Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Timothy A. Slocum (Committee Co-Chair), Sarah E. Bloom (Committee Co-Chair)


Timothy A. Slocum


Sarah E. Bloom


Robert L. Morgan


Thomas S. Higbee


Timothy A. Shahan


Nicole Groskreutz along with her advisors, Dr. Timothy Slocum and Dr. Sarah Bloom, from the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at Utah State University, proposed to teach children with developmental disabilities to appropriately request the termination of things they do not like, in place of engaging in problem behavior. The researchers collaborated with educators and administrators in public and/or private schools to identify students in need of this skill and to carry out all experimental phases. The researchers have significant clinical and research experience in teaching communication skills and decreasing problem behavior in individuals with developmental disabilities.

The researchers proposed to teach two to six preschool or elementary-aged children an appropriate request (e.g., signing “stop”) to terminate a variety of nonpreferred items or activities (e.g., an alarm clock sounding, a vacuum cleaner running). We first interviewed teachers and caregivers and conducted classroom observations to identify potential nonpreferred items and activities that precede problem behavior (e.g., ear covering, crying, self-injurious behavior). Targeted training stimuli (i.e., the items or activities) were then identified through a formal assessment. Appropriate requests were then taught in the presence of the specific stimuli identified as nonpreferred through the formal assessment. Training was conducted in the presence of multiple stimuli, until either generalization to untrained target stimuli occurs, or the response is trained in the presence of all targeted stimuli. Generalizations to non-experimental settings were also assessed.

The results were expected to demonstrate that participants require training in the presence of multiple stimuli before generalization to untrained stimuli occurs. In addition, generalization to non-experimental settings is hoped for, but not certain. If it did not occur within the context of the experimental training procedures, researchers will then collaborate with educators to facilitate transfer of the appropriate request to appropriate situations across settings. It was expected that participants would benefit from this research, acquiring a new response to terminate multiple nonpreferred activities and stimuli. In addition, the benefits of this research extend beyond the participants involved, contributing to the development of effective procedures to teach requests for the termination of nonpreferred items or activities (i.e., mands for negative reinforcement) to any individual who does not demonstrate this skill.




This work made publicly available electronically on July 31, 2012.