Children with developmental delays require work on the formation of communication skills based on several principles developed in general, correctional pedagogy and particular psychology. Applied verbal behavior (ABA) is a behavior analysis process intended to teach a child with developmental delays to speak the language and communicate. The purpose of this skill acquisition intervention plan is to teach Allison to answer the question about her age regarding reinforcement, motivating operations and generalization.
Procedures to Increase Target Behavior
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
A positive reinforcement diagram starts with the discriminative stimulus (RD), being the immediate antecedent event or trigger that evokes behavior. It produces a response, which is “I am 4 years old” (R) and positive reinforcement (Sr+) that occurs after a reaction and enhances the probability of the behavior increasing or happening again (Poling et al., 2017). A negative one can be described the same way, but behavior results in negative reinforcement (Sr-) (Poling et al., 2017). It causes the disappearance of unpleasant stimuli, the effect of which the subject wants to weaken or stop.
The primary tool for increasing the behavior is reinforcement, when the specialist gives a clear answer to a particular behavioral reaction of the child, strengthening or weakening this reaction. In case a specialist wants to reinforce the desired behavior, reinforcement should be performed directly after completing the task (Poling et al., 2017). Reinforcement choices should be made by observing what the child prefers at the moment. For instance, a toy or a doll Allison loves to play with can potentially reinforce the child’s desired behavior.
The first step in forming educational control is deciding which of the surrounding objects the child can use. It is necessary to put the doll that is attractive to Allison in a place where it will be visible to her but inaccessible. Only an acceptable response to teacher instructions should be encouraged. The programmed effect is that the more consistent the teacher’s actions are, the more Allison will behave the right way.
Listening to music can also be a reinforcement; while listening, the teacher can jump and dance with Allison. If she wants to leave, starts playing with a different toy, or stops listening, the tutor can turn off the music. As soon as she returns to the room or stops being capricious, the teacher should immediately turn on the music. In the initial stages of learning control, it is essential to demonstrate to Allison that there is a direct link between lack of melody and misbehaving.
Initial Schedule of Reinforcement
At the initial stage, Allison should earn reinforcement – a toy or music, each time she answers the question and says, “I am four.” Criteria for interval progression is <10 minutes/day for three consecutive days; for interval regression, it is >20 minutes/day for three continuous times. A variable interval schedule (VI) can be used later; this is the method when the first correct reaction is reinforced after varying periods (Singer-Dudek et al., 2017). When a variable interval schedule allows Allison to establish a constant response rate, the reactions diminish slowly in the absence of reinforcement.
Punishment is a process that immediately follows a behavior and at the same time reduces the likelihood of this reaction occurring in the future. There are also two forms: positive and negative punishment; the first one is added to the environment after the behavior and negative means when some elements disappear (Poling et al., 2017). This practice for children with developmental delay is ineffective in most cases. In Allison’s case, if the toy’s removal caused severe anger, this object should not be returned in any circumstances to avoid the formation of the link between hysterics and cancellation of punishment. In case the situation does not allow a teacher to ignore the undesirable behavior, the “switch” strategy can be used, but the tutor cannot return the desired object (Poling et al., 2017). For example, punishment can aggravate the severity of mental and neuropathic issues. For Allison, this may prove ineffectual and further reinforce unconventional forms of communication.
The reaction’s extinction is the termination of the reinforcement of the previously intensified behavior, after which the target behavior fades away (Poling et al., 2017). The plan should be conducted carefully and only under professionals’ supervision, as a so-called burst accompanies it. Its main features are strong emotional effects of extinction, including aggression and outbursts and the emergence of new behavior types, which have not existed before the extinction method.
Behaviors such as yelling, grabbing toys, pulling at parents’ hands, kicking, showing frustration, pushing others away, and ignoring requests are examples of unprogrammed effects. The teacher must discern when a child acts in an undesirable way and consciously make sure that this behavior does not receive positive reinforcement. For instance, if Allison does not want to study and a teacher ignores the child’s behavior, aggression will be reinforced. If the teacher, not paying attention to Allison’s impulses, continues the lesson, it will be extinguished, being programmed. That is, there is an opportunity to respect the person but ignore the behavior.
Behavioral Concepts and Principles Affecting the Skill Acquisition Process
Conditioned and Unconditioned Motivating Operations
The target behavior can be performed if Allison is convinced that spending time with a teacher is the most exciting at the moment. There are two main factors: conditioned and unconditioned motivating operations. The latter results from body homeostasis; conditioned ones are made through combinations paired with unconditioned operations during the classical learning process (Johnson et al., 2017). These days, the person who takes care of a child, particularly Allison’s mother, is directly concerned with hunger, thirst, body temperature and tactile sensations.
Therefore, it is crucial forming a connection between the teacher and reinforcement in the child’s mind. For instance, it is required to follow the child’s interests and play with any object or toy as long as the teacher can be with her. The child’s leisure should remain attractive because the teacher is an element of such activities. The process should be based on Allison’s motivation and include non-verbal language and narrative speech. For instance, a teacher can tell stories, express thoughts and feelings without requiring any reaction. So the teacher can name the objects Allison is playing with, her actions, describing the atmosphere: “This is a ball. It is big and red. We play with the ball. I enjoy playing with you!” The tutor needs to teach Allison narrative speech, modeling it in the process of communication. The mentor should share thoughts and ideas using humorous situations.
Procedures for Developing Stimulus Control, Stimulus Discrimination, and Stimulus Generalization
Stimuli can develop into reinforcement through associations; generalization occurs if Allison uses a skill in an artificially created situation and does not transfer to other everyday situations. She uses the skill in various places in naturally occurring conditions. The answer to age can be considered generalized when Allison can demonstrate it in communication with at least three different people (Johnson et al., 2017). The undesired outcome is that the child is dependent on the cues given by a teacher. In this case, clues can be intonation, certain formulaic words, word order in sentences, facial expressions, gestures (Johnson et al., 2017). Having three different interlocutors might help to avoid these prompts.
There is an example of how procedures for developing stimulus control, stimulus discrimination, and stimulus generalization can be implemented. The usage of stimulating material, for instance, a mirror, might help create the ability to answer personal questions. The specialist can lead Allison to a mirror so that she can see herself. It is necessary to stand behind her, take her hand and direct towards the baby’s chest so that light cotton is obtained, and say, “I am 4 years old.” For this action’s success, this exercise can be repeated several times so that the child can do it independently; it is crucial to reinforce such a move at the initial stage.
The next step is to stand in front of Allison and ask her a question, “How old are you?” It is necessary to give the child time to think, and if she does not answer, it would be helpful to provide a hint: “I am…” and direct the child’s hand towards her chest, prompting her to name her age. When Allison has answered a question, it is necessary to provide positive reinforcement. This practice must be consolidated by asking people familiar with the child to ask the same question. Repeating this exercise should continue until she learns how to answer a question to other people autonomously.
Aspects of Verbal Behavior
Difficulties in understanding speech and the low importance of social rewards make it challenging to acquire skills. These include the formation of tact, echo and intraverbal reactions (Johnson et al., 2017). However, Allison can speak in short sentences but often does not respond to communication bids from others. Hence, the emphasis should be on intraverbal behavior; the establishment of Allison’s communication skills is not sufficient if the learning process is based on structured exercises and tasks and takes place exclusively within therapeutic sessions. In this case, emerging abilities become non-functional, isolated from everyday social situations and are not used by children in everyday life.
Johnson, G., Kohler, K., & Ross, D. (2017). Contributions of Skinner’s theory of verbal behaviour to language interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Early Child Development and Care, 187(3-4), 436-446. Web.
Poling, A., Lotfizadeh, A., & Edwards, T. L. (2017). Predicting reinforcement: Utility of the motivating operations concept. The Behavior Analyst, 40(1), 49-56. Web.
Singer-Dudek, J., Park, H. S. L., Lee, G. T., & Lo, C. (2017). Establishing the transformation of motivating operations across mands and tacts for preschoolers with developmental delays. Behavioral Development Bulletin, 22(1), 230-248. Web.