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Advances in Functional Communication Training: Recent Procedural Refinements that Promote Durable Treatment Outcomes

Adam Briggs
Functional communication training (FCT; Carr & Durand, 1985) is a well-established treatment for socially mediated problem behavior exhibited by children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (Kurtz et al., 2011). FCT involves the delivery of the reinforcer responsible for maintenance of problem behavior contingent on a functionally equivalent communication response (FCR), usually in combination with extinction of problem behavior (Tiger et al., 2008). Although highly effective, FCT has been shown to fail in some cases following initial success (e.g., Greer et al., 2016; Saini et al., 2018), and previous reports have suggested that low rates of behavior do not always maintain when the schedule of reinforcement for the FCR is thinned (Briggs et al., 2018) or when FCT is implemented by caregivers in the everyday environment (Meuthing et al., 2020). Therefore, treatment relapse in FCT can be viewed as the failure to maintain treatment effects when environmental conditions change. That is, relapse during FCT could be regarded as the failure to generalize treatment gains across time, settings, situations, or individuals (Pritchard et al., 2014). Recent research focused on integrating stimulus control technology with consequent-based refinements offers promising strategies for promoting the practicality, generality, and durability of FCT treatment effects. Following a primer on FCT, recent advances in FCT research will be reviewed and their implications for practice will be discussed.

Presented at the 2020 Michigan Autism Conference

Adam Briggs is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Eastern Michigan University. Dr. Briggs is a board certified behavior analyst at the doctoral level and a licensed behavior analyst in the state of Michigan. He received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Western Michigan University, a Masters in Science in Applied Behavior Analysis in Developmental Disabilities from Auburn University, and a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology from the University of Kansas. His dissertation evaluated the effects of differential reinforcement of alternative behavior without the use of extinction for treating dangerous instances of severe destructive behavior. This project received several accolades, including the 2017 APA Division 25 SEAB Applied Dissertation Award. In addition, during his tenure at the University of Kansas, Dr. Briggs received the Baer, Wolf, and Risley Outstanding Graduate Student Award for excellence in teaching, research, and service. He later completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute under the direction of Dr. Wayne Fisher. He has served on the Board of Editors for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavior Analysis in Practice and as an ad-hoc reviewer for a number of other behavior-analytic journals. Dr. Briggs has conducted research in the area of assessment and treatment of severe behavior disorders, including several grant-funded research projects focused on integrating stimulus control technology and consequent-based refinements in ways that mitigate relapse and improve the efficacy and generality of FCT interventions.
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