Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Susan Kabot, EdD

Committee Member

Christine Reeve, PhD


Applied Behavior Analysis, manual sign language, Picture Exchange Communication System, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Functional Communication Training


This applied dissertation study was designed to inform and advance knowledge regarding research in the area of the effectiveness of functional communication training (FCT) in reducing challenging behaviors among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who were nonverbal, by using a quantitative single subject approach. The researcher specifically focused on determining which modality, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or manual sign language, would be the most effective as a replacement behavior to bring about a reduction in challenging behaviors. Previous researchers in the field of FCT did not address this area, thus leaving a gap in the research.

The participants for the study were three children with ASD between the ages of 4 and 6. Prior to the start of the study, multiple assessments were administered to assess the function of challenging behaviors, level of functioning, imitation skills, and preferences.

The intervention phases consisted of randomly alternating between a session of PECS and manual sign daily with each session consisting of 10 trials. Baseline data was collected to assess preexisting skill level to mand for items. The intervention trials continued until the participants reached mastery level in either modality. Results demonstrated that only PECS was effective for both the participants who completed the study, and for the participant who mastered both manual signing and PECS, PECS had a quicker acquisition rate. Implications from the findings suggest that FCT is an effective intervention in reducing challenging behaviors, and that PECS might be more effective for quick reductions of challenging behaviors. The study is a valuable addition to the current FCT research as it aligns with and extends findings from previous research.

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