Teaching an individual with severe intellectual delay to request assistance conditionally

Joe E Reichle, Jennifer McComas, Norm Dahl, Gina Solberg, Sarah Pierce, David Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to evaluate intervention procedures to teach conditional use of a communicative request for assistance and independent task performance. A 40-year-old man with autism and severe mental retardation with a history of escape-related problems was taught to use a graphic symbol to request assistance and to engage independently in a vocational assembly task. A multiple-probe design across each of three components of the assembly task was executed to evaluate the effect of teaching requesting assistance and followed by independent task completion. Dependent measures included requests for assistance and independent task completion. Intervention was associated with initial acquisition of requests for assistance. As the participant became increasingly independent in completing the task, production of requests for assistance correspondingly diminished. A post-hoc analysis revealed that the speed with which independent task completion occurred was substantially faster than when assistance was required. The implementation of the two independent variables was successful as the participant learned to moderate his use of requests for assistance. A discussion of competing schedules of reinforcement is offered as the explanation for this outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-286
Number of pages12
JournalEducational Psychology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Apr 2005


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