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J Appl Behav Anal. 1985 Summer; 18(2): 111–126.
PMCID: PMC1307999

Reducing behavior problems through functional communication training.

Abstract

It is generally agreed that serious misbehavior in children should be replaced with socially appropriate behaviors, but few guidelines exist with respect to choosing replacement behaviors. We address this issue in two experiments. In Experiment 1, we developed an assessment method for identifying situations in which behavior problems, including aggression, tantrums, and self-injury, were most likely to occur. Results demonstrated that both low level of adult attention and high level of task difficulty were discriminative for misbehavior. In Experiment 2, the assessment data were used to select replacements for misbehavior. Specifically, children were taught to solicit attention or assistance or both verbally from adults. This treatment, which involved the differential reinforcement of functional communication, produced replicable suppression of behavior problems across four developmentally disabled children. The results were consistent with an hypothesis stating that some child behavior problems may be viewed as a nonverbal means of communication. According to this hypothesis, behavior problems and verbal communicative acts, though differing in form, may be equivalent in function. Therefore, strengthening the latter should weaken the former.

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