Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Catia Cividini-Motta, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Raymond Miltenberger, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Shanun Kunnavatana, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Andrew Samaha, Ph.D., BCBA-D


Autism, Functional Communication Training, Problem Behavior


Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often engage in problem behavior (e.g., aggression, property destruction, self-injurious behavior; Horner, Carr, Strain et al., 2002) that may limit access to traditional social and education settings, impact their health, and pose a risk to their safety and the safety of others. One of the most common interventions used to treat problem behavior is differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA; Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007), which are often used in combination with other interventions such as extinction (Shirley, Iwata, Kahng, Mazaleski, & Lerman, 1997). However, implementation of extinction may pose an ethical dilemma and may not be feasible depending on the setting, topography of problem behavior, and/or size of the client. In addition, its effectiveness relies on optimal treatment integrity (Fisher, Piazza, & Cataldo, 1993; Hagopian, Fisher, Sullivan, Acquisto, & LeBlanc, 1998) across all contexts and implementers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of two variations of DRA (i.e., functional communication training; FCT) without extinction on problem behavior and communicative responses. The two FCT procedures were designed based on results of relative parameter sensitivity assessments that allowed the identification of each participant’s optimal magnitude and delay value. The study employed a reversal design to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the two variations of FCT. In the current study both FCT interventions were effective in decreasing problem behavior and increasing communication for all participants. Differences in efficiency were variable across participants.