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The Behavioral Classification of Language

Teaching Communication
According to Sundberg and Partington
(Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities)




Index
The Behavioral Classification of Language

Advantages of Picture Systems

Disadvantages of Picture Systems

Advantages of Sign Language

Disadvantages of Sign Language

Issues to Consider When Picking the First Words as Mands

Fading out the Verbal Prompt

Intraverbal Training

Contriving Establishing Operations

Types of Mands

Comparison of Discrete Trial Training and Natural Environment Training

A Comparison of Discrete Trial Training and Natural Environment Training Using Skinner's Elementary Verbal Operants

The Advantages of Discrete Trial Training

The Disadvantages of Discrete Trial Training

The Advantages of Natural Environment Training

The Disadvantages of Natural Environment Training

The Changing Emphasis of DTT and NET as the Child Learns Language

The Elements of a Language Based Environment

Educational Options Survey
The Behavioral Classification of Language
Receptive Following instructions or complying with the mands of others. A tendency to touch a-picture of a dog when askedto touch the dog.
Echoic Repeating what is heard. A tendency to say "dog" after someone else says "dog."
Imitation Copying someone's motor movements. A tendency to clap after someone else claps.
Tact Naming or identifying objects, actions, events, etc. A tendency to say "dog" because you see a dog.
Mand Asking for reinforcers that you want. A tendency to ask for a dog because you want one.
RFFC Identifying specific items when given some description (its features, function, or class) of the item
Intraverbal Answering questions or conversations where your words are controlled by other words. A tendency to say "dog" someone else says "Lassie."
Textual Reading written words. A tendency to say "dog" because you see the written word "dog."
Writing Writing and spelling words when spoken to you. A tendency to write "dog" because you hear it spoken.

Advantages of Picture Systems

  • The listener does not need special training because many of the pictures are easy to understand, and the English word typically accompanies the symbols or pictures
  • Simple matching-to-sample at first makes initial acquisition easier
  • No special shaping required for individual responses, scanning and pointing about the same for each picture.
  • May avoid negative emotional history involved with speech
  • Response is often already strong in the person's repertoire (i.e., pointing)

Disadvantages of Picture Systems

  • Requires environmental (auxiliary) support, must have the pictures available to communicate
  • There is no existing or natural verbal community that uses picture systems as a form of communication, limited ability to develop one
  • Cannot always emit the response when motivation and stimuli are strong in the natural environment
  • Pointer needs an audience close by
  • Picture systems constitute stimulus selection-based verbal behavior and may be more difficult to acquire
  • The response form involves a complex type of verbal behavior consisting of conditional discriminations (two stimuli to respond) and multiple component response--scan/point
  • Symbols and icons become increasingly abstract as the complexity of words increases
  • It take more training trials to teach abstract concepts
  • Typically there is no improvement in speech
  • Perhaps one of the most significant practical limitation with picture systems is that successful communication is dependent upon auxiliary equipment (or environmental support) such as a picture board. This requirement presents practical problems because, unlike speech and sign language, communication that is dependent on other

Advantages of Sign Language

  • Motor imitation may already be strong in the child's repertoire
  • The teachers can use, then fade, physical prompts to teach the sign
  • The stimulus and the response often resemble, but do not match each other (an iconic relation) providing a built in prompt
  • The deaf community constitutes a natural verbal community that uses sign language, thus materials and trainers are available
  • Signs are free from environmental (mechanical) support, like speech
  • Sign language constitutes a topography based language making it conceptually similar to speech
  • Signs may avoid a negative emotional history associated with speech
  • Sign language can improve speech
  • There is a single stimulus and single response relation, like speech

Disadvantages of Sign Language

  • Parents and teachers. must have special training in sign language
  • Parents and teachers need to use sign language when interacting with the child
  • Parents and teachers must shape (teach) each individual sign
  • Mand Training
  • All mands are controlled by establishing operations (EO)
  • There must be an EO at strength to conduct mand training
  • EOs vary in strength across time, and the effects may be momentary
  • EOs may have an instant or gradual onset
  • EOs must be either captured or contrived to conduct mand training
  • EOs can evoke nonverbal or verbal (mands) behaviors

Issues to Consider When Picking the First Words as Mands

  1. Select words that are for reinforcers (existing motivation), especially for those reinforcers that adults can easily control the access to, and have the ability to use the items as a reinforcer:
    • reinforcers that are consumable (e.g., food, drinks)
    • reinforcers that easily allow for short a duration of contact (e.g., bubbles, tickles)
    • reinforcers that are relatively easy to remove from the student, (e.g., music, video)
    • reinforcers that are easy to deliver (e.g., books, cars, dolls)
    • reinforcers that can be delivered on multiple occasions (e.g., small candies, sips of juice)
    • reinforcers that always seem strong (e.g., stim toy, outside)

    There may be many items that might be reinforcing, but are difficult to manage for training purposes such as car trips, board games, blocks, bike rides, long movies, walks, gum, hard candy, and a bowl of ice cream. These items can still be used as reinforcers, but perhaps for extremely high quality responding, or at the end of training sessions.

  2. Select words that are already familiar to the child as demonstrated by an existing receptive, echoic, or imitative skill. For example, when the parent says "Do you want to go outside," the child goes towards the door.
  3. For vocal children, select words that involve a relatively short and easy response for the child to make. For example, many speech sounds are easier to produce than others, such as "aa," "ba," "mm," and "da"; "la" and "rrr" may be much harder. Also, words should be selected that match the child existing echoic repertoire.
  4. For signing children, select words that are iconic, that is, the signs look like the objects that they stand for, as in the sign "book" looks like the action of opening a book, or the sign meat" looks like putting food in the mouth. Also, signs should be selected that match the child's existing imitative repertoire.
  5. Select words that are for salient and relevant items to the child in his daily life. They should be items that the child sees or uses frequently in daily activities. It is also preferable to use items that are stable and clearly identified stimuli, that is, the name of the item is consistent across all variations of the item (e.g., ball), and all adults can agree on what the item is called. The selected words should involve words that occur frequently in the child's day-to-day environment (e.g., "eat" may be heard much more often than "elephant").
  6. Select a set of words that will eventually be associated with a variety of motivators. For example, don't select all foods for the first several words or signs, or progress will stop when the child is not hungry. Select words for a variety of different motivators (e.g., foods, toys, video, physical play).
  7. Avoid selecting words or signs that sound or look alike (rhyme). It will be much harder for the child to differentiate between similar response forms (e.g., don't select the signs "eat" and "drink" as the first two signs because the look very similar).
  8. Avoid words and signs that might have a negative or aversive history for the child (e.g., bed, toilet, no).

Fading out the Verbal PromptThe prompt "What is that?" should also be eventually faded out, if the goal is to obtain spontaneous tacting. That is, the child needs to learn to identify at least some objects without being verbally prompts to do so (Table 7-3, Panels 3 & 4). A spontaneous, or "pure tact" is a verbal response controlled only by a nonverbal stimulus (and nonspecific reinforcement). For example, a child looks up in the sky and says "airplane" without an adult prompting him in any way. The sight and sound of the airplane alone should evoke the correct word. However, spontaneity is a complicated issue, because the child still needs to be able to tact when asked to do so, therefore the verbal stimulus should not be completely faded out. Rather, training should be given both ways so the child can emit tacts independent of verbal prompts, but also when asked to tact.

Intraverbal Training

  • Fill-in the blanks, songs, and animal sounds, reverse fill-in the blanks
  • Fill-in to WH question and WH questions alone
  • Single SD and a single and multiple responses (e.g., eat .... banana, apple)
  • Personal information and verbal categories (e.g., foods, animals, sports, politics)
  • Multiple stimulus and a multiple response (e.g., hot food .... spaghetti and meatballs)
  • Specific topics (e.g., marine world, power rangers, X-men, dinosaurs, time travel)
  • Contextual mixture of mand, tact, receptive intraverbal (e.g., verbal modules)
  • Social interaction (e.g., conversation, attending, exchanges on a topic, conversations
  • Current events, and past and future events
  • Academics

Contriving Establishing Operations

  • Give the child a bowl of ice cream without a spoon.
  • Give the child locked box but not a key.
  • Ask the child to comb his hair but don't give him a comb.
  • Give the child a sandwich without his favorite meat in it.
  • Give the child a glass without any liquid in it.
  • Give the child a cassette tape but not a tape player.
  • While a child is on a swing don't push him until he asks.
  • Give the child a chalkboard but no chalk.
  • Give the child a coloring book but no crayon.
  • Give the child bread but no peanut butter.
  • Give the child a chip but no dip.
  • Give the child scissors but no paper to cut.
  • Give the child a crayon but no paper.
  • Bring the child to the computer but don't turn it on.
  • Give the child a Tupperware container with a reinforcer in it.
  • Stand in the door way when a child wants out.
  • Play a game then stop abruptly.
  • Give the child a Nintendo game but no controller.
  • Give the child a drum but no drum sticks.
  • Give the child some dry Tang but no water.
  • Give the child some dry hot chocolate but no hot water.
  • Give the child a soda bottle but no bottle opener.

Types of Mands

  • Mand for actions, mand for the behavior of others (JUMP, stand, open, sit, push, stop, go)
  • General mand for human contact or to intervene for a specific purpose (hug, kiss, come with me, help)
  • Mands for attention (look, tap arm, raise hand, state name e.g., Mark/dad ... look at me ... watch me ... listen to me...
  • Mands for the removal of aversives (go away, don't, stop, give that back, leave me alone, take it, help)
  • Mands for adjectives (color, size, configuration)
  • Mands for moving physical objects to specific locations (prepositions)
  • Mands for adverbs (run faster, pour faster)
  • Mands for pronouns (my turn, you do it, give it to me,)
  • Mands for Information
    • "What?" Mands for the names of people, -places, things, actions, other information
      • EO -must be contrived so the value of a name or information is strong.
      • Needs to be conducted across most parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.)
      • Responses might be 'What is that?" "What are you doing?" "What color is it?" "What do I do?" "What time is it?"
    • "Where?" Mands for location
      • EO must be contrived so the value of a location is strong.
      • Needs to be conducted across different parts of speech (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc.)
      • Responses might be 'Where is ?" "What are you doing?" "What color is it?" "What do I do?" "What time is it?"
    • "Who?" Mands for specific persons
      • EO must be contrived so the value of a person is strong.
      • Needs to be conducted across different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, etc.)
      • Responses might be 'Who Is that?" "Who is singing?" "Who is bigger?"
    • "When?" Mands for information concerning time
      • EO must be contrived so the value of time is strong.
      • Needs to be conducted across different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, etc.)
      • Responses might be 'When do I eat?" "When do I swing?" "When is it my turn?" "When do I go home?" "When do
    • "How?" Mands for the function of things
      • EO must be contrived so the value of time is strong.
      • Needs to be conducted across different" parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, etc.)
      • Responses might be 'How do I turn it on?" "How does it work?" "How do I fix it?"
    • "Why?" Mands for the causes of events
      • EO must be contrived so the value of time is strong.
      • Mands for permission--Can, May

Comparison of Discrete Trial Training and Natural Environment Training

Discrete Trial (Analog) Natural Environment (NLP)
Stimulus items a. Chosen by clinician



b. Repeated until criterion is met



c. Phonologically easy to produce irrespective of whether they were functional in the natural environment
a. Chosen by child



b. Varied every few trials
Interaction a. Clinician holds up stimulus item; stimulus item not functional within interaction a. Clinician and child play with stimulus Rem (i.e., stimulus Rem is functional within interaction)
Response a. Correct response or successive approximations reinforced a. Looser shaping contingency so that attempts to respond verbally (except self stimulation) are also reinforced
Consequences a. Edible reinforcers paired with social reinforcers a. Natural reinforcers (e.g. opportunity to play with the item) paired with social reinforcers

A Comparison of Discrete Trial Training and Natural Environment Training Using Skinner's Elementary Verbal Operants

Discrete Trial Training Natural Environment Training
Mand Not specifically trained, EO not used, specific reinforcement not used, focus is on establishing verbal and nonverbal stimulus control Focus on establishing operations and use of specific reinforcement Multiply controlled if verbal or nonverbal stimuli present
Receptive Specifically trained, focus on verbal and nonverbal stimulus control Specifically trained, but multiply controlled if EO, and contextual stimuli present
Tact Specifically trained, focus on nonverbal stimulus control Specifically trained, but multiply controlled if EO and specific reinforcement present
Echoic Specifically trained, focus on vocal verbal stimulus control Specifically trained, but multiply controlled if EO, object, and specific reinforcement present
Imitation Specifically trained, focus on visual motor stimulus control Specifically trained, but multiply controlled if EO, object, and specific reinforcement present
Intraverbal Not specifically trained, multiply controlled if EO, object, and specific reinforcement present Specifically trained, but multiply controlled if EO, object, and specific reinforcement present



The Advantages of Discrete Trial Training

  • Allows for a high number of training trials
  • Easy. for many different staff members to implement (a scripted curriculum is used)
  • May be a good -way to develop tact, receptive, echoic, and imitative behaviors
  • Easier to run in a classroom setting
  • Instructional stimuli and detailed curriculum provided for staff
  • Target responses are known and easily identified
  • Contrived consequence is easy to deliver
  • Data collection is relatively straight forward
  • Progressive steps in the curriculum clearly identified (e.g., nouns, verbs, pronouns)
  • Progress (or the lack of progress) is very observable
  • May help to establish stimulus control of "learner repertoires" (e.g., child learns to attend, learns that if he does respond he gets reinforced, learns how to make discriminations, learns to sit -and work, acquires an increased tolerance of demands)

The Disadvantages of Discrete Trial Training

  • Requires special procedures to ensure generalization
  • Prompts to respond (including aversive prompts) often not present outside of the training session
  • Child's current EOs not used in training, may even compete with training
  • Mainly teacher initiated activities
  • Mand training is difficult because it requires using EOs and specific reinforcement
  • Intraverbal behavior typically not taught as a separate verbal operant
  • Immediate and powerful reinforcers often. not available outside of the training session
  • The drill nature of the training may generate rote responding
  • Non-functional nature of the training may generate escape and avoidance behaviors (possibly increasing the need for the use of aversive control or powerful contrived reinforcers)
  • The interaction between the speaker and listener is very different from that observed by typical speakers and listeners
  • Language and language trainers may become paired with aversive situations
  • Trials that are presented in a scripted manner reduces the trainer's ability to expand on responses or mix up the verbal operants, as in typical verbal interactions

The Advantages of Natural Environment Training

  • Use of the child's interests (EOs) to guide language instruction
  • Best conditions to teach manding
  • Use of the stimuli in the child's natural environment as target stimuli
  • Reduced need for elaborate generalization procedures
  • Reduced amount of negative behavior
  • Reduced need for aversive control
  • Easier to teach intraverbal behavior as a separate verbal operant
  • The verbal interaction is much more characteristic of typical verbal interactions
  • More opportunities for trainers to be paired with successful verbal interactions
  • Verbal responses can be mixed together more easily under the
  • environmental conditions that may evoke them later
  • The training conditions are closer to those of kindergarten and how child may be taught in the future

The Disadvantages of Natural Environment Training

  • Training is difficult to conduct in a form al classroom
  • Must be able to capture or contrive on-going EOs
  • Child's EO may be unknown to the trainer
  • Cumbersome to always follow the child's EO
  • Cumbersome to always deliver specific reinforcement
  • May be difficult to eliminate the role of the EO as a source of control
  • Requires better training on the part of staff
  • Curriculum is not scripted so it is more difficult to know what to do
  • Data collection (measures of acquisition) is much more complicated
  • Substantially reduced number of training trials
  • Training may compete with the establishment of other types of stimulus control



The Changing Emphasis of DTT and NET as the Child Learns Language

Phase 1. NET> DTT Focus on early manding, pairing, compliance, stimulus control

Phase 2. NET = DTT Focus on mand, tact, receptive, imitation, echoic, and intraverbal

Phase 3. DTT > NET Focus on academic activities and specific skill development

Phase 4. NET > DTT Focus on learning from group instruction, from peers, and without a highly structured learning environment, training is more like that of typical kindergarten and 1 st grade classrooms

Phase 5. DTT > NET Focus on academic skills and structured learning characteristic of later elementary classrooms

The Elements of a Language Based Environment

  • Language must be viewed by all involved as the key feature of the intervention.
  • Language training must-be incorporated into all other activities (e.g., self-care, play, entertainment, motor development, nonverbal tasks).
  • There must be a large number of daffy trials under a variety of stimulus and motivational conditions.
  • All program staff and family members should-be trained in language instruction techniques
  • Trainers need to know how and when to reinforce, and how to fade out contrived reinforcers so natural reinforcers, take over.
  • Trainers need to know what response, approximations to, accept, and how to shape better approximations.
  • Trainers need to know what level of prompt to provide, and how to fade those prompts out as possible
  • Trainers need to be consistent in their implementation of the program.
  • Trainers need to, optimize any opportunities to evoke verbal responses by capturing or arranging opportunities to communicate
  • All relevant types of should be conducted not just receptive and expressive, but also, mands, tact &, intraverbals, etc. It is not necessarily the number of trials that is critical, but rather the type of trials.
  • Trainers need to arrange for frequent opportunities to generalize.
  • A plan (or curriculum) for orderly progression to more complex forms of verbal behavior needs to be in place,
  • The educational plan (IEP/IPP) must be coordinated with daily activities.
  • Data should be collected on performance.

Educational Options Survey

Classroom:
Date:

School:

Teacher:

Time observation started:

Type of classroom:

Time observation ended:

Classroom environment

Is the physical layout of the classroom conducive to skill acquisition?

Are there any other factors which may interfere with the learning process?

Are the furniture, materials, and restrooms appropriate for the child?

Staff & students

How many students are in the classroom?

How many instructional staff are in the classroom?

What are the characteristics of students in the classroom?

Are the other children in the classroom a reasonable match for the child?

Do the students exhibit excessive disruptive behavior that may interfere with teaching and learning?

Schedule & curriculum

What is the orientation of the curriculum (e.g., academic, self-help, community-based, language-based)?

Is there a clearly defined classroom schedule?

Does the schedule allow adequate amounts of time to teach critical skills?

Do the staff appear to know and follow the classroom schedule?

Does the classroom curriculum match the needs of the child?

Are there skills that the-child needs to learn that can't be addressed within the classroom?

Teaching process

Do the children and staff in the classroom appear to be happy?

Do the children appear to be motivated to during teaching sessions?

Do the staff provide frequent praise to the students?

Do the staff appear to be able to competently handle the learning activities for the students?

If there are instances of disruptive behavior, do the staff appear to handle the situation appropriately?

Are data being collected on skill acquisition?

Are the students given clear instructions during teaching sessions?

Are the children required to actively and frequently respond during teaching sessions?

Do the instructors provide a high rate of reinforcement for correct responses?

Do the instructors provide a high rate of praise or other reinforcement for appropriate social behavior (Catch the children being good)?

Do the staff use prompts as needed and appear to be fading the use of those prompts?

Is teaching occurring in both structured and non-structured situations?

Does there appear to be instructional programming for the generalization of acquired skills?

Do the staff intersperse easy and more difficult tasks in teaching sessions?

Do the staff use alternative forms of communication (e.g., ASL, picture communication)?

Was there active teaching of requesting skills?

Was there active teaching of labeling skills?

Was there active teaching of conversational skills?
Was there active teaching of receptive language skills?

Was there a mixture of the various types of verbal responses required in teaching sessions (i.e., not only one type of response required in a session)?

Consultation & support staff

If the classroom staff need advanced input, who would provide it? What is the availability of those consultants?

What support staff are available to the classroom?

  • Behavior Specialist
  • Speech Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist

How much time do the consultants spend in the classroom?

Questions to ask about the program

What is the length of instructional day?

How many school days are there In the school year?

Is the summer program the same or different from regular school year?

Will students be leaving or entering the classroom soon?

Are there opportunities for integration with regular education students?

Who will be responsible for monitoring the child's skill acquisition?

What opportunities are there for parents to learn new teaching skills?

How do the educational staff and parents share information regarding the child's skill acquisition?

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