Say Whaat?!: Functional Communication Training

Have you ever been in a situation where you want something, but are unable to communicate it to anyone?  Have you been so angry or upset with no practical way to express it?  This is a daily occurrence for individuals with communication deficits.  How can we, as caregivers, grant them more independence and freedom from these communicative challenges?  We can address these challenges by using Functional Communication Training (FCT).  FCT is a reinforcement procedure where an individual is taught a socially appropriate alternative communication response that results in the same reinforcers as the problem behavior(s) (Tiger 2008). Carr and Durand (1985) first demonstrated the success of using this reinforcement procedure to decrease problem behavior(s).  In the 30 years since this seminal article was published, FCT continues to be one of the most effective treatments for problem behavior (Tiger 2008).

Functional Communication

Our most recent webinar, titled Say Whaat?!, is a brief introduction into Functional Communication Training.  FCT is a reinforcement procedure where an expert identifies the function of the problem behavior before selecting the appropriate communicative response.  During FCT the problem behavior no longer produces the reinforcer.  Instead only the identified communication response will produce the reinforcer.  This may sound like an easy training procedure to put in place.  However the problem behavior is no longer producing the reinforcer, which means that the problem behavior may increase in frequency or intensity at first.  It is very important to implement this program with an expert (i.e., BCBA) to help with teaching the individual how to use the communicative response effectively.

Researchers have demonstrated that FCT is effective for any age, across diagnoses, for a wide range of problem behaviors and has been implemented in a wide variety of locations.