of child problem behavior were significantly higher for children with Down syndrome than for their siblings.

A wide range of procedures has been used in attempts to manage problem behavior in the classroom. Researchers have noted that many teachers focus on aversive measures to suppress or control behavior rather than on more positive approaches (Mayer, 2001). Teacher disapproval, reprimands, and exclusion are some of the most frequently employed strategies for classroom management (Bacon, 1990; Turner & Watson, 1999). Notwithstanding their widespread use in classrooms, and some evidence of their effectiveness (e.g., Rosen, O'Leary, Joyce, Conway, & Pfiffner, 1984), such procedures have the potential to exacerbate rather than reduce problem responses (Mayer, 2001)

In recent years, clinical researchers have made large strides in development of more positive strategies that can produce substantial improvements in prosocial behavior and quality of life (e.g., Carr et al., 2002). Similarly, many educational researchers now focus on and recommend proactive and nonaversive approaches to management of children with school-based behavioral difficulties (e.g., Metzler, Biglan, Rusby, & Sprague, 2001; Safran & Oswald, 2003; Sugai & Horner, 2002).

Compliance training is a commonly recommended strategy for managing conduct difficulties (Barkley, 1997; Forehand & McMahon, 1981). One reason for this is the nature of compliance as a keystone behavior; that is, improvements in child compliance often correlate with improvements in other behaviors (Ducharme & Popynick, 1993; Parrish, Cataldo, Kolko, Neef, & Egel, 1986). Most compliance training packages comprise several components, including parent training in request delivery, reinforcement of compliant responses, and use of a consequence for noncompliance (typically timeout).

Errorless compliance training (e.g., Ducharme, Atkinson, & Poulton, 2000; Ducharme & Drain, 2004) was developed as a nonaversive alternative to traditional compliance training. The approach derives from research on errorless teaching strategies (e.g., Touchette, 1968). With errorless teaching, difficult discriminations are simplified through the use of prompts that are gradually faded at a rate slow enough to ensure that few errors occur during training. Eventually, the learner responds correctly to discriminations that presented problems prior to teaching.

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An Errorless Approach to Management of Child Noncompliance in a Special Education Setting


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