Purpose of Study

This study is designed to extend the current parent training literature to examine if stimulus equivalence instructional technology demonstrates greater effectiveness and/or efficiency in teaching verbal relations between environmental events and problem behavior.  Specifically, can verbal relational classes be formed between the following stimuli: (A) labels of social functions of problem behavior (e.g. attention, escape, access to tangibles); (B) descriptions of antecedents to problem behavior; (C) descriptions of consequences to problem behavior; and (D) vignettes describing both antecedents and consequences to problem behavior and (E) function-based responses.  In addition, video probes will be utilized to determine if selection-based responding during match to sample training generalizes to selecting antecedents, consequences, and function-based responses. Pre-and post-test measures will also examine if topographical responding (written answers) develop from the selection-based training.

Research questions

Can the use of match to sample training lead to relational class merger between functions of problem behaviors, antecedent events, consequence events, and function-based responses in caregivers of children with Autism or a developmental disorder?  Can these relational classes generalize from selection-based instruction to topographical responding in written open-ended test questions? Can the stimulus equivalence instruction demonstrate the untrained symmetrical and transitive relations of this five-member stimulus class?

Stimulus Equivalence

Equivalence is demonstrated when relations are taught between stimuli and untrained relations emerge.  These equivalence relations are represented when reflexive (A=A); symmetrical (A=B then B=A); and transitive (A=B; B=C then A=C) relations form.  Stimulus equivalence provides an explanation as to how stimuli can be grouped together into equivalence networks. Then a new stimulus (X) that is trained to equate to one of the stimuli (A) already in the network, will be equal in evoking responding in relation to all of the stimuli that have equivalence with stimulus (A).  Stimulus equivalence technologies have arisen in the research literature to capitalize on the ability to equate and learn relations that are not directly trained.

Expectations

It is expected that the implementation of the stimulus equivalence instructional sequence will lead to an improvement in the post-test scores in comparison to the pre-test as well as a continued improvement in the identification of the antecedents, consequences, and function-based response to problem behavior during the video probes.  In addition, it is expected that the untrained symmetrical and transitive relations will be demonstrated by the participants after they go through the training and multiple exemplar training phases.

Long-term expectations for this experiment are that it serves as initial evidence that a computer-based SE instructional sequence can be valuable in parent training.  Finding economical and logistically feasible parent training methods is highly valuable since these services are most often not covered by insurance coverage. The use of SE instruction could provide a highly valuable teaching tool for the treatment of children with ASD/DD that display problem behavior.  If parents could be more efficiently taught the relations between antecedent events, consequence events, and the function of problem behavior they will be more capable of participating in treatment. Specifically, if these verbal relations form a stimulus class, then the verbal stimuli could serve as prompts at the moment when the child is engaging in a problem behavior.  For example, if a parent is watching a child engage in problem behavior and starts describing the antecedent of a demand that has just been placed, that behavior may evoke describing the behavior as an escape function. Thus, an additional component of this training sequence could be training function-based responses that are prompted by this initial verbal relational class.

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