The effects of motivating operations on challenging behavior, communication intervention, and generalization

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Davis, Tonya Nichole, 1979-

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Communication is an integral part of life that allows for independence. It is common for individuals with disabilities to have deficits in communication, which often coincide with an increased presence of challenging behavior. One successful method of addressing this issue is the use of functional analysis to determine the function of challenging behavior. Next, functional communication training is used to teach the individual an a socially-appropriate and functionally-equivalent method of communication so that he/she no longer relies on challenging behavior in order to get his/her needs met. While functional communication training has proven to be a helpful procedure, it has been noted that it should be combined with other procedures for maximum efficiency. Additionally, very little research has targeted the generalization of skills acquired via functional communication training, although, research clearly identifies that generalization of skills as an area of difficulty among individuals with developmental disabilities. One possibility of improving both the intervention and the generalization of skills is the use of motivating operations. Motivating operations are any environmental change that alters the value of a reinforcer. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to assess the effects of potential motivating operations on functional communication training and generalization of newly acquired skills across four participants. This was accomplished by conducting functional analyses on each participant. The maintaining condition was repeated with pre-session conditions of either no access to the reinforcer or satiation with the reinforcer to identify motivating operations. These pre-session conditions, which were identified as motivating operations, were then implemented prior to functional communication training sessions, in the effect of no prior access to the reinforcer or 15 minutes of prior access to the reinforcer. This was again repeated with four different generalization assessments. Several patterns of behaviors resulted. First, functional communication training was improved for two participants when prior access to the reinforcer was implemented. Second, approximately half of the generalization assessments also showed improved responding when the participant had prior access to the reinforcer. Also, prior access to the reinforcer rarely impaired intervention or generalization. The results, limitations, and further research are discussed.