Implementing a Verbal Behavior Program in the Classroom

Report
Preparing a Child for Transitions to
Less Restrictive Educational Settings
Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D
(www.marksundberg.com)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) and
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires
that all children with disabilities must be educated in the least
restrictive environment (LRE) that is appropriate for them
Specifically the law states that, “to the maximum extent appropriate,
children with disabilities…are educated with children who are not
disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling…occurs only
when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in
regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services
cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” IDEA Sec. 612 (5) (B)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) and
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
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There are two parts to the LRE requirement of the IDEA
The first addresses the presumptive right of all students with
disabilities to be educated with students without disabilities
Schools must make good faith efforts to place and maintain students
in less restrictive settings
The second part is that this presumptive right is rebuttable when
integration is not appropriate for a student (Turnbull & Turnbull,
2002)
The IDEA favors integration (part-time placement) or inclusion (fulltime placement), but recognizes that for some students more
restrictive or segregated settings may be appropriate
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) and
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
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The law anticipates that placements in more restrictive settings may
sometimes be necessary to provide an appropriate education
The slippery slope: What is “appropriate,” and what is the “least
restrictive?”
These terms are often interpreted differently from one school district
to another, one professional to another, and one parent to another
The main issue is: In what type of educational placement will the
child make the most meaningful and measurable progress?
In general, a continuum of restrictiveness goes from 1:1 in-home to
full inclusion without an aide
But inclusion could be the most restrictive, as could 1:1
Transition Decisions
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The IEP team is responsible for placement
It is not uncommon to base transition decisions on personal
beliefs, a movement, policy, emotion, or economics
Some children are gratuitously moved to an LRE, while others
are not moved, but should be
Can we assess a child’s potential for learning in an LRE?
What are the skills necessary to learn in an LRE?
Can we provide an objective basis for decision making?
How and when do we prepare a child for transition?
How is learning measured in an LRE? Is it working?
What Does it Take to Teach
a Specific Child?
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The placement decision should be based on what type of
educational setting and instructional format will be of the best value
to the child
I will suggest 18 domains that can provide an empirical basis for
decision making
For clarity, the focus of this presentation will be on moving
children from self-contained classrooms to the form of LRE
available in regular education settings, including special classrooms
designed for children with speech and language delays, learning
handicaps, or communicatively impaired
Level of Existing Verbal
and Related Skills
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Issue: A child must have sufficient language skills to access the
curriculum in an LRE. Language is more important than academics,
social skills, or being near typically developing peers. Clearly this
does not mean a nonverbal child will not benefit from being with
typically developing peers, the issue is what is the educational
priority
Measurement of Language Skills: VB-MAPP Milestones scores
VB-MAPP: Level 1
What Does it Take to Teach a Child Scoring
in Level 1 of the VB-MAPP?
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Intensive teaching using evidence-based intervention procedures
derived from Behavior Analysis (National Standards Project)
A behavior analyst on the team
Staff who are skilled in the use of prompting, fading, shaping
differential reinforcement, etc.
A behavioral language intervention program (i.e., mand training,
tact and listener training, echoic and imitation training)
Staff who are skilled in the use of procedures for teaching verbal
behavior, reducing behavior problems and barriers, etc.
A supervisory and data collection system, classroom structure
Parent training
Are these elements available in an LRE?
VB-MAPP: Level 2
What Does it Take to Teach a Child Scoring
in Level 2 of the VB-MAPP?
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An intensive intervention program including all of the Level 1
components
A more complex language intervention curriculum (e.g., noun-verb
combinations, intraverbals, mands for information)
Staff trained in these more advanced teaching procedures, as well as
group instruction, NET procedures, behavioral intervention
programs, self-help skills, etc.
Access to peers and staff trained in developing social skills
Careful analyses of existing and emerging barriers, and the skills to
ameliorate them
Are these elements available in an LRE?
VB-MAPP: Level 3
What Does it Take to Teach a Child Scoring
in Level 3 of the VB-MAPP?
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A classroom that provides group instruction, advanced language
training, NET language training, social skills training, beginning
academics, independence, etc.
An advanced language and social skills curriculum
Constant content demands
Trained staff, supervision system, data collection system
A bigger focus on an integration program
Are these elements available in an LRE?
Presence of Barriers Affecting Learning
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Issue: Negative behaviors, noncompliance, aggression, etc., are less
tolerated in an LRE
Early needs: Functional and descriptive behavior analyses, careful
intervention program, intensive language intervention program, data
collection, well trained staff, supervision
LRE: Staff are usually not equipped to work with behavior problems
and other barriers
How to get there: Establish early control of negative behaviors (preschool), employment of a behavior analyst, establish verbal
repertoires in a developmental sequence, parent training and
involvement, on-going analyses
Instructional Control
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Issue: Teachers must have instructional control (stimulus control),
especially from a distance (e.g., 10 feet), and in a group teaching
format
Early needs: Careful development of compliance with prompts,
fading, and differential reinforcement, followed by reinforcement
schedule adjustments
LRE: Instructional control methodology, and staff availability
limited
How to get there: establish strong instructional control early on,
generalize, establish instructional control in a group setting, fade out
reinforcement, increase responses requirements
1:1 vs. Group Instruction
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Issue: Group instruction is the primary educational format of an
LRE
Early needs: 1:1 or 1:2 is essential for some children to learn,
intensive teaching, numerous trials, correction procedures, work
towards fluency, careful use of ABA technology
LRE: Low teacher-to-student ratio (e.g., 1:15); 1:1 aide often
defeats the purpose, more restrictive
How to get there: Systematically establish group learning skills
early in the program, move instruction away from a 1:1 teaching
format ASAP for most activities
Pitfalls of too Much 1:1 Instruction
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High rate of adult attention and reinforcement delivery
Strong adult stimulus control established
Needs anticipated, responses prompted, errorless learning, long
latencies tolerated, approximations reinforced, immediate
reinforcement delivered, mild aversive control (e.g., CMO-R), etc.
Minimal learning may occur outside of direct adult engagement
Established adult dependence and control; transition to group
instruction with less adult control may become more difficult
Peer interaction may be adversely affected (e.g., peers don’t
reinforce, prompt, or wait for responses)
May be hard to learn to share reinforcers, give up reinforcers, take
turns, wait, tolerate “no,” attend to peers, etc.
Generalization
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Issue: Generalization is a fundamental element for learning in an
LRE
Early needs: Carefully establish stimulus and response
generalization, stimulus and response classes, use of multiple
exemplar training (MET), general case programming, and mixed VB
teaching procedures
LRE: Minimal generalization training provided, expect quick
generalization, class formation, transfer, emergence, etc.
How to get there: Systematic inclusion of generalization procedures
early on and across all skills (e.g., Stokes & Baer, 1977; Greer &
Ross, 2008)
Reinforcement Type and Schedule
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Issue: Learning needs to occur under minimal reinforcement
conditions
Early needs: CRF, edibles, tangibles, praise, tokens, small VRs, etc.
LRE: Thin and intermittent schedules occur in LREs, no edibles,
tangibles, tokens, systematic schedule manipulation, mild
punishment common (e.g., reprimands)
How to get there: systematic thinning of reinforcement schedules,
develop a resistance to extinction (behavioral persistence), eliminate
edibles and tangibles, move to social praise, and establish
automatic reinforcers (response product is reinforcing)
Maintenance
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Issue: Targeted skills need to remain in the repertoire and are
essential for building new and related skills
Early needs: Frequent maintenance trials, vary irrelevant features
(MET), carefully designed curriculum
LRE: Minimal maintenance training conducted, constant flow of
new content
How to get there: Use an appropriate curriculum sequence, be
assured the skill is actually acquired, establish functional use of
skills, incorporate known skills into more complex skills (e.g.,
acquired nouns used in noun-verb combinations, LRFFC, IV,
textual)
Learning from the Natural Environment
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Issue: Learning needs to occur without formal trial presentations
(DTT)
Early needs: Careful structured teaching, some natural environment
teaching (NET)
LRE: Minimal individual structured teaching
Intervention: systematic increase of NET, program for
observational learning, reduce prompt and reinforcement
dependency, increase group instruction, learn to respond to naturally
occurring aversive events, develop academic independence
Demonstrates Transfer Among the
Verbal and Listener Skills
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Issue: Learning needs to be generative, new skills emerge from
existing skills, novel responding, variability
Early needs: Establish basic skills
LRE: Transfer expected
How to get there: Mixed verbal behavior (VB) procedures, MET,
transfer and generalization procedures, frequent contact with novel
material
Social Behavior and Social Play
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Issue: Social deficits are a major element of the diagnostic criteria
for autism
Early needs: use of systematic behavioral procedures to establish
play skills, parallel play, motor imitation, manding to peers,
responding to the mands from peers, etc.
LRE: Many social opportunities exist (often the main rationale for
movement to an LRE), but prerequisite skills are required to
access the benefits of peers
How to get there: Implementation of a daily social interaction
program, pair peers with reinforcers, reverse mainstreaming, break
free from 1:1 adult control and delivery of SDs and reinforcers,
reduce the use of minor aversive control, etc.
Working Independently on Academic Tasks
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Issue: Many activities in an LRE require independent work
Early needs: Focus on skill development first, then independence
LRE: Independence expected; worksheets, silent reading, group
projects, etc.
How to get there: Start developing independent tasks early in the
program, differential reinforcement of longer intervals of
independent work, fade out prompts to work, use intermittent
reinforcement, etc.
Conclusions
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Transition is a gradual process, not an end of year or age-timed event
Preparation for transition should begin early in a program
It is too late to start working on skills when already in transition
(e.g., instructional control, turn taking, giving up reinforcers, VB
skills, independence, classroom routines, group instructions)
LRE placement is often based on personal beliefs, emotions, policy,
economics, or a “movement,” but not based on: In what educational
environment can the child learn the best?
A large collection of skills are involved
Language skills (i.e., mands, tacts, intraverbals, and listener skills)
are usually the primary indicator of potential success in an LRE
Conclusions
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Time with typical peers, while important, should not come at the cost
of developing important verbal and other related skills
Regular education staff may not have the necessary skills, time, or
resources for effectively teaching children with autism
A 1:1 aide does not solve the problem and may be more restrictive
A 1:1 aide may not have the necessary teaching and behavioral
skills, environmental control, or supervision
If the student cannot access the curriculum the placement is
gratuitous
Conclusions
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Transitions to an LRE can be very successful
There are many variations of movement to an LRE
Inclusion in school wide activities
Reverse mainstreaming
Lunch and recess
Short session regarding individual strengths (e.g., math)
Practice content in more restricted setting
For more ways to make inclusion work see for example, De Boer,
2010; Leaf, Taubaum & McEachin, 2008; Taubaum, Leaf, &
McEachin, 2010
Thank You!
For an electronic version of this
presentation visit:
marksundberg.com

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