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Running Head: TEACHING INDEPENDENT TASK CHANGE
Teaching Independent Task Change Through
the Use of Photographic Activity Scheduling
Queens College of the City University of New York
This study used a photographic activity schedule (picture albums depicting vocational tasks) to teach three adult employees with moderate mental retardation in a sheltered workshop to independently make transitions among vocational tasks. The multiple-baseline-across-subjects design included baseline, training, and maintenance phases. Throughout the study the photographs were resequenced and generalization was measured from the original photographs and tasks to novel photographs and tasks. The results indicated that teaching the use of photographic activity schedules effectively increased the employees percentage of making independent task transitions. In addition, the participants skills generalized to the novel photographs and tasks. This enabled the employees to follow lengthy response chains, act more independently, and reduce the demand of supervision on the line manager.
Teaching Independent Task Change Through
the Use of Photographic Activity Scheduling
Many individuals with mild or moderate mental retardation are placed in sheltered workshops as their place of employment. They can usually be taught the requisite skills involved with performing the tasks that they are responsible to complete. One problem that arises is that these employees develop a heavy dependence on verbal prompting to complete their tasks and transition to the subsequent ones (MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1993). This results in employees who have the prerequisite skills to perform their tasks but will instead, wait for verbal instructions at each step of the task. In addition, once a task is completed, the employee will often sit and wait until verbally prompted to make a transition to the succeeding task.
One promising approach to enhancing independence in making task transitions is the use of pictures as a guide. An early study by Connis (1979) used picture prompts to train workers with mental retardation to be more independent in their vocational setting. He organized pictures into sequences that depicted tasks that the employees were supposed to follow. The employees then used those pictures as a guide to change their work tasks without any prompting. In a similar study (Sowers, Rusch, Connis, & Cummings, 1980), picture prompts were used to train three adults with mental retardation to manage their time even though they couldn't tell time from a clock. The subjects were taught to follow pictures of clock faces. These clock faces prompted the subject to leave and return from lunch and work breaks.
Other studies involved the use of picture prompts to complete the steps in a complex task. For example, Wacker & Berg (1983) used pictures to depict each step in a complex task. For each step there was a new picture. Adolescents with mental retardation completed tasks consisting of 18 to 30 steps by following those pictures. Frank et al. (1985) used pictures to guide five students with mental retardation to use a computer and choose the appropriate programs. Each picture depicted the action the student was to perform.
MacDuff et al. (1993) used a photographic activity schedule to teach four children with autism to follow complex task chains. They gave each child an album that had a different picture on each page. Each picture depicted a different leisure or homework activity. Through graduated guidance, the children were taught to follow their photographic schedules as a guide to which activities they should be involved in. When each activity was completed the children were taught to independently turn the page in their schedules. This signaled the next activity. This allowed the children to transition to appropriate tasks independently.
The present investigation attempted to replicate and extend previous findings regarding picture prompts and photographic activity schedules. First, picture prompts have been shown to be effective in conjunction with verbal praise as a reinforcer (Frank et al., 1985; Sowers et al., 1980; Connis, 1979). This study attempted to determine if picture prompts (in the form of photographic activity schedules) would be effective in a total absence of any verbal prompts or verbal reinforcers.
Second, photographic activity schedules have been demonstrated to be effective with adolescents (Wacker et al.,1985) and with children (MacDuff et al., 1993). This study attempted to determine if it would also be effective with adults.
Third, photographic activity schedules have been shown to be effective for individuals with autism and with leisure tasks (MacDuff etal., 1993). This study attempted to find out if it would be as effective for individuals with mental retardation and with vocational tasks.
Additionally, we applied the photographic activity schedules to a novel setting - a
Subjects and Setting
The study was conducted at a day-treatment program at A.C.R.M.D in Queens. Participants in the day-treatment program were given supervised vocational tasks in the morning and educational and recreational activities in the afternoon. The vocational tasks usually consisted of assembling pipes, stuffing envelopes, and packaging items such as book covers. The room where the vocational tasks were done contained two long rows of tables upon which the tasks were placed. There were 14 employees at each row, seven on each side.
Three male adults with moderate mental retardation, who were employed in the day-treatment program, were selected for this study. Fred was 39 years old and obtained a full scale IQ score of 34 on the Stanford-Binet. John was 29 years old and obtained a score of less than 30 on the Stanford-Binet. Eugene was 50 years old and obtained an IQ score of 39 on the Stanford-Binet. Eugene also had a secondary diagnosis of schizophrenia. They were identified by the staff as having the prerequisite skills to complete the vocational tasks but relied heavily on verbal prompting to complete and transition tasks. The staff had expressed frustration in having to continuously prompt the consumers when they had the necessary skills to work independently.
Tasks and Materials
Target Tasks. Three basic vocational tasks were selected. These tasks were to (a) assemble and screw together pipe pieces, (b) package book covers appropriately, and (c) bring those completed tasks to the line manager. These tasks were selected because they were ones that the employees often faced in their occupational setting. The novel tasks were (a) packaging vacuum belts into a paper bag and (b) putting index cards into envelopes.
Photographic Activity Schedules. Each employee was given a small photo album (17.5 cm by 10 cm) which contained 10 photographs depicting the vocational tasks to be completed. Each photograph was on a separate page. Initially, the photographs in the schedule were: (a) a picture of the pipe pieces (to represent the pipe assembly task), (b) a picture of the line manager (to represent the employees need to bring it to the line manager for inspection), (c) a picture of the pipe pieces again, (d) a picture of the line manager again, (e) a picture of the book covers and its plastic pouch (representing the book cover packaging task), (f) a picture of the line manager again, (g) a picture of the book covers again, (h) a picture of the line manager again, (i) a picture of the pipe pieces again, (j) a picture of the line manager again. The cover of the album had a picture of each employee pasted on it so that the employees could identify which album was theirs. The last page was a "reward" page with a picture of a candy bar. The employees were asked if they liked M&M's and they all replied affirmatively. Completion of the schedule entitled the employee to some M&M's.
Independent task completion and transitioning was broken down into five discrete components:
1. Did the employee open/turn to the correct page?
2. Did he point to the picture depicted on the page?
3. Did he obtain the materials that were depicted?
4. Did he successfully assemble/package the materials?
5. Did he put each assembled/packaged item into the appropriate box set aside for completed items?
Each of these components was supposed to be started within five seconds of completing the previous one. A successful independent transition of a task was the completion of all five components of one task and then switching to the components of the next task - without any directives or verbal prompting. Any delay of more than five seconds from the completion of one task to the transitioning and performing of the subsequent task (as depicted by the activity schedule) was considered a non-independent transition. Table 1 contains the breakdown of the 10 tasks and their individual components. For each component correctly completed a check was put in that box. If all the components were correctly completed for a specific task then the number "5" would be put in the box "number of components completed" and a "yes" would be placed in the box "were all 5 components completed independently."
A multiple-baseline-across-subjects design was used to assess the effects of photographic activity schedules on independent transitioning of tasks during baseline, teaching, maintenance, resequencing of pictorial schedules, and generalization to novel photographs.
Baseline. During baseline each employee was given the same verbal directions consisting of "O.K. 'name of employee' its time to do your work now." No other prompting, verbal or otherwise was given during this phase. If an employee asked the examiner any question or attempted to solicit any verbal instruction from the examiner that related to the tasks, he was told that his question would be answered after the session was over. This was true for the teaching and maintenance phases as well. The work items they needed were placed on the table before the session began. The items were placed within reach but not directly in front of them. Each employee had the same number of items accessible to them at each task (i.e. each employee had 10 pipes to assemble and five book covers to package). The pipe assembly task involved four pipe pieces that had to be screwed together to make a complete pipe conduit. The book cover packaging involved putting a book cover into a plastic sheath. If there was a delay of five seconds during any component of the task then the experimenter completed that component for him. If the employee joined in with the experimenter and started to complete the task then it was still scored as non-independent although the employee was allowed to complete the rest independently. Once the experimenter started to perform any component for the employee the task was considered non-independent. For example, if the employee did not obtain pipe pieces (component number three) within the five seconds allotted, then the experimenter would obtain it for him (and the task would be scored as non-independent). If the employee then delayed another five seconds and did not start to assemble the pipes (component number four) then the experimenter started to assemble them. If the employee then started to assemble the pipes he was allowed to complete the assembly by himself but the task was still scored as non-independent. The baseline phase lasted eight sessions for John, 27 sessions for Fred, and 16 sessions for Eugene. During baseline, Eugene got sick and took leave for three months, when he returned however, his baseline was the same as when he left. The photographic activity schedules were placed on the work table about 40 cm's from the employees. This enabled the activity schedule to remain within sight and reach of the employees while not getting in the way of the work items.
Teaching the use of photographic activity schedules. The employees were now taught how to use their photographic activity schedules. The employee was told to turn each successive page of the activity schedule when he finished the task he was working on. The examiner turned each page and asked the employee to identify each picture and verbally say what it represented. For example, when shown a picture of pipe pieces he was asked to identify what they were (i.e., "John what is that?"). After properly identifying the items, he was told "Good, now when you see this picture get the pipe pieces and put them together." This was done for each picture. After that, the same directive that was given during baseline was now given (e.g., "John, its time to do your work now"). If the employee did not open the book independently within five seconds, the experimenter placed his hand on the employee's hand and manually guided him to open it. This guidance was offered from behind the employee. No verbal directions were given. Five seconds were then counted off again. If the employee did not point to the picture being depicted then the experimenter manually guided the employee to point to it. This type of manual guidance was used to help the employees complete each component of the task. Graduated guidance of this type was used until all the tasks pictured in their activity schedules were completed. Prompts were faded in frequency and intensity as rapidly as possible.
Initially, all correct responses were reinforced by delivering M&M candies. Gradually, this reinforcement was faded until the employee was not reinforced more than a total of two times per session. The M&M's had been previously identified by the employees as something they liked. An additional reinforcement, social praise, was delivered by the line manager whenever the employees brought her their work for inspection. Finally, a reward (a candy bar) was dispensed to the employees when they completed the entire activity schedule.
The teaching condition ended when an employee was able to complete 100% of the tasks independently on three consecutive sessions.
Maintenance. During maintenance, the same initial verbal directive was given. No reinforcement, M&M's or other prompts were delivered. The employees in this phase were expected to independently use their activity schedules to guide them.
Resequencing photographic activity schedules. During each phase of the study the schedules were constantly resequenced by assigning the pictures of the pipes and book covers to new, random positions in the schedules. This manipulation was performed to assess whether the employees were using their schedules as a guide or were following now-familiar patterns.
Generalization of Novel Tasks. During each phase of the study two of the original
tasks (pipe assembly and book cover packaging) were replaced with similar vocational
activities (envelope stuffing and vacuum belt packing). The employees, once again,
had the prerequisite skills to complete these tasks but these novel tasks were
previously not depicted in the photographic activity schedules. Due to the
experimentors error, no generalization measures were recorded for John during his
Interobserver agreement data was obtained for the dependent variable for 40% of
all sessions across all conditions. Interobserver agreement was obtained by comparing
the success/unsuccessful scoring of task components of the two experimenters
involved. The percentage of interobserver agreement was calculated by dividing the
number of agreements by the number of agreements and disagreements and then
multiplying that by 100. During the baseline phase, interobserver agreement was 96%,
98% and 100% for John, Fred, and Eugene respectively. During the teaching phase,
interobserver agreement was found to be 98%, 96%, and 98% for John, Fred, and
Eugene respectively. During the Maintenance phase, interobserver agreement was
found to be 98%, 90%, and 96% for John, Fred, and Eugene respectively.
Figure 1 shows the percentage of tasks the employees completed independently across all conditions. During Baseline, no employee transitioned any task independently (0%). With the application of teaching the photographic schedules (e.g., the teaching phase), all the employees started to make transitions independently. John's percentage of correctly making independent transitions increased from a low of zero percent to a high of 100% within 11 sessions of treatment (including the treeatment prior to the summer break. Over the next 10 sessions it ranged from 80% to 100% with an average of 96%. Fred's percentage of correctly making independent transitions increased from a low of 30% to a high of 90% within 9 sessions of treatment. For the next 6 sessions it ranged from 70% to 90% with an average of 83%. Eugene's percentage of making independent transitions rose from a low of 0% to a high of 100% within 8 sessions of treatment. Over the next 8 sessions he ranged from 90% to 100% with an average of 95%.
During maintenance, John's and Eugene's percentage of making independent transitions remained stable at 100% for 5 sessions. Fred, over five sessions, averaged 88% with a low of 80% and a high if 100%.
Figure 2 shows the percentage of making independent transitions using novel photographs. The data for these sessions are similar to the previous data obtained for the original tasks. During Baseline, both Fred and Eugene had no independent transitions (as explained earlier, there was no generalization data recorded for John). During the training phase, John's percentage of making independent transitions with novel tasks ranged from a low of 80% to a high of 100% for 5 sessions with an average of 94%. Fred's percentage of making independent transitions with novel tasks ranged from a low of 80% to a high of 90% for 4 sessions with an average of 85%. Eugene's percentage of making independent transitions with novel tasks ranged from a low of 80% to a high of100% over three sessions with an average of 90%.
The systematic increases in the percentage of independent task transitions with the introduction of photographic activity schedules allows us to conclude that teaching employees in a day-treatment program to use photographic schedules was effective in inducing them to make independent task transitions. Employees, previously sitting idle waiting to be prompted, were now able to work and make task transitions independent of any staff member or prompting. The employees were effectively able to follow their pictorial schedules and use them as a guide in their vocational setting. Additionally, the employees were able to follow the activity schedules even when the pictures were resequenced or when novel pictures were introduced. Anecdotally, during the treatment phase, a staff member remarked how surprised he was that Fred was actually working instead of his usual behavior of sitting around and doing nothing.
This study replicates and extends previous investigations that used pictures and photographs with subjects. First, it replicates those studies (Frank et al., 1985; Sowers et al., 1980) that indicate picture prompts can effectively teach individuals with mental retardation to perform complex vocational tasks. It also replicates the study (Connis, 1979) which used picture prompts as a guide for individuals with mental retardation to independently transition to subsequent tasks. In addition, it replicates the study done by MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan (1993) who used photographic activity schedules to guide children with autism to independently change their leisure tasks. This study extends that study further by using a photographic activity schedule to promote independent transitions of vocational tasks. It also extends that study by using adults with mental retardation instead of children with autism. Finally, it extends that study by using a new setting, a day-treatment center, instead of a group home.
This can be very useful in a vocational setting to increase the amount of independence the employee has and to free up valuable time for supervisors. In a vocational setting, the staff only has to take out a Polaroid camera, photograph the current task materials, and put that photograph into the albums to facilitate independence in task completion and transitioning.
Further studies should attempt to assess the viability of photographic activity schedules for vocational tasks beyond the 40 minutes or so that each session in this study took. Additional studies should attempt to incorporate a full day of vocational tasks. Another suggestion for further study is to use photographic activity schedules to promote independent task change for both leisure and vocational tasks.
Connis, R. T. (1979). The Effects of Sequential Pictorial Cues, Self-Recording, and Praise on the Job Task Sequencing of Retarded adults. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 12, 355-361.
Frank, A. R., Wacker, D. P., Berg, W. K., & Mcmahon, C. M. (1985). Teaching selected microcomputer skills to retarded students via picture prompts. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 179-185.
MacDuff, G.S., Krantz, P.J., & McClannahan, L. E. (1993). Teaching Children with Autism to use Photographic Activity Schedules: Maintenance and Generalization of Complex Response Chains. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 89-97.
Sowers, J., Rusch, F. R., Connis, R. T., & Cummings, L. E. (1980). Teaching Mentally Retarded Adults to Time-manage in a Vocational Setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 13, 119-128.
Wacker, D. P., Berg, W. K. (1983). Effects of Picture prompts on the acquisition of Complex Vocational Tasks by mentally Retarded Adolescents. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 16, 417-433.
Wacker, D. P., Berg, W. K., Berrie, P., & Swatta, P. (1985). Generalization and Maintenance of Complex Skills by severely Handicapped adolescents following picture prompt training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 329-336.
Table 1. The ten tasks that are depicted in the photographic activity schedules and the components of each task.
(Click here to view theData Sheet)
Figure 1. Percentage of tasks independently transitioned across consecutive sessions.
Figure 2. Percentage of tasks independently transitioned during generalization probes across consecutive sessions.
( I apologize for not having the graphs up yet...they are still under construction)
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