Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

High-Probability Requests and a Preferred Item as a Distractor: Increasing Successful Transitions in Children with Behavior Problems

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

High-Probability Requests and a Preferred Item as a Distractor: Increasing Successful Transitions in Children with Behavior Problems

Article excerpt

Abstract

The performance of successful transitions by young children can be a critical factor in the provision of inclusive educational services. This study compared the effects of two interventions (high-probability requests and preferred item as a distractor) on the success of classroom transitions of two young children with behavior problems. Additionally, this study examined the social validity for the two procedures through the use of questionnaires and direct observations of the interventionist maintenance in using the strategies. Results indicate that both interventions were effective in increasing successful transitions. Educational implications and measures of social validity are discussed.

With an increasing emphasis on inclusive educational services for children with disabilities, the degree of independence of a child becomes a critical factor (Carla, Atwater, Schwartz, & Miller, 1990; Sainato, 1990). One such skill in determining independence is the successful transitions both within school and within classroom routines. Additionally, multiple daily transitions occur from daycare to school, to afternoon daycare! latch key, and finally home (Ostrosky, Donegan, & Fowler, in press). Difficulties encountered during transitions may emanate from a multitude of functions that include (1) a desire to escape the approaching activity/setting, (2) a desire to reestablish the activity that has just been terminated, (3) a generalized escape response to the verbal instruction associated with transition regardless of the task preference, and (4) generalized reaction to noise/confusion and increased activity level during transitions. The magnitude of interruption to a classroom can only be fully realized whe n one considers that transitions may occur during 20 to 30% of the classroom time in the typical preschool/early elementary child's day (Carta et al., 1990; Sainato & Lyon, 1983).

Over the last ten years, researchers have developed a milieu of proactive strategies that focus on challenging behavior that occurs during transitions. Among these are high-probability requests and preferred items as a distractor. High-probability (high-p) request sequences have been used as an antecedent strategy to increase appropriate behavior during transition from playtime to instructional group time (Singer, Singer, & Homer, 1987), task attempts (Homer, Day, Sprague, O'Brien, & Heathfield, 1991), compliant responding (Davis, Brady, Williams, & Hamilton, 1992; Mace, Hock, Lam, West, Belfiore, Pinter, & Brown, 1988; Mace & Belfiore, 1990) and social interactions (Davis, Brady, Hamilton, McEvoy, & Williams, 1994; Davis & Reichle, 1996). Typically, during a high-probability request sequence, the interventionist delivers 3 to 5 easy requests to which a student has a history of responding (i.e., high-probability requests) immediately before the delivery of a request to which the student does not typically res pond (i.e., low-probability request). The results of previous studies have clearly demonstrated that high-probability requests can be an effective strategy for students who engage in escape-motivated challenging behavior. Several reasons for the effectiveness of high-probability request sequences have been offered. Singer, Singer, and Homer (1987) suggested that high-probability requests change the density of teacher-delivered positive requests for engagement. As a result, activity preferredness may change over time. Alternatively, Homer et al. (1991) propose that a history of compliance to positive requests may create sufficient opportunities to promote a more generalized class of instruction-following that includes less preferred activities. A third explanation offered by Mace and his colleagues (1988) involves the establishment of behavioral momentum. Nevin, Mandell, and Atak (1983) draw an analogy between physical momentum and a behavior's resistance to change. That is, by increasing a behavior's response rate (velocity) and the rate of reinforcement, a momentum of responding is established such that responding is less likely to be interrupted in the presence of a lower-probability request. …

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