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1. What was the purpose of the study? That is, what were the researchers trying to find out; what are the research questions?

2. How many participants were included in the study? State each participants’ age, sex, and any diagnosis?

3. List the operational definitions of all target behaviors.

4. State how the data were measured and graphed.

5. In your own words, provide a description of all the experimental procedures used in the study.

6. Summarize level, trend, and variability for one participant.

7. What contributions to the science and practice of ABA did this article provide? In other words, what was the main take away point(s) of this article?  

8. Extra Credit: What is the social validity of this experiment or procedure. Consider habilitation and how the individual’s like may have been improved.





Activity schedules are often used to facilitate task engagement and transition for children with
autism. This study evaluated whether conditional discrimination training would serve to transfer
the control from activity-schedule pictures to printed words (i.e., derived textual control). Two
preschoolers with autism were taught to select pictures and printed words given their dictated
names. Following training, participants could respond to printed words by completing the
depicted task, match printed words to pictures, and read printed words without explicit training
(i.e., emergent relations).

DESCRIPTORS: activity schedules, autism, conditional discrimination, derived stimulus
relations, stimulus equivalence


Activity schedules are commonly used to cue
children diagnosed with autism to perform tasks
independently (McClannahan, MacDuff, &
Krantz, 2002). Activity schedules usually consist
of binders with one picture per page that
children are taught to open, turn the pages, look
at the pictures, and engage in the corresponding
task (MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan,
1993; McClannahan & Krantz, 1999). When
children start learning to read, it may be
developmentally appropriate to replace the
pictures with printed words. Although McClan-
nahan and Krantz recommend using within-
stimulus fading for this task, conditional
discrimination training (i.e., matching to sam-
ple, MTS) may be a viable alternative for
transferring control from pictures to printed
words in activity schedules (Lalli, Casey, Goh,

& Merlino, 1994). One potential advantage of
an MTS procedure is the possibility of
emergence of untaught responses (i.e., stimulus
equivalence). If taught to select pictures when
given the dictated names (AB) and printed
words when given the same dictated names
(AC), participants may match pictures and
printed words (BC, CB) and label pictures
(BD) and printed words (CD) without direct
training (Sidman, 1994).

Rehfeldt and colleagues have demonstrated
that learning to relate dictated words to their
corresponding pictures and printed words via
MTS discrimination training resulted in accu-
rate mands using printed words instead of
pictures (Rehfeldt & Root, 2005; Rosales &
Rehfeldt, 2007). Other emergent relations were
also evident without direct training, including
matching words to pictures, pictures to words,
and naming pictures and words. Sidman (2004)
has suggested that matching words and pictures
is a prerequisite for reading with comprehen-
sion; thus, MTS seems to be an efficient way to
teach socially important skills that should be
evaluated with children with autism.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the
use of MTS conditional discrimination training
to replace pictures with text in activity schedules
of children with autism (i.e., derived textual

Caio Miguel is now at California State University,
Sacramento. Heather Finn is now at Cabrillo Unified
School District, Half Moon Bay, California. We thank
Rebecca McDonald and the staff in the Intensive
Instruction Program at NECC for their onsite support,
as well as Danielle LaFrance for her comments on a
previous version of this manuscript. Special thanks go to
Linda LeBlanc for her invaluable editorial assistance.

Address correspondence to Caio Miguel, Department of
Psychology, California State University, Sacramento, 6000
J Street, Sacramento, California 95819 (e-mail: [email protected]

doi: 10.1901/jaba.2009.42-703



control). Participants who could follow picture
schedules were taught to select pictures and
printed words given their dictated names fol-
lowed by an evaluation of their ability to follow a
textual activity schedule. Reading comprehension
was also assessed by testing to see if children could
match pictures to printed words (and vice versa)
and read the words out loud.



Two 6-year-old children who had been
diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
participated in the study. Ben spoke in three- to
five-word sentences. Dennis spoke in two- to
four-word sentences that were almost all prompt-
ed. Both had a very limited sight-word vocabulary
(i.e., few correct vocal labels for written words).

Setting and Stimulus Materials

Sessions were conducted in a secluded work
area of the participants’ preschool classroom.
Materials included a three ring binder (11.5 cm
by 16.5 cm) with one strip of hook-and-loop
tape on each of six pages (i.e., activity schedule),
a stimulus placement board (50 cm by 19 cm)
with three strips of hook-and-loop tape, and 12
laminated cards (5 cm by 7 cm). The 12 cards
consisted of six digital photographs of preferred
items and six cards with their corresponding
printed names in Times New Roman 40-point
font on white backgrounds. All items and
pictures had previously been trained in picture
activity schedules using the procedures outlined
by McClannahan and Krantz (1999). Partici-

pants had previously been taught to tact each
item and picture with 100% accuracy using a
prompt delay procedure. Two sets of preferred
items and activities were identified via prefer-
ence assessments (DeLeon & Iwata, 1996).
Ben’s Set 1 items included a puzzle, a robot toy,
and crackers; the Set 2 toys included a shape
sorter, a file-folder MTS activity, and chocolate
candies. Dennis’ Set 1 items included a garage
play set, an Etch-a-Sketch, and a Magna
Doodle; the Set 2 items were a wooden pizza
play set, a pretend medical kit, and chips.

Experimental Design and Measurement

The effects of the MTS conditional discrim-
ination training on completion of textual
activity schedules were evaluated using a
concurrent multiple-baseline design across two
sets of three pictures and toys. All six words
were on the schedule in each session but
training for one three-item set commenced
before training of the other. In addition, pre-
and posttests were conducted to assess emergent
stimulus relations. The order of conditions was
as follows: emergent relations pretests, textual
activity-schedule baseline, conditional discrim-
ination training, textual activity-schedule post-
training, and emergent relations posttests (see
Table 1).

Observers scored whether the presence of
printed words on the activity schedule (i.e.,
derived textual activity control) occasioned
correct independent completion of an activity
that consisted of looking at a printed word,
retrieving the corresponding item from an array
(Ben) or bookshelf (Dennis), and either con-

Table 1

Order of Training and Testing Conditions

Condition Relations Trained or tested

Emergent relations pretest CB, BC, CDa Tested
Textual activity baseline C task completion Tested
Conditional discrimination training AB, AC, and mixed Trained
Textual activity posttraining C task completion Tested
Emergent relations posttest CB, BC, CD Tested

a A 5 dictated word, B 5 picture, C 5 printed word, D 5 participant’s vocal response.

704 CAIO F. MIGUEL et al.

suming or completing it before flipping to
another page. The percentage of correct inde-
pendent responses was calculated by dividing
the number of correct responses by the total
possible number of responses per set (three).
Observers also scored selections and oral
labeling responses during emergent relations
tests as correct or incorrect. The percentage of
correct responses was calculated by dividing the
number of correct responses by the total
possible number of responses per block (nine).
A second independent observer scored responses
during 33% and 60% of the sessions for Ben
and Dennis, respectively. Each trial was scored
either as an agreement (i.e., identical observer
record) or a disagreement. Point-by-point
agreement was calculated by dividing the
number of agreements by the sum of agree-
ments and disagreements, and this ratio was
converted to a percentage. Mean interobserver
agreement was 92% (range, 78% to 100%) for
Ben and 100% for Dennis.


Emergent relations pre- and posttests. Relations
between pictures and printed words were tested
using a typical visual-visual MTS task. The
experimenter presented one stimulus (sample),
and the participant was required to point to the
sample prior to the presentation of the
comparisons (i.e., observing response). The
experimenter then presented three comparisons
attached to the stimulus placement board and
asked the participant to ‘‘match.’’ Testing
occurred under extinction, in which correct
responses were never reinforced and incorrect
responses or no response for 5 s resulted in the
presentation of the next trial. No additional
instructions or prompts were provided.

Testing was arranged in nine-trial blocks in a
predetermined order in which samples were each
presented three times and comparison stimuli
served as the correct comparison once on the
right, once in the middle, and once on the left of
the bottom array. Emergent conditional relations

were tested along with a socially important
topography-based response (i.e., reading aloud).
First, printed words served as the samples and
pictures served as the comparisons (CB). Next,
pictures served as the sample and printed words
served as comparisons (BC). Emergent textual
behavior (i.e., reading aloud) in the presence of
printed words was also tested in nine-trial blocks
in which each printed word was presented three
times with a pointing response and the question,
‘‘What is this?’’ (CD). The criterion for evidence
of emergent relations was set at eight of nine
(89%) correct trials during a testing block.

Textual activity baseline and posttraining
probes. All six pictures in the child’s activity
schedule were replaced with printed words.
Ben’s toys and edible items were placed on a
table in front of him. Dennis’ materials were
stored on shelves, and he had already learned to
retrieve the items. The experimenter presented
the textual activity schedule and said, ‘‘Time to
use your schedule.’’ The experimenter sat on a
chair approximately 3 m away for data-collec-
tion purposes. No adult-mediated reinforce-
ment was provided during the session. Each
session consisted of one presentation of the
activity schedule. The order of presentation of
printed words varied across sessions. Correct
responses consisted of completing the activity
displayed in the textual stimulus (i.e., printed
word). Session length varied depending on the
amount of time required for completing each
activity or consuming the item, but it never
exceeded 20 min. Although sessions would have
been terminated if all tasks had not been
completed within 25 min, this never happened.

Conditional discrimination training. For each
trial, the experimenter presented the vocal
sample (A) followed immediately by the stimulus
board with the three comparisons (i.e., auditory-
visual MTS). The experimenter cued responses by
pointing to the correct comparison at a series of
five progressive delays (0 s, 1 s, 2 s, 3 s, 4 s, and
no prompt) after the presentation of the sample.
Criterion to progress through prescribed delays


Figure 1. Percentage of correct responses during baseline and posttraining textual activity probes (i.e.,
correspondence between order of printed activity and engagement in activity).

706 CAIO F. MIGUEL et al.

Figure 2. Percentage of correct responses during emergent relations tests for Stimulus Sets 1 and 2. Emergent
relations consisted of CB (selecting the picture in the presence of the printed word), BC (selecting the printed word in the
presence of the picture), and CD (reading the printed word).


was two consecutive nine-trial blocks with eight of
nine correct responses. All correct preprompt
responses resulted in praise and tokens that could
be exchanged for preferred items at the end of the
session. Incorrect responses (i.e., incorrect selec-
tions prior to or after the prompt, no selection
within 5 s) resulted in re-presentation of the same
trial at a 0-s delay. Trials were separated with 3-s
intertrial intervals. First, the participant matched
dictated words to their corresponding pictures
(AB), followed by matching dictated words to
their corresponding printed words (AC). Then
mixed training was conducted with interspersing
trials of the AB and AC relations. The mastery
criterion for each relation and the mixed training
was two consecutive nine-trial blocks with eight of
nine correct unprompted responses (89% accu-


Figure 1 depicts participants’ baseline and
posttraining performances during textual activ-
ity probes. Dennis’ baseline percentage of
activities completed on both sets was low, and
Ben’s baseline percentage of activities completed
was variable, with increases in accuracy in
baseline for the Set 2 items as he mastered the
Set 1 items (i.e., three of the six activities were
eliminated). These results suggest a lack of
specific textual control over participants’ behav-
ior prior to MTS training. Ben mastered the
conditional discrimination tasks in 261 trials for
Set 1 and 153 trials for Set 2, and Dennis
mastered the conditional discrimination tasks in
81 trials for Set 1 and 99 trials for Set 2. During
the posttraining activity probes, both partici-
pants responded accurately across the stimulus
sets, with a few errors by Ben. These results
suggest that the conditional discrimination
procedure was effective in transferring control
from the pictures to printed words. In other
words, neither child could consistently follow a
text-based activity schedule during baseline but
both could do so after MTS training on related

During emergent relations pretests (Fig-
ure 2), both participants scored below chance
levels for all relations on Set 1 and Set 2. Higher
accuracy scores occurred for the BC and CB
relations for Set 2 for both participants, but
these relatively high pretest scores were still
below the success criterion and were not
associated with effective use of the textual
activity schedules. Emergent relations posttest
performances showed that both participants
matched words to pictures and pictures to
words with at least 89% accuracy. Participants
also read all printed words without direct
training (CD).

In summary, after learning to match dictated
words to pictures (AB) and dictated words to
printed words (AC), children with autism
responded to printed words in the same way
that they responded to pictures. In addition,
participants matched printed words to pictures
(CB) and pictures to printed words (BC) and
read the printed words aloud (CD) without
direct training. The fact that participants were
able to match pictures to printed words suggests
that they were responding to the printed words
with comprehension (Sidman, 1994).

Future research should further evaluate the
effectiveness of the conditional discrimination
procedure and compare it to within-stimulus
fading in order to determine which of these
strategies is more efficient and effective when
transferring the control from pictures to printed
words in activity schedules, as well as whether
stimulus fading would yield any form of
emergent responding.


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Lalli, J. S., Casey, S., Goh, H., & Merlino, J. (1994).
Treatment of escape-maintained aberrant behavior
with escape extinction and predictable routines.
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MacDuff, G. S., Krantz, P. J., & McClannahan, L. E.
(1993). Teaching children with autism to use
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McClannahan, L. E., & Krantz, P. J. (1999). Activity
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McClannahan, L. E., MacDuff, G. S., & Krantz, P. J.
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Received March 21, 2008
Final acceptance September 8, 2008
Action Editor, Linda LeBlanc