Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Analysis of Mand Selection across Different Stimulus Conditions

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Analysis of Mand Selection across Different Stimulus Conditions

Article excerpt

Abstract

We conducted a three-phase study to evaluate the use of mands and the occurrence of problem behavior for 2 children with developmental disabilities. During Phase 1, a functional analysis identified the variables maintaining problem behavior. During Phase 2, functional communication training was implemented within a concurrent schedules design. The children were reinforced for using either a novel mand (communication card) or other existing mands (vocal speech, manual signs) that were not specifically trained but were observed to be part of the children's existing repertoire. We then conducted an assessment of mands and problem behavior across different stimulus conditions (card absent, card present) within an ABAB design (Phase 3). Results showed that during Phase 2, problem behavior decreased and participants used the card more frequently than they used other existing mands. Phase 3 showed that problem behavior remained low across both stimulus conditions. When the card was absent, the children used other existing mands; when the card was present, they primarily used the card. These results suggested that the presence of a communication card may function as a discriminative stimulus for a specific topography of manding, but that training with the card did not inhibit the use of other mands when the card was absent.

DESCRIPTORS: functional analysis, functional communication training, discriminative stimulus, concurrent schedules, problem behavior, mands

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The success of functional communication training (FCT) as a treatment for individuals with developmental disabilities who display severe forms of problem behavior has been documented over the past two decades. Carr and Durand (1985) defined FCT as a reinforcement-based procedure designed to replace problem behavior with an appropriate communicative response (mand) that matched the hypothesized function (positive or negative reinforcement) of problem behavior. FCT consists of two steps: (a) The function of problem behavior is identified via a functional analysis (Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982/1994), and (b) the individual is taught a mand that produces the same reinforcement identified for problem behavior (Durand & Carr, 1985).

Since the publication of Carr and Durand (1985), studies on FCT have focused primarily on the dimensions of reinforcement (e.g., rate, effort, immediacy) provided for using appropriate mands instead of engaging in problem behavior (e.g., Fisher, Thompson, Hagopian, Bowman, & Krug, 2000; Hanley, Iwata, & Thomson, 2001; Horner & Day, 1991; Lerman, Kelley, Van Camp, & Roane, 2002). Much less is known about how to select the particular mand topography (e.g., mi-croswitch, picture, manual sign, or vocal speech) for FCT programs (Winborn, Wacker, Richman, Asmus, & Geier, 2002; Winborn-Kem-merer, Ringdahl, Wacker, & Kitsukawa, 2009).

Winborn et al. (2002) trained 2 preschool-aged children with developmental disabilities to use both novel and existing mands to gain access to negative reinforcement (escape from demands) and to reduce problem behavior within an FCT program. Following the separate training of each mand, a concurrent schedules design was used to evaluate mand preference. Results indicated that although both mand topographies were displayed independently following training, when they were available concurrently, the existing mand was chosen more often than the novel mand. However, the existing mand was correlated with increased rates of problem behavior. These results suggested that preference for the type of mand topography used during FCT programs may not always result in maximum treatment benefits and that the history of reinforcement associated with specific mand topographies may lead to differential treatment effects.

In a second study, Winborn-Kemmerer and colleagues (2009) used a concurrent schedules design to assess the role of preference for one of two novel mands. …

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