Functional assessment in a residential setting: Identifying an effective communicative replacement response for aggressive behavior

Judith Bailey, Jennifer J. McComas, Christian Benavides, Chrissy Lovascz

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Antecedent and consequent analyses were conducted in a residential setting to identify environmental variables maintaining aggressive behavior of a 24-year-old man with profound mental retardation. Results of the consequent analysis indicated the aggressive behavior was maintained by positive reinforcement (i.e., attention). Data from the antecedent analysis suggested that aggression was less likely to occur when social attention in the form of physical contact and conversation was available than when only conversation was available. A multielement design was used to compare rates of aggressive behavior and independent requests for attention across two functional communication training procedures that differed only in terms of the response effort. One condition required pointing to a picture of two people interacting (Point), the other condition required spelling the word "talk" on a laminated paper replica of a computer keyboard (Spell). Aggressive behavior occurred at lower rates in the Point condition than in the Spell condition. Additionally, independent requests occurred exclusively in the Point condition. Follow-up data indicate maintenance of treatment results for 2 years and daily use of several additional picture requests. Results are discussed in terms of linking treatment to assessment in natural settings and factors to consider when selecting interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-369
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Aggression
  • Functional assessment
  • Functional communication training
  • Response effort
  • Severe handicaps

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