Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Developing Functional Requesting: Acquisition, Durability, and Generalization of Effects

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Developing Functional Requesting: Acquisition, Durability, and Generalization of Effects

Article excerpt

People with disabilities often have difficulty communicating their needs in everyday life situations. Developing a functional requesting skill allows these people to access relevant events, actions, and objects, when they want to. The requesting response need not be vocal for communication to occur (Cipani, 1988a; Cipani et al., 1988; McCook, Cipani, Madigan, & La-Campagne, 1988).

Specific requesting skills can be developed within natural context situations in the home or school, with a training program called the missing-item format (Cipani, 1988b; Magpusao & Cipani, 1989). Using the missing-item format, the teacher develops a chain of behaviors involved in a given task. Then, an item, action, or object from the task is removed before the child engages in that task, thus setting up the opportunity for the child to request that item, action, or object (Carroll & Hesse, 1987; Magpusao & Cipani, 1989).

Although much is known about the procedures found effective in developing a requesting repertoire (Carroll & Hesse, 1987; Cipani, 1988a; Sundberg, 1983), several issues have not been addressed in previous research. For example, the primary method of developing requesting skills is to use a training format involving face-to-face orientation and close proximity to the child (Charlop, Schreibman, & Thibodeau, 1985; Gobbi, Cipani, Hudson, & Lapenta, 1986). Previous research has not studied whether children who are taught to request in a face-to-face orientation, would also make a request when an adult mediator is not in close proximity (Halle, Marshall, & Spradlin, 1979). A previous study indicates that an additional, "attention-getting behavior" may need to be developed before the child is able to seek out a mediator when one is not in the immediate vicinity (Cipani, 1990).

There are some additional generalization issues that have not been completely addressed in previous research which require empirical study. The generality of requesting skills across different tasks, people, and items within the task has not been systematically studied within a single investigation.

Another issue needing further empirical verification is an analysis of the durability of the request response. One measure of durability would be to assess the degree to which a request maintains across time. Another important measure of durability with requesting behavior is to determine if a request would occur repeatedly if it were not initially and immediately reinforced. For example, would children (who are taught to request) persist in requesting if the particular item requested is not provided, or if the wrong item is given (e.g., adult did not "understand" initial request)? Yamamoto and Mochizuki (1988) addressed this potential situation with students who have autism. The results obtained indicated that the training program taught the students to vocally refuse the incorrect item. In light of one investigation, additional replications are needed to determine the external validity of this finding.

Additionally, training should develop a request that continues until the motivational condition (the need or want) is satisfied. For example, if a child is not given enough of an item/activity following a request, would repeated requests occur until the child has "had enough"? McCook et al., (1988) assessed the client's ability to emit repeated requests and found that some adults with mental retardation would generate additional requests if they wanted more to drink. Again, further empirical verification of this phenomenon related to response durability is needed.

The following study was designed to address the following issues: (a) to determine the effectiveness of the missing-item assessment and training program format on requesting during a snack-time setting; (b) to determine the effectiveness with which the program produces a generalized effects across time (maintenance), different setting events in the classroom (work and toothbrushing tasks), different (novel) adults, and different proximities of adult to child; and (c) to determine the effectiveness of the program to produce other measures of generlized change after intervention (postintervention measures). …

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