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Educational research

Educational Research

Single-Subject Critique

Establishing Discriminative Control of Responding Using Functional and Alternative Reinforcers During Functional Communication Training

Wayne W. Fisher, David E. Kuhn, and Rachel H. Thompson

Appropriateness of research question or purpose:

The purpose of this research was interesting and of value as it focused on problems that often occur when Functional Communication Training (FCT) is in use. This study sought to find effective solutions as desired ". . .response[s] may be weakened and destructive behavior[s] may reemerge . . ." when reinforcements of communication are delayed or denied due to impossibility or inconvenience of the caregiver or instructors ability to provide said reinforcement in a timely manner. ". . .procedures are needed to increase the effectiveness of FCT in situations in which it is impractical or impossible to deliver a given reinforcer."

Research design and design rationale:

This study was broken up into 4 phases (the fourth phase ". . .was completed with only 1 participant in only one condition because of time limitations on the participants’ hospital admission.") Phase 1: Functional Analyses and Descriptive Assessments. Alternating treatment with no baseline design. "During this analysis, a test condition . . .and a control condition were compared using a multi-element design." Phase 2: Communication and Discrimination Training. Phase 3: Treatment Evaluation of FCT with Discriminative Stimuli. Between series, alternating treatment (ABAB) design was used to compare FCT + EXT vs. ACT + EXT in two conditions for one participant (Amy) and in one condition for one participant (Ned). Phase 4: Independent Effects of FCT and EXT. Between series, alternating treatment and a final treatment design was used to compare FCT/ACT (w/o EXT) vs. EXT alone with the final series being strictly FCT/ACT (w/o EXT).

The order of presentation for Amy’s discrimination training were ". . .stimulus-present and stimulus-absent periods [that] were alternated every 30 s for the duration of the 10-min session. For Ned, ". . .one SD at a time was presented for 1 min. The order of the first three SD presentations in a given session was randomized, without replacement; thereafter, the order remained constant."

Phase 1 was "conducted to test the hypotheses generated by the results of. . .descriptive assessments. . .to determine whether . . .destructive behavior was multiply maintained by both attention and access to tangible items, but under specific stimulus conditions [for Amy]. . .[and whether] destructive behavior was maintained by . . .attention [for Ned]," therefore this specific phase of the test did not require a baseline. Once these results were established, and training had incurred, the rationale for design for Phases 3 and 4 were to show contrast between the various interventions.

Overall study limitations:

I think this study covered it’s bases well and the only limitation I can rightly see is one that is prone to single-subject research, that is, the use of only two participants. It would have strengthened this study further too if the researchers had been able to complete the final Phase 4 on both of the participants.

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