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

Kimberly Crosland, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Raymond Miltenberger, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Nicole McMillan, Ph.D., BCBA-D


Autism, Discrete Trial Training, Disruptive Behavior, Efficacy, Efficiency


Discrete trial training (DTT), an evidence-based instructional procedure (Wong et al., 2015), is often used to teach skills to individuals with autism. Manipulations to the reinforcement component of DTT have increased its instructional efficiency, resulting in acquisition of skills in less time (e.g., Cividini-Motta & Ahearn, 2013). Results of previous studies (e.g., DeLeon et al., 2014) indicate that some individuals prefer to complete larger work requirements that result in a larger amount of a reinforcer (i.e., accumulated arrangement), rather than receiving access to small amounts of a reinforcer dispersed throughout the work requirement (i.e., distributed arrangement). In addition, accumulated reinforcer arrangements have been shown to be more efficient in increasing target responses (e.g., response rate; Robinson & St. Peter, 2019). However, few studies have evaluated the impact of these reinforcer arrangements on skill acquisition and the literature comparing the effects of these reinforcer arrangements on efficiency and/or participant preference primarily included adolescent participants and only activity-based reinforcers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy and efficiency of DTT programs that included accumulated and distributed reinforcer arrangements with both edible and activity-based reinforcers. Participants were two young children with autism. Overall, the distributed arrangements required fewer sessions and the distributed with edibles arrangement was associated with the shortest duration to mastery and least amount of disruptive behavior. Participants preferred the distributed with edible or activity arrangement. Finally, caregivers and clinical team members agreed both types of arrangements and reinforcers are acceptable.