THE SYSTEMATIC TRAINING OF FUNCTIONAL LANGUAGE BEHAVIOR FOR IMPROVING CONVERSATIONAL COMPETENCE IN THE MENTALLY RETARDED ADOLESCENT.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a behavioral training package (delay, instruction, prompting, modeling, and social reinforcement) on the conversational competence of the trainable mentally handicapped. Three conversational skills were categorized and analyzed as discrete language behaviors that had functional value to a conversational partner. These language behaviors included initiating conversation, cueing the listener to speak, and responding appropriately. Language behavior that was nonfunctional with regard to the progression of the conversation was recorded. The three subjects in the study included one male and two female moderately mentally handicapped adolescents (ages 18, 17, and 12, respectively). The training and all conversational recording sessions took place in a public school within a laboratory setting resembling a small lounge. Training on a one-to-one basis occurred four times a week, in 20 minute sessions, for 9 weeks. A single subject reversal design (A-B-A-B) was used to demonstrate the effects of training on the targeted behaviors. Data were recorded during 5-minute conversational sessions between one adult and each subject for the four phases of the study (baseline, training, second baseline, and second training). Results indicated a general increase in all targeted behaviors (initiating, cueing, and appropriate responding), and a concomitant decrease in nonfunctional language behavior. The skill of responding appropriately was determined by the units of information provided per response, and not by frequency of response or duration. This behavior, as well as nonfunctional language behavior, did not show a reverse trend when treatment was suspended. A pre- and posttraining generalization measure was employed to test treatment effects on conversational competence with two unfamiliar adults of normal intelligence. One adult was instructed to facilitate the conversational skills of the mentally handicapped subject (allowing ample time for a response and asking open-ended questions). The other adult was instructed to act as a nonfacilitator (dominating the conversation). Findings were compared between pre- and posttraining conditions and between conversations with each adult. Posttraining conversations with unfamiliar adults of normal intelligence reflected treatment effects in only a few isolated instances. For the most part, training effects were not generalized.
Degree ProgramSpecial Education