• functional communication training;
  • competing stimuli;
  • extinction;
  • reinforcement schedule thinning

Functional communication training (FCT) is a widely used treatment for individuals with developmental disabilities who exhibit severe behavior problems. One inherent challenge of employing FCT as a treatment in the community is that reinforcement for appropriate communication cannot always be immediate or even possible in some circumstances. Of the few studies that have incorporated some form of schedule thinning for communication, most have reported disruption of communication or increases in problem behavior when the schedule of reinforcement is thinned. In the current study, we compared FCT with extinction to FCT with extinction and access to competing stimuli. After conducting a functional analysis, a competing stimulus assessment was performed to identify stimuli that produce reinforcement that ostensibly competes with reinforcement that maintains problem behavior. It was hypothesized that FCT with competing stimuli would result in more stable reductions in problem behavior during schedule thinning, which would ultimately result in quicker achievement of the treatment goal (low levels of problem behavior under the terminal reinforcement schedule for communication) than FCT without competing stimuli. Results confirmed this hypothesis.