J Appl Behav Anal 2004 ;37(3):323-38
Neurobehavioral Unit, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 707 N. Broadway, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.
Behavior-reduction interventions typically employ dense schedules of alternative reinforcement in conjunction with operant extinction for problem behavior. After problem behavior is reduced in the initial treatment stages, schedule thinning is routinely conducted to make the intervention more practical in natural environments. In the current investigation, two methods for thinning alternative reinforcement schedules were compared for 3 clients who exhibited severe problem behavior. In the dense-to-lean (DTL) condition, reinforcement was delivered on relatively dense schedules (using noncontingent reinforcement for 1 participant and functional communication training for 2 participants), followed by systematic schedule thinning to progressively leaner schedules. During the fixed lean (FL) condition, reinforcement was delivered on lean schedules (equivalent to the terminal schedule of the DTL condition). The FL condition produced a quicker attainment of individual treatment goals for 2 of the 3 participants. The results are discussed in terms of the potential utility of using relatively lean schedules at treatment outset.