Functional communication training with and without alternative reinforcement and punishment: an analysis of 58 applications

J Appl Behav Anal. 2013 Dec;46(4):708-22. doi: 10.1002/jaba.76. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


Functional communication training (FCT) is an empirically supported treatment for problem behavior displayed by individuals with intellectual disabilities. Hagopian, Fisher, Sullivan, Acquisto, and LeBlanc (1998) analyzed 25 applications of FCT and showed that extinction was a necessary component of FCT, but sometimes punishment was needed to maintain low levels of problem behavior. The current consecutive case series summarized data from 58 applications of FCT in more recent cases. This analysis extended and updated Hagopian et al. by examining FCT when used in combination with alternative reinforcement (noncontingent and differential reinforcement) and multiple schedules during schedule thinning. Although it is difficult to make direct comparisons with the 1998 study, the results of the current case series analysis suggest that FCT can be enhanced when used in combination with alternative reinforcement and when multiple schedules are used during schedule thinning.

Keywords: extinction; functional communication training; noncontingent reinforcement; punishment; severe problem behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Extinction, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Punishment*
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*