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Language matrix Larsson

  1. 1. MThe generative language matrix: A comprehensive clinical analysis of generative language classes,conditional discriminations, ecobehavioral functions, abstract comprehension, and natural languagedevelopmentEric V. Larsson, Kara Riedesel, Angela Keene, Leslie DavisLIFE, University of Minnesota, University of KansasApril 30, 2003Permission to reproduce must be requested from the authors at:Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.LIFE Midwest2925 Dean Parkway, #300Minneapolis, MN
  2. 2. Generative Language Matrix Page 2The treatment of autismNatural language and social behavior may be analyzed in many ways. When the purpose of theanalysis is to develop natural social and language skills, then it is helpful to integrate the analysis intoa comprehensive organizational framework. In intensive early intervention with young children withautism, the great variety of natural language skills can be developed within such a coherentconceptual framework. As a result, the framework will enable productive treatment planning andprogram evaluation, as well as efficient language programming. Intensive therapy will be most cost-effective when both language and social skills are developed through an organized, as opposed todisordered, curriculum. The mark of an integrated curriculum is that it has content and coherentvalidity. Given that natural social behavior is highly inter-dependent with language skill, the validcurriculum should integrate both areas of skill development.In the assessment of the needs of a child who has been diagnosed with autism, three areas ofdevelopment typically appear to deviate from the normal range. The child will have a distinctlyatypical developmental repertoire of both language and social behavior. The child will also showsome form of stereotyped behavior. Each child will show a highly individualized pattern of thesedevelopmental deviations (Committee on Children With Disabilities, 2001). Therefore thecurriculum should integrate a therapeutic approach to addressing all three areas, but in a frameworkthat allows for significant individualization, as opposed to a simple progressive cookbook.In order to attain the best possible outcomes for the child, behavior therapy should result in naturalpatterns of behavior in all of the typical environments of childhood. If these outcomes are thoughtof in terms of the natural repertoire of a typical six-year-old child, the goals of such treatment can bedescribed generally as follows. The child will empathize and share affection with his family. Thechild will independently make and keep mutual friendships. The child will succeed independently inschool. The child’s social interaction will both be responsive and dynamic. The child will beeffective in social situations. Finally, the child will meet the natural expectations for social behaviorand self-control of their behavior in the environment. The child will possess all of these typicalbehavior patterns in the appropriate environments without requiring specialized supports. Instead,these typical behavior patterns will independently arise in the context of the natural ecology of theenvironment.To more operationally define these general aspects of typical development, the treatment goals arefor the child to show developmentally typical patterns of the following behaviors.o Generalized imitationo Generalized complianceo Distal complianceo Response to novel adultso Compliance with group instructionso Attending in small and large groupso Intelligible speecho Generalized speecho Colloquial speecho Creative story tellingo Social comprehensiono Cooperative play with adults© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  3. 3. Generative Language Matrix Page 3o Cooperative play with peerso Congruent social playo Maintenance of mutual friendshipso Participation in group conversationso Thorough social responsivenesso Self control of stereotypyo Self control of excessive activity levelsWhen a child has mastered these goals, by spontaneously using these skills as appropriate in thenatural environment, he is likely to have reached a point at which he is independent in the typicalenvironments of childhood. He can enter and graduate from first grade without requiring specialsupports. He attains all of the typical developmental milestones. He can attain normal scores ofcognitive functioning in standardized testing environments. He does not qualify for any diagnosablemental disorder. He responds equally appropriately in all environments, and with his parents, peers,siblings, and all natural care-providers, as well as with trained therapists. He does not requireongoing specialized therapy to develop further. These results have been found when behaviortherapy is delivered as intensive early intervention. These outcomes might be the best possible, andin published research, children who attain these goals have a high likelihood of maintainingindependence throughout childhood (McEachin, Smith, & Lovaas, 1993).In order to accomplish these ambitious aims, a large body of research in Applied Behavior Analysishas been pursued over the past 40 years. The implication of this research is that behavior constantlyresponds to its environment. This interaction of behavior and environment results in all of thelearned behavior patterns exhibited in a child’s life. Whether interactions with parents and staff areplanned or unplanned in their intent, these responses still interact with the child’s behavior patternsto result in development. The developing behavior can follow a path that results in autisticbehavior. In the development of autistic behavior, stereotyped tendencies generally becomestronger as a result of the interaction of autistic behavior patterns with the environment throughoutthe 24-hour day. Inconsistent treatment approaches do not readily alter this dysfunctional patternnor do they result in progress toward normalcy. However, consistent treatment is regularly shownto result in appropriate development. Therefore, to alter the developmental course of autism,treatment must transform the child’s home and community into a 24-hour therapeutic ecology. Themost well-proven therapeutic ecology is based upon the results of Applied Behavior Analysis.More specifically, to transform the autistic behavior patterns into typical social behavior patterns,effective treatments must establish natural behavior interactions in their typical environments.Behavior therapy is most effective when the clinical focus is upon treating dysfunctional behaviorproblems, such as stereotyped tendencies, which are functioning to prevent typical development.To eliminate these behavior problems is then to result in accelerated progress toward typicaldevelopment. In addition to the remediation of these dysfunctional patterns, behavior therapy willalso entail a direct teaching approach which establishes the prerequisite skills necessary for naturalbehavior patterns to emerge. Therefore, effective behavior therapy is a two-fold process. Not onlymust typical skills be established through direct teaching, but also, for these skills to developnaturally and be used effectively in the natural environment, the child’s clinical behavior problemsmust be remediated. As such, there are both structural and functional goals in behavior therapy.© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  4. 4. Generative Language Matrix Page 4Regarding the clinical focus, a large number of the dysfunctional behavior problems have beenidentified in clinical practice. These behavior problems include:o Rigidityo Preference for routine and samenesso Perseverationo Frustration avoidanceo Retreat from overwhelming complex environmentso Social disengagemento Failure to learn from the environmento Ecological effectiveness of autistic behaviorso Self-motivation as opposed to social orientationo Stereotyped reinforcemento Oppositional behavioro Generalization decrementsEach of these clinical behavior problems may be addressed through a task analysis of the individualchild’s specific needs in the area. Then the task analysis is followed as a series of individualizedinterventions. The interventions are modified in response to a prescriptive analysis of theireffectiveness. The clinical interventions are interdependent upon the direct teaching of skills thatare also needed to help the child function in the natural environment.An example of a sequence of intervention that is designed to address one clinical behavior problem,rigidity, involves the following general steps. Before treatment, the child’s rigidity is interfering withthe normal development of social skills, as the child actively refuses participation in unfamiliaractivities. Then, when treatment is begun, a waiting skill is developed through proactive teaching.Then tolerance of events, which currently provoke autistic behaviors, is developed by exposing thechild to the provocative stimulus, and then reinforcing calm waiting behavior, through providing theopportunity to escape the stimulus after waiting. A variety of generalized forms of patience, such aswaiting for a requested reinforcer, waiting in community activities, and independent work, are thendeveloped through a gradual shaping process. Then flexibility in daily activities is developedthrough differential reinforcement and observational learning. Finally, the skills involved in empathywith others are developed. The empathy skills are elaborated to the point where the child will act tomeet the needs of others as well as themselves. Of course, while the component language and socialskills might be taught directly, the clinical need is not met unless the skills are established as typicalbehaviors in the natural environment. The child is able to use these skills when the rigidity is notpreventing their function in the environment. In order for a skill to be considered to be mastered,the skill must occur independently of specialized therapy, and must effectively supplant the clinicalbehavior problem that had previously prevented natural development.The development of natural languageThe child with autism will typically also have substantial needs in the area of language development.In many children, the tendency toward stereotyped forms of language will be so great as to interferewith normal social communication and development.The structure of behavior. In daily interaction, the child will show a highly individualizedtendency to make certain stereotyped language responses, and these stereotyped language responses© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  5. 5. Generative Language Matrix Page 5will occur at different rates. Generally each of these stereotyped structures will be rooted in roteimitations of language that the child has heard. And, whether produced contextually or not, theywill not show evidence of true understanding of the meaning of the words used, because they willoften recombine into nonsensical or simple sentence errors. Because of the stereotyped nature ofthe child’s language, the errors will then often become perseverative error patterns. Examples ofthese stereotyped language structures include the following.o Word omissions• “I a car.”o Filling nonsense sounds or words into a phrase• “Look at the uba uba uba truck.”o Incorrect or over-generalized articles• “Go to a kids.”o Pronoun errors• “You give it to you.”o Plural agreement errors• “The colors is red.”o Word salads• “Balls red cups heavy.”o Substitutions• “The train is train.”o Tense errors• “The boy running.”o Conjunction errors• “It’s a big and red and tent.”o Noncontextual statements• “What’s your name?” “My address is 2492 Lake St.”o Word order errors• “Dogs bone eating.”o Word association errors due to being in the wrong context• “Terry is brushing his ‘hair’ (instead of teeth).”The function of behavior. But beyond the immediate description of the structure of the behavior,the function of the behavior may also be evaluated. Not only will language be defined by itsstructure, but it will also be defined by its function. More specifically, different forms of languagewill be found to be response classes that are controlled by a functional relationship withenvironmental stimuli. A variety of functions of stereotyped language may be identified. Theseinclude:o Errors are shown to occur in a noncompliant pattern.o Emotional responses occur when the stereotyped language behavior is interrupted.o A response does not generalize from one stimulus to another, as if the response had beenlearned by rote practice.o Isolated errors occur in a perseverative pattern in an otherwise mastered response class.o When an unmastered, or difficult task is presented, predictable errors are substituted forcorrect responses in a perseverative pattern.o Simple perseverative overuse of a word or phrase.© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  6. 6. Generative Language Matrix Page 6• A word has local momentum and continues to be used at a high rate.o Over-generalized sentence structure in multiple contexts.• “’it’s a’ we go outside now.”o Overuse of a specific word in specifiable sentences or contexts.o Using an incorrect (but often learned) sentence form in a predictable context.• Making a request by asking a question, “do you want to go outside?” (in this example,the sentence form is learned by direct imitation)o A word association controls subsequent local language behavior.• Pivoting on a word: “Let’s go outside is Dan’s car.”o Not responding to the entire context or message.• A response is controlled by a single word in a sentence rather than the entire statement:Instead of “I like your shirt,” “Thanks;” the following occurs: “It is a blue shirt,”“Thanks.”o Overgeneralization of a response when learning a skill.• The last exemplar mastered is over-used as an error during learning of the subsequentexemplar: “What school do you go to?” “I am six years old.”o Generalized noncompliant statements.o Attention-getting response classes.o Escape behavior.o Behavior that is reinforced by coercing tangible reinforcement.Some functions may be very difficult to discern without repeated assessment. This is especially thecase with socially nonresponsive language behavior – behavior that does not directly respond tospecifiable social stimuli, while still showing a functional relationship to the stimuli. Observablefunctions across time include:o The correct form is not imitated after a model, even though imitation has already formed asa response class.o The same error is repeated after the child had complied with a correction procedure for theerror.o While engaged in the stereotyped language behavior, there is no response to another socialstimulus, such as an appropriate interruption.o A stereotyped error in response to a specific stimulus is manipulable by differentialreinforcement.Behavior therapy for natural language development. The functions of autistic language, that aredescribed above, may cause clinical programming to be ineffective. As a result, the child may makeslow progress with a high error rate; have significant levels of stereotyped language patterns; fail ineffective communication in natural interactions; and lack maintenance of skills. Therefore, to avoidthese problems, the objectives of behavior therapy should be natural language responses which bothhave typical functions in the environment and typical structures. To attain these objectives,behavior therapy may follow this sequence. Behavior therapy is initiated by building on strengths –generalizing simple forms of language and expanding the vocabulary within those forms as early inthe child’s development as possible. (In this initial phase, both expressive and receptive single-termlabels and requests are developed into generative response classes). Then the individual languageterms are combined into generative conditional discriminations, or sentences. Once conditionaldiscriminations begin to reach the generative stage, more advanced language forms are developed as© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  7. 7. Generative Language Matrix Page 7single terms (possessives, plurals, etc.), and other language forms are developed (reciprocals, socialinitiations, etc.). Then concrete visual and auditory comprehension skills are developed. After that,abstract auditory comprehension skills are developed, along with abstract production skills.Throughout this process, the language forms that are acquired are generalized to function in naturalactivities, while simultaneously, the 24-hour ecology of the stereotyped language is altered to weakenthe stereotyped language and replace it with typical language forms. Finally these natural languageskills are generalized to more challenging activities and settings (distracting settings, complexenvironments, etc.)Therefore, as has been discussed, the simple design of the curriculum is not enough to ensuresuccess. In addition, an intensive, systematic clinical program must be provided to address all of theneeds for support of language development. In a systematic intervention program, the child isassured of sufficient hours of one-to-one instruction, effective staff training and management,complete (consistent 24-hour follow-through) involvement of the parents and typical care-takers,and regular planning and case-management to ensure an optimum rate of development andindividualization to meet the child’s special challenges.Generative response classes. The foundation of language programming is the development ofgeneralized imitation, which has been shown to be a class of behavior (Baer & Sherman, 1964; Baer,Peterson, & Sherman 1967; Garcia, Baer, & Firestone, 1971; Schroeder & Baer, 1972). The conceptof generative response classes is integral to the design of the current system. A response class hasbeen defined as a collection of behaviors which, when measured as a group and subjected toenvironmental controls, vary together and produce “smooth curves” in graphic representation oftheir variability (Skinner, 1936). When a class is formed, it is said to be generic. In other words,when an environmental manipulation, such as reinforcement, is applied consistently to the membersof the class, their rate co-varies with the rate of reinforcement so as to show a consistent effect ofthe reinforcement across the members of the class (Baer, Peterson, & Sherman, 1967). This effectcan also be described as: the behaviors are functionally related as a class.In the development of language, a subsequent concept, generative responding, may also be used todefine membership in a class. Here, various exemplars of a class may be taught singly in the contextof discrete trials. When later-introduced members of the class acquire discriminative control morerapidly than did earlier members, intra-class generalization occurs; suggesting a functionalrelationship between the members and, therefore, membership in a common class. When a later-introduced member of the class is shown to be acquired virtually immediately, the class may be saidto be “generative” (Schumaker & Sherman, 1970). Training of some members of the class generatesthe acquisition of subsequent members (Baer & Guess, 1971; Clark & Sherman, 1975; Goldstein &Mousetis, 1989; Guess & Baer, 1973; Halle, Baer, & Spradlin, 1981; Schumaker & Sherman, 1970;Stokes, Baer, & Jackson, 1974). In many cases, no apparent training whatsoever is required forsubsequent members to occur.The following figure (1) illustrates generative training of a simple label (horse). Here, each columnrepresents the number of trials required to develop discriminative control over a specific exemplar (agiven toy horse, picture of a horse, or live horse). A trial is counted each time the child is presentedwith an SDof the given horse exemplar, or a distractor exemplar (a toy cow, for example), whetheror not the child correctly responds, “horse.” Mastery is defined, simply, as when, on the first trial ofa new day in which the child is presented with yesterday’s exemplar, the child independently makesthe correct response, “horse.” In this example, the first column shows that the child required 100© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  8. 8. Generative Language Matrix Page 8such trials before independent responding on the first trial of a new day occurred when the targetwas a specific three-inch-long, black, plastic, toy horse. The second column shows that the childrequired 98 trials before the independent response to a ten-inch-long, brown, painted, toy horse wasacquired. And so on with different toys or pictures being the focus of each subsequent column.The last column shows that the child required only one trial acquire the correct response, without aprompt, to a live horse which was standing in a field alongside the road as the family drove by. Thechild’s expressive label, “horse,” was now generative, as the child no longer needed a prompt inorder to spontaneously and correctly label a novel horse.Figure 1: Generative development of the class: “Horse.”The process of developing generative language classes is a foundation of the process of establishingfunctional language. Until training in some exemplars of the class can generalize to all relatedmembers, training is incomplete. Once training has generalized to all related members, the childshows evidence that “the child has acquired a true understanding of the term or concept.” The childis no longer showing a response that was memorized by rote, but instead shows the same languagecomprehension that any typical child shows. Therefore, “generative responding” describes thechilds responses that have not been demonstrated earlier and have not been directly taught (Baer,Peterson, & Sherman, 1968). By training generative responding, the child can exhibit novelresponses to novel stimuli. Further, individual language terms (i.e., subject, action, preposition,adjective, object, possessive pronoun, pronoun, singular form, plural form, past tense, present tense,future tense) can be conceptualized as generative response classes. By training varied and numerousexemplars of each specific language term, one can observe the emergence of new and untrainedexemplars of that language term in response to novel stimuli. Thus, behavior therapy is developinggenerative response classes rather than a large set of rote responses.A variety of language terms have been demonstrated to be generative response classes in theexperimental analysis of language. These have included the past tense, the present progressive tense(Schumaker & Sherman, 1970), and the /-s/ and /-z/ allormorphs utilized for object pluralization(Sailor, 1969). In a specific example, Guess, Sailor, Rutherford, and Baer (1968), chose the© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  9. 9. Generative Language Matrix Page 9productive use of the plural morpheme as the language term for analysis. Through imitation anddifferential reinforcement, a child was taught to correctly label singular and plural object labels inresponse to single objects and pairs of objects. After training across several exemplars of the twoforms, the child produced plural object labels that had been taught only in the singular form. Thisgeneralization to novel plural forms, showed that the plural morpheme was a generative responseclass.In intensive early intervention, a basic programming question often is: “how many exemplars of alabel should be taught?” The answer is: the number of exemplars necessary to reach a masterycriterion in which the child can immediately generalize to all members of the class. Thedevelopment of generative forms of language is incompatible with the development of stereotypedforms of the same language term. Generative training has also been shown to produce betterresponse maintenance (Whitehurst, 1971; Baer & Guess, 1973). This is very likely the case because,once the class has generalized to novel members which don’t require training, the class has becomeindependent of direct training – it should maintain on its own.Similar to the development of a class of language responses, a concept may be acquired throughsuccessive discrimination training across multiple exemplars (Stokes & Baer, 1977). In this case,successive training of different exemplars of the concept results in generalization to novel members.Again, once this occurs, the concept is said to be generative. The following figure (2) illustratesgenerative training of a concept, Animals, in much the same way as the training of the concept,Horse, proceeded.Figure 2: Generative development of the concept: “Animals.”In the curriculum for language development, then, the foundation for moving on from thedevelopment of single words to that of multiple-term sentences is the generative label. A childshould first fully acquire the generative labels and concepts that will then be combined intosentences. Not only may single terms (horse) be found to be generative when generalization tonovel exemplars of the term occurs; but also concepts and even forms of speech may be found to be© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  10. 10. Generative Language Matrix Page 10generative. A concept (animal) is generative when generalization to novel exemplars of animaloccur. Even a form of speech (adjective) can be shown to be generative, when subsequentexemplars of the form of speech (big, long, red, hairy) are acquired with minimal or no training(Schumaker & Sherman, 1970).The matrix of natural language responses. In clinical practice, various stimulus modes are oftenfound to be more rapidly acquired by individual children than are others. Several modes arecommonly employed – three dimensional materials (the child labels toys), two dimensional materials(the child labels pictures), the first person (the child labels their own behavior), or the second person(the child labels the behavior of the therapist). The third person is also used, in which the childlabels the behavior of someone other than the therapist, as are written communication modes. Inaddition, there are often strong individual differences in the rate of acquisition of receptive(responding to the language behavior of others) versus expressive (using language as a stimulus forthe behavior of others) modes. Beyond these common modes, written stimuli and responses arefrequently found to be an essential mode of language instruction in autism. In clinical practice, withthe matrix curriculum, the child will acquire generative language most efficiently if the therapybegins with the most effective mode. Further, the process of reducing errors also often addressesthe clinical needs of the child (preventing the development of perseverative errors, or minimizingfrustration). Once generative language is acquired in one mode, the successful mode may be used tomore rapidly teach responding in the less effective modes, through using the successful mode eitheras a prompt or for behavioral momentum. These multiple modes can be arrayed as a two-dimensional matrix of stimulus and response modes (See Table 1).Table 1: Matrix of stimulus and response modes.Stimulus ModeTwoDimensionalThreeDimensionalFirstPersonSecondPersonWrittenResponseModeMatchingImitationRequestingReceptiveLabelingExpressiveLabelingTherapy typically begins with teaching generative expressive and receptive repertoires at the 1-termdiscrimination level for each of the individual exemplars (i.e., specific subjects, actions, prepositions,etc.). Of course, as a prerequisite, the children must be able to accurately imitate the phonemes andnumber of syllables found for each particular response. In addition, the class may be developedthrough matching, until generative exemplars are acquired, prior to introducing the receptive orexpressive SDs. Individual children present different strengths in either receptive or expressivelabeling skill, and this may be related to the types of differences between these modes themselves.For example, the receptive task requires a response to an auditory SD, while the expressive taskrequires a response to a visual SD. Further, the visual stimulus component of the receptivecompound discriminations are typically simultaneous discriminations, whereas the visual componentof the expressive compound discriminations are typically successive. However, the auditorycomponent of the receptive discrimination is necessarily successive. These differences may play to© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  11. 11. Generative Language Matrix Page 11specific functional strengths of the individual child, and the analysis of these differences offersstrategies for training one mode by generalizing from a previously mastered mode through gradedsteps of successively more similar approximations of the target mode.Typically, the most readily acquired language classes are concrete terms, as opposed to relativeterms. The ability to label or request objects, actions, and subjects is usually acquired first.Although here, with individual children, actions may prove to be sufficiently relative (the same boymay be running or sitting, whereas he is always the same boy) to require additional effort to train.Also, subjects (specifically, the proper names of people) may be (at first glance) surprisingly difficultto teach. Although within the context of autism (a child is more focused on the child’s behaviorthan that of others), it may not be surprising that the child does not attend to the identity of othersin their environment. Adjectives and prepositions are commonly more difficult to teach, as each areclearly relative to the concrete objects in the child’s environment. These terms, when provengenerative, fall along a third dimension of the language matrix (See Table 2).Table 2: Terms.Generative TermsObjects Subjects Actions Adjectives PrepositionsIndividualResponseClassesHorse Mommy Run Long OnCar Frank Slide Round UnderTable Barbie Grab Scary Next toRocket Auntie Jane Crush Enormous BetweenDoll Donald Duck Slurp Smooth ByConditional discriminations. Once two separately developed terms become generative, thecurriculum may then progress to sentences, or the combination of multiple terms (Karlan, Brenn-White, Lentz, Hodur, Egger, & Frankoff, 1982; Lutzker & Sherman, 1974; Mineo & Goldstein,1990; Striefel, Wetherby, & Karlan, 1976). The use of a sentence may be best considered as aconditional discrimination. As a simple illustration of a conditional discrimination, in Figure 3, asuccessive conditional discrimination is diagrammed where a response to SD1is reinforced only inthe presence of SDAand a response to SD2is reinforced only in the presence of S∆A. Therefore,reinforcement of the response to SD1is conditional upon the presence of SDA. In the case of asentence, when there are at least two terms in the sentence, each of which require a discrimination,then the correct response to the entire sentence would similarly require a conditional response – acorrect response to one of the terms is not reinforced unless it is in the presence of a correctresponse being made to the second term also.Figure 3: Successive conditional discrimination.SDAS∆A↓ ↓SD1SD2SD1SD2↓ ↓ ↓ ↓© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  12. 12. Generative Language Matrix Page 12R1R1R1R1↓ ↓ ↓ ↓Sr+Sr+Sr+Sr+As a specific example of the process of moving from the single-term discrimination to theconditional discrimination, single-term labels (receptive adjectives) are first taught as simplediscriminations: fat versus skinny; round versus square, cold versus warm, etc. until the receptiveadjective is generative (hard versus soft is mastered in one prompt or less). Now, new members ofthe class are acquired almost automatically. Similarly, receptive objects are also taught to agenerative level: car, truck, ball, jet, pirate, knight, etc., until the receptive object is generative (asubsequent object, spaceman, is acquired with one prompt or less). Then, a two-term phrase istaught as a conditional discrimination: fat pirate vs. skinny pirate versus fat knight vs. skinny knight.Here, the discrimination task includes each possible combination of the two terms. When thediscrimination task therefore involves distracters for both terms (adjective and object), a conditionaldiscrimination is present. A response to “knight” is only reinforced in the presence of “fat” if “fatknight” was the SD. Put more technically, a correct response to “knight” is only reinforced in thepresence of a correct response to “fat.” Therefore, if the child is to use a sentence that containsmore than one term, the child is making a conditional discrimination. A correct conditionaldiscrimination is only made when both terms are simultaneously discriminated to produce the onecorrect response (out of four possible in this case).Figure 4: Two-term conditional discrimination.Figure 4 shows a second example of a two-term conditional discrimination. This is anotheradjective-object discrimination, where the SDis, "white ball." On the floor is a black ball, a whiteball, a black car and a white car. A simple discrimination would be “ball” and a response to eitherball would be correct. The response becomes conditional when the adjective determines which ballis correct (i.e., white ball). In effect, the adjective “white” is the conditional stimulus (similar totouching the center key in an experimental conditional discrimination procedure). Again, in thiscase, a conditional discrimination is not present unless there is an alternative SΔ, or distracter, foreach term in the conditional discrimination (black vs. white and car vs. ball). If there were only ablack and white car on the floor, then the discrimination of car vs. ball would not be necessary, andthe discrimination of white vs. black would be a single-term discrimination.If both terms did not have a distracter present, the child may not fully attend to both terms andpossibly either learn to use the nondiscriminated term as a stereotyped phrase within sentences; orthe child may acquire latent inhibition over the nondiscriminated term (Lubow & Moore, 1959;© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  13. 13. Generative Language Matrix Page 13Lubow, 1989). In latent inhibition, the child is in effect receiving extinction training for thenondiscriminated term (its correct use is not functional in determining reinforcement). As a resultthe child may not respond to the extinguished term in future training when it is used functionally tocontrol access to reinforcement. Because of the potential for latent inhibition, single-termdiscriminations are often developed without the use of extraneous words that are not functionalterms. For example, the use of the SD“show me running,” would be shortened to “run,” to avoidextinguishing discriminative responses to “show me.” Therefore the first condition to be fulfilled inacquiring sentence skill is to acquire a valid conditional discrimination of at least two individualterms.Conditional discrimination training has been shown to result in generalized responding (Saundersand Spradlin, 1990). The incorporation of conditional discrimination training into languageprogramming has also been shown to be effective in remediating overselective responding tomultiple cues (Riedesel & Larsson, 2002). Overselective responding, in which separate cues are notequally functional in controlling responding, is often cited as a response characteristic of childrenwith autism (Lovaas, Koegel, & Schreibman, 1979). However, several studies have demonstratedthat children with autism could learn to respond to multiple cues if the environment is arrangedproperly through the use of conditional discrimination training (Schreibman, Koegel, & Craig, 1977;Koegel & Schreibman, 1977). Furthermore, after presenting a series of conditional discriminations,children with autism have responded to novel conditional discriminations without demonstratingoverselective responding (Riedesel & Larsson, 2002).Recombinative generalization. By teaching a conditional discrimination, a new process for theformation of a generative response class, as a conditional discrimination, becomes possible:recombinative generalization (Goldstein, 1983). Here a generative two-term response is acquiredwhen the individual terms spontaneously recombine into previously untrained combinations. Forexample, responses to “pushing barrel,” “filling barrel,” and “filling cup,” are prompted, but“pushing cup” is acquired as a novel recombination – one which had never before been promptedor reinforced. True mastery of a two-term conditional discrimination would be when a novelcombination of two terms, which had never before been prompted in a conditional discrimination,“throwing car,” occurs. As a result, the child is again “showing true comprehension” of thesentence by being able to respond correctly to untrained sentences. Therefore, the second conditionfor acquisition of a sentence is a conditional discrimination that has reached the level ofrecombinative generalization.Therefore, there are two uses of the term “matrix” in this curriculum. The first, as has been used inthis paper to this point, is the use of the term to describe the overall interaction of languageprograms throughout the language curriculum. The second (as shown in Figure 5) is to refer to thesmaller scale programming of a matrix of tasks to most effectively result in a recombinativemultiple-term conditional discrimination within a single skill development program (Wetherby &Striefel, 1978). For example, a two-dimensional matrix, might, along one axis, include adjectivelabels (i.e., blue, green and red) and along the second axis include object labels (i.e., cup, bowl andplate). By identifying the cross sections between axes, one could develop and train a variety oflanguage term combinations (i.e., blue cup, blue bowl, red bowl, etc.). With a goal of recombinativegeneralization, the process of training specific combinations of language terms, (i.e., blue cup andred cup) derived from the matrix, continues until it results in the comprehension and production ofpreviously untrained combinations (i.e., blue bowl and green cup).© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  14. 14. Generative Language Matrix Page 14Figure 5: Two-dimensional programming matrix within a single skill program.Adjectives (Color)Blue Green RedObjectsCupBlue Cup Green Cup Red CupBowlBlue Bowl Green Bowl Red BowlPlateBlue Plate Green Plate Red PlateMastery of every multiple-term conditional discrimination is only achieved when novel combinationsare reliably produced (recombined) with no specific training.This process of developing recombinative conditional discriminations is a markedly differentlanguage acquisition process from that of acquiring scripted sentences through repetitive practice.In the review of common stereotyped language structures presented above, many of the errorsdescribed are errors of recombination. In practice, effective conditional discriminations maycommonly be trained to the eight-term level. These multiple-term conditional discriminations add afourth dimension to the matrix (See Table 3).© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  15. 15. Generative Language Matrix Page 15Table 3: Common Multiple-Term Conditional Discriminations2-Term Conditional DiscriminationSubject-ActionAction-ObjectAdjective-ObjectSubject-AdjectivePreposition-ObjectSubject-PrepositionAction-PrepositionPreposition-AdjectiveAdjective-Adjective3-Term Conditional DiscriminationSubject-Action-ObjectAction-Adjective-ObjectSubject-Action-AdjectiveAction-Preposition-ObjectSubject-Action-PrepositionPreposition-Adjective-ObjectAction-Action-Object4-Term Conditional DiscriminationSubject-Action-Adjective-ObjectSubject-Action-Preposition-ObjectAction-Preposition-Adjective-ObjectAction-Adjective-Adjective-ObjectSubject-Action-Preposition-AdjectiveMultiple-Term Conditional DiscriminationAlternate Term Order/ConjunctionResponses are controlled by the complete compound discriminative stimulus (i.e., all of the termsand their combination within the sentence) rather than a component of the discriminative stimuli(i.e., one term of the sentence). As the language term combinations increase in number andcomplexity, so too does the stimulus array.© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  16. 16. Generative Language Matrix Page 16In conditional discrimination training, the number of terms which are considered to be part of theconditional discrimination are only counted by the number of terms for which there are functionaldistracters present in the task, rather than by the number of structural terms present in the sentence.For example, if a sentence such as “Don pulled the red car” is given as part of a conditionaldiscrimination trial, there are four structural terms presented – a subject: Don; a verb: pulled; anadjective: red; and an object: car. However, there must be a functional distracter present for eachterm – another subject: Joe; another verb: pushed; another adjective: blue; and another object: ball –to count it as a four-term conditional discrimination. Examples of these conditional discriminationsin different modes are given in Table 4.Table 4: Four-term conditional discrimination: subject/preposition/adjective/object(“The horse is on the tall fence.”)Distracters in the Field Sample SDSample ResponseReceptive three-dimensionalSix toysSD: “Put the chicken on the hardbox.”R: The child chooses the correctone of two subjects that isin a location relative to one offour objects possessing one oftwo adjective properties.Receptive First PersonFour toys and at leasttwo persons in areaSD: “Sam is on the little chair.” R: The child places himself in thecorrect location relative toone of four objects possessingone of two adjective properties.Receptive Third PersonFour toys and at leasttwo persons in areaSD: “Is Bill under the long table?” R: The child answers yes or noaccording to the accuracy of thequestion posed by the therapist.Receptive two-dimensionalBooks/PicturesSD: “Baby Bop is on the pinkbike.”R: The child points to the correctpicture containing the subject/preposition/adjective/object.Distracters in the Field Sample SDSample ResponseExpressive three-dimensionalSix toysSD: Demonstrate placing one oftwo subjects in a location relativeto one of four objects possessingone of two adjective properties.R: “The chicken is on the hardbox.”Expressive First PersonFour toys and at leasttwo persons in areaSD: Model placing yourself in alocation relative to one of fourobjects possessing one of twoadjective properties and then thechild labels after they imitate.R: “Bobby is on the little chair.”Expressive Third PersonFour toys and at leasttwo persons in areaSD: Demonstrate placing yourselfin a location relative to one of fourobjects possessing one of twoadjective properties and then theR: “Kara is under the long table.”© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  17. 17. Generative Language Matrix Page 17child labels what you did.Expressive two-dimensionalBooks/PicturesSD: Present a picture containing thesubject/preposition/adjective/object.R: “Baby Bop is on the pinkbike.”Table 4 illustrates the concept that the structural words in a sentence are only counted as termswhen there is a distracter for them.In Table 4, receptive labeling instructions (“Put,” “Point to,” “Go,”), and the expressive labelingquestions (“Where,” “What,” “Is,”) could have been used, but would not be counted as a distinctterm, because there are no distracters for these words. These natural sounding instructions andquestions may be used in the interest of natural generalization, but they risk becoming irrelevantthrough the process of latent inhibition (the child ignores them in the SDand later does not responddifferentially when they are true discriminators of correct performance), as described above. Indeed,in clinical practice, the “Wh” question words are often found to be poor discriminations, and it islikely that latent inhibition is the culprit. Therefore, with a child who requires careful introductionof terms, these words are best not even used in early programming. The receptive labelinginstructions are taught correctly as a conditional discrimination later as a separate program, and thenthey are used correctly in these programs with distracters. The question words are also taught lateras a separate program with correct distracters. Once these skills have been mastered, then theexamples shown in Table 4 are valid natural goals of careful programming. In general, the decisionto use extraneous words in SDs is a significant one, and commonly, the best practice is to limit SDs toonly the least necessary words. A child should clearly demonstrate an ability to respond correctly tothe additional nondiscriminated words before they are used in regular practice.This brings up the issue of the use of colloquial sentence structures versus the use of telegraphicspeech. The early goal in therapy is to maximally expand the functional vocabulary (as defined bythe total number of generative discriminations) rather than to produce typical sounding sentenceswith relatively few discriminations, when there is a conflict between these two practical goals. Thisis because the breadth of vocabulary (or number of functional language discriminations) developedearly in age is the best predictor of later intellectual capacity. Therefore with some children, the useof articles (the, is) may be avoided in order to increase the speed of language acquisition. As a result,the children sound as if they are speaking telegraphically (on a temporary basis). Then the use ofarticles themselves is introduced as a term in subsequent responding.Similarly, when keeping the number of terms at the most effective level, but still providing typicalsounding sentences in a matrix of distracters, nonfunctional filler words may be used. For example,in a two-term conditional discrimination (verb-adjective), the discriminative stimulus need not be ofan abstract form (push red). Instead, a perfectly acceptable (and typical sounding) two-termsentence might be “push the red one,” with no distracter present for “one.”Of course the preference would be to use natural sounding language at the point at which the rate ofacquisition is similar, with or without the use of nonfunctional terms. This point leads to the nexttopic of this discussion, individualization.Individualization and the sequence of language therapy. To this point, the discussion hasfocused on the development of concrete requests and labels of the visual environment, whether© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  18. 18. Generative Language Matrix Page 18receptive or expressive. In the present framework, a given program to develop a specific multiple-term skill would contain the following significant procedures. First, each component term of theconditional discrimination has been taught until generative. Then the multiple-term skill is firsttaught as a matching or imitation task. This ensures the successful discrimination of the complexstimulus array, before adding on the additional task of attaching a verbal label to the array. Thematch or imitation itself would be developed until recombinative generalization occurs. In order toensure that the conditional discrimination is valid, a sufficient matrix of distracters for each term inthe conditional discrimination is included. This will ensure that the conditional discrimination istruly a conditional discrimination, rather than allowing a single term to inadvertently be a relevant SDfor the conditional discrimination. Table 4 provided examples of the range of modes and necessarydistracters required to master each multiple-term skill.The next mastery step is to develop the conditional discrimination until generalization occurs to thefirst presentation of a novel combination of exemplars, embedded in a field of novel distracters (toavoid the process of elimination serving as an inadvertent prompt). This feature ensures that thepresence of either known or unknown items will inadvertently serve as a relevant SDor S∆forresponding. The next feature is to program discriminations between stimulus continuums that arerelevant and those that should be irrelevant to the conditional discrimination. A large variety ofpotential discriminations may be addressed, given the target skill and the tendencies of the specificchild. For example, alternate multiple-term sentences may be discriminated from the targetsentence; alternate instructional arrangements may be employed; or alternate subclasses of thegeneral case of a given term may be included. These discriminations, which are not of the type ofdirect discriminations that have been identified in the matrix, are important to ensure that the childis responding to the relevant language, rather than to the inadvertent prompt which is offered by theformat of the task being presented. Then the skill, which heretofore had often been taught throughrepetition, is generalized to the natural environment by gradually expanding the time and variety ofintervening activities between target trials, as well as varying the SDand the location of trials, untilspontaneous generalization and maintenance in natural activities can be anticipated. Another featureis to begin programming (earlier or later, depending upon the child’s current optimal learning style)multi-modal activities in which unrelated stimulus and response modes are mixed into the sameactivity. This is followed by generalization of the therapy activities into forms of naturally occurringactivities. In fact, one of the best conventions used for the promotion of thorough generalizationand maintenance, is to purposely design skill-training programs within the context of natural playlanguage activities (playing with emergency vehicles, doll houses, etc).For maximum efficiency in therapy, the existence of the matrix is not used to dictate a standard,lock-step progression through programs. Instead a premium is placed upon the clinical judgment ofthe practitioner to advance the progress of programs in the optimum manner. Moving too slowlythrough the curriculum has been found to result in an increase in the rate of stereotyped language.Instead, progress through the curriculum is best based upon dynamic behavior principles. Forexample, one skill is moved to the next as soon as generative responding is acquired. When the rateof learning is not accelerating, the practitioner begins a prescriptive functional assessment todetermine more effective procedures (direct prompting versus behavioral momentum, for example),or a change in therapeutic focus across modes in order to maintain optimum progress towardgenerative responding. In clinical practice, a child who shows a strong individualized tendency tolearn more readily in one mode as opposed to another, will typically move through several levels ofmultiple-term conditional discriminations in a single mode, before the other modes are even© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  19. 19. Generative Language Matrix Page 19addressed. This allows the child to learn the most individual terms and combinations as early intheir development as possible, rather than slowly acquiring a broad vocabulary. Normative cognitiveresearch suggests that the earlier the child acquires a broad vocabulary, the higher he will score inlater measures of cognitive functioning (Ramey, Campbell, & Finkelstein, 1984; Hart & Risley,1995). Further, by acquiring fluent skill in language through a single mode, the child may morereadily acquire basic functioning in the more difficult modes.In the language matrix, different modes are typically associated with different discrimination trainingprocedures. A receptive two-dimensional task is typically a simultaneous discrimination, but areceptive first-person task is typically a successive discrimination. An expressive task is typically asuccessive discrimination, while a receptive task may be either. This important difference inprocedure may be another source of individual children’s differential difficulty with one mode asopposed to another. In addition other differences in procedure may result in significant effectsupon skill acquisition. These procedural differences include auditory versus visual stimulus modes,speed of presentation, types of distracters available, or vocal versus physical response mode – eachof which may interact with individual error history, motor ability, tendency to impulsively respond,or attractiveness of stimuli. Regarding the matrix of multiple-term sentences, the conditional natureof an expressive task is very different from the same number of terms in a receptive task. Theeffective use of matching or imitation as a prompt also varies depending upon the mode used.The choice of vocabulary should be designed to promote natural language development. As followsfrom the use of novel language learning as the criterion for mastery, the continuing elaboration ofthis criterion suggests that the best ongoing procedure is to automatically include novel vocabularyin all multiple-term programs so that the child is maintaining the skill of learning new words in asingle trial, as a typical child does. Some children require an ongoing vocabulary program in whicheach trial is composed of a different mode (of which currently there are 23 identified modes), toensure that the vocabulary learning is sufficiently generative (in the first trial, the term is introducedas a definition; in the second as a yes-no answer; in the third as a two-dimensional expressive, etc.).A related concept here is to integrate natural social and play vocabulary in all programs, as opposedto over-reliance upon academic concepts. The essential aim of behavior therapy for autism is toteach social language, so two goals can be accomplished simultaneously if the exemplars have to dowith common social and play concepts (Disney villains, Hot Wheels cars, action heroes, etc. ratherthan community helpers and days of the week). We are teaching children to have attractive playskills rather than be academics (the latter often being an easy goal). The focus on social and playlanguage also determines the best modes of instruction. Two-dimensional tasks may be readilyavailable, but are the least similar to actual play activities. Therefore labeling of three-dimensionaltoys and the actions of others are much more readily generalized skills.As noted above, most children acquire language skills more readily in one mode than in others, andthis fact offers a significant strategic means of individualizing therapy. The language skills may bebest introduced in the primary, most successful mode, and then generalized to the more difficultmodes. Once sufficient skill is developed with the primary mode of instruction, related modes,which may be more challenging to teach, can be either: generalized to; programmed throughbehavioral momentum from the primary mode; or taught by using the primary mode as a prompt.For the purpose of generalization, materials that readily generalize from one mode to another maybe very strategic. Then the transfer from one mode to the other can be pursued in a series of gradedsteps. For example, when a child’s strongest mode is two-dimensional, Colorforms (two-dimensional vinyl pictures) or realistic stickers may be used to create the exact two-dimensional© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  20. 20. Generative Language Matrix Page 20stimulus that will also be set up as a three-dimensional stimulus with the three-dimensional toys thatare pictured in the Colorforms or stickers. The Colorforms provide for response and stimulusgeneralization, in that the child can be manipulating the placement of the two-dimensional picture ofthe toy in a similar manner to their manipulation of the toy. This ready generalization can then befaded into less similar stimuli. In another example, for a child who attends well to television,labeling a video on a screen, or a frame from a CD-ROM book, can be generalized to the samearrangement of three-dimensional figures, using the same toys. For a child for whom active grossmotor play is highly preferred, the use of requesting in the context of playground play may be themost effective initial mode, followed by generalization to the same play actions with, for example, aPlaymobil playground set. Similarly to generalize from the three-dimensional mode to the first-person mode, the child may initially be moving toys around a table-top arrangement of toy furniture.Then the child moves the same toys around similar actual furniture in the room. Actions are initiallytargeted with toys for which a non-object movement is also possible (banging with a hammer cangeneralize to banging a fist). Then the toys are removed and the child moves their own body aroundthe room. To generalize from the first-person mode to the two-dimensional, the child may “match”two-dimensional photographs of their body in certain positions to their mirror image as they act outthe same body positions. To generalize from two-dimensional to third-person responding, the childmay match photographs of other persons who are engaged in a behavior to the actual body of theother person as they act out the same behavior.Sample results of expressive and receptive matrix programmingChildren. For illustrative purposes, clinical data on three childrens performances with languagematrix programs are presented here. Each child had been diagnosed with autism or PDD/NOS andwas participating in an in-home early intervention behavior therapy program. The level of directtherapy hours was approximately 40 hours per week of home- and school-based intervention. Theaverage age at intake was 3 years old (range: 2 years 11 months to 3 years 2 months). At the onset ofintervention, the childrens verbal abilities varied from five-to-six one-term receptive and expressivelabels to 50 receptive and expressive object labels. Each child demonstrated limited verbal ability.Once the children acquired generalized matching skills and an assessment of each childs receptivelanguage skills was conducted, the receptive language matrix programming was implemented intoeach childs therapy programming. Expressive language matrix programs were implemented oncethe child was able to accurately imitate phonemes and the required number of syllables for eachexpressive response.Clinical data. Preliminary clinical data were collected for each child on each dimension of thelanguage matrix (i.e. response mode, stimulus mode, and the components of the conditionaldiscrimination). In order for each child to meet the generative mastery criteria, the child needed togeneralize responding to novel or untrained conditional discriminations in each response andstimulus mode on the first trial of a new day independently (without prompting).Child 1. Data for Child 1 are presented as number of days to mastery of each skill, organized bytype of program, rather than consecutively (see Figure 2). Child 1 met the generative masterycriteria for receptive 1-term discriminations after an average of 19 consecutive days of training(range 2 -78 days). Forty or more consecutive training days were required for actions, prepositions,and adjectives before child 1 demonstrated generalized responding to novel or untrained stimuli.Acquisition of generalized responding for the expressive 1-term response mode occurred more© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  21. 21. Generative Language Matrix Page 21rapidly than the receptive response mode. On average, 9 consecutive training days (range 3 - 21days) were necessary before the mastery criterion was met.For Child 1, receptive 2-term conditional discriminations were acquired more rapidly than receptive1-term conditional discriminations. Three training days on average (range 2-7 days) were conductedbefore the child demonstrated comprehension of novel 2-term conditional discriminations.However, additional training days were needed for the expressive response mode (average 18 days;range 2 - 56 days).Ten consecutive training days on average were implemented for receptive 3-term conditionaldiscriminations before mastery criteria was met across all stimulus modes (i.e. three-dimensional,two-dimensional, first person, and third person). The number of training days for the expressiveresponse mode decreased to an average of 6 consecutive days (range 2-6 days).For the receptive and expressive 4-term response modes, an average of 4 and 2 consecutive trainingdays, respectively, were required before the child demonstrated comprehension and production ofgenerative language. Furthermore, Child 1 generalized responding to both the receptive andexpressive 5-term conditional discriminations without training. This child participated in thelanguage matrix program for 22 consecutive months.Child 2. Data for child 2 are presented both by order of stimulus mode (Figure 3) and by date ofprogram introduction (Figure 4). Child 2 achieved mastery criteria for 1-term discriminations on anaverage of 81 and 78 consecutive training days for receptive and expressive response modes,respectively (range 6 - 239 days). Two hundred thirty-nine training days were required forpossessive pronouns in both response modes and three of the target stimulus modes (i.e. three-dimensional, first person, and third person).© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  22. 22. Generative Language Matrix Page 22The average number of training days decreased to 10 (range 1-27) consecutive training days forreceptive 2-term conditional discriminations. In addition, the average number of consecutivetraining days decreased to 13 (range 3-31) for the expressive response mode. The acceleratedacquisition of more complex conditional discriminations continued for 3-term conditionaldiscriminations. It took an average of 2 and 6 consecutive days to meet mastery criteria for thereceptive and expressive response modes, respectively (receptive range 1-4; expressive range 2-14).For both receptive and expressive 4-term conditional discriminations, averages of 4 and 2consecutive training days were conducted before the child exhibited generalized responding tountrained combinations (receptive range 1 - 8; expressive range 1 - 5). Also, minimal training wasrequired for receptive and expressive 5-term conditional discriminations (receptive average andrange 2; expressive average 2.5 days and range 2 - 3 days). The data for Child 2 illustratedaccelerated generalization of responding to more complex conditional discriminations across variousresponse and stimulus modes. This child participated in the language matrix program forapproximately 12 months.© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  23. 23. Generative Language Matrix Page 23Child 3. Data for Child 3 are presented both by order of stimulus mode (Figure 5) and by date ofprogram introduction (Figure 6). Child 3 required an average of 42 consecutive training days forboth receptive and expressive 1-term discriminations. Receptive 1-term discriminations rangedfrom 1 - 136 training days; whereas expressive 1-term discrimination ranged from 2 - 94 trainingdays.The training time required to meet mastery criteria for more complex conditional discriminationsconsistently decreased as the complexity increased for both response modes and all stimulus modes.Receptive and expressive 2-term conditional discriminations required an average of 15 and 11training days (receptive range 1 - 59 days; expressive range 2 - 29 days), respectively. Averages of 9and 6 training days were conducted to achieve generalized responding for receptive and expressive3-term conditional discriminations (receptive range 2 - 14; expressive range 2 - 22).Additionally, Child 3 continued to require minimal training for both 4 and 5-term conditionaldiscriminations in both response modes and all stimulus modes. The average and range ofconsecutive training days was 8 for the receptive mode and 16 for the expressive mode. Child 3participated in the language matrix program for 11 months.© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  24. 24. Generative Language Matrix Page 24Summary of clinical data. Overall, the average length of time for the three children to completethe basic language matrix program was 14 months with a range from 10.5 months to 22 months. Allthree children were able to comprehend novel complex instructions and produce generativelanguage that contained at least 5-terms. Furthermore, the time required to meet the generativemastery criteria in each response and stimulus mode generally decreased for each child as the© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  25. 25. Generative Language Matrix Page 25conditional discriminations became more complex. The alternation of stimulus modes in treatmentsoffers an alternating treatments design for analysis.While these are typical results, it should be noted that, for whom the clinical focus is noncompliance, ratherthan language skill per se, the pattern of results may be quite different. In such a case, the child might beginengaging in stereotyped noncompliance only when certain modes at a certain level of complexity werereached. The difficulty with those modes may, for example, begin to surface in the three-termdiscriminations. The length of time to mastery in such cases may be due to the time required to problem-solve an effective clinical solution, by engaging in a sequential functional analysis of alternative interventions(Riedesel & Larsson, 1999). Other reasons for a different progression of acquisition rates would include acase in which there is a functional barrier to the child’s attending skills, that is only addressed at a certain levelof complexity. Other clinical focuses are also found.Advanced programming issues. In many children, the use of reading and writing is an effectiveformat for developing language responding (Lovaas & Lovaas, 1999); and the sequence of writtenstatements can be developed according to the principles discussed here. It is often noted that areading response results in more rapid vocal language acquisition than does a picture-based system.This may be because both vocal and written language responses are arbitrary representations ofvisual discriminations, while a picture-based language response involves much more directrepresentations of the visual discriminations. This distinction concerning arbitrary language modessuggests an important refinement to the concept of symbolic language. Nonarbitrary picture andgestural systems are much more primitive than are arbitrary written and vocal systems.Much of a child’s everyday language involves surprisingly large conditional discriminations. In thesecond phase of matrix training, five-term conditional discriminations are established. But manylanguage interactions involve up to 12-term conditional discriminations or larger. Not everyconditional discrimination is a highly structured sentence that follows grammatical rules. Mucheveryday language is a string of phrases, which must nevertheless be comprehended or initiated(“It’s a bear, it’s big and brown, and it’s chasing your Daddy away from the fish he caught!”)Therefore the conditional discriminations will be generalized into a variety of grammatical (and“nongrammatical”) statements comprising many terms. Another common multiple-term variationinvolves conjunctions (and, or, before, instead of, rather than, then, if-then). Many of the terms areused in combinations of two or three in the same conditional discrimination (adjectives – big andhairy; prepositional phrases – in the bucket under the bed; subjects – Bert and Ernie; or verbs –dancing and singing). Also, alternate term orders are also significant generalization steps (“the frogis under the table” vs. “under the table is where you’ll find the frog”).After establishment of basic language skill in the requesting and labeling areas, more complexvariations or forms of concrete language may be developed as expressive and receptive labels (Risley& Baer, 1973). Such further objectives to be addressed include syntax (Goldstein, Angelo, &Mousetis, 1987), word forms (Baer & Guess, 1973), and tenses (Kuczaj, 1977). Many skills thatoften pose challenges to therapy may more readily be developed when taught through thisframework. For example, pronouns, possessives, tenses, and syntax (or grammatical rules) may bemore readily developed when introduced upon a base of generative language responding. In fact,these advanced language skills may be taught through the same conditional discrimination process aswere the basic skills. Conversely, the simple generative programming of sufficient sentence formsmay result in natural generalization to these specialized forms, without the need for directprogramming. Alternatively, these forms may never need direct programming, when, for example,© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  26. 26. Generative Language Matrix Page 26the original function of the delayed language development was a clinical behavior challenge such asnoncompliance or social avoidance. In these cases, thorough matrix programming is not necessarybecause the clinical focus processes of generalized compliance training and generalized imitationtraining meet the functional needs for normal development.The focus on controlling language development, according to the planned development of termsand modes, may substantially shape the curriculum. For example, in an alternative early interventionsystem, many early labeling and requesting skills may be taught as full sentences (“I want _;” “I havea _;” “Show me _.”) However, each of these language responses incorporate three terms. Further,they incorporate pronouns. Finally, each of these sentences use an abstract term (want, have, show).In the language matrix formulation, programming would begin with single term labels and onlymove to such phrases once concrete three-term sentences are recombinative conditionaldiscriminations. Then the pronouns would be taught as single term discriminations, being fadedinto proper noun discriminations, and keeping the receptive and expressive forms distinct untilgenerative mastery of each mode is mastered. As the earlier examples suggested, these multiple-termsentences may then be taught as analogue concrete conditional discriminations (using terms that arevisual). Once the concrete conditional discriminations are established, generalization to the abstractterms are more readily acquired as recombinative terms.The focus on generative labeling also suggests other significant deviations from traditionalcurriculums. For example, in alternative systems, sequencing two-dimensional stimuli is oftenintroduced as an early skill. However, the commonly employed sequencing cards usually vary bythree or more terms as the sequence progresses. In order to avoid merely teaching rote associations,which may easily be irrelevant to the sequencing concept, it is preferable to first teach the child tolabel each stimulus card (after acquiring the multiple-term conditional discrimination) and thensequence the cards. Therefore, in the matrix system, this skill will typically be introduced after a yearof therapy, rather than early in programming.Natural language programming. The simple development of language skills in a one-to-onetherapeutic setting is not the intended outcome of this approach. As indicated above, the true goalsof therapy reflect the natural use of natural language in natural activities. Therefore the use of theseskills must be directly related to the use of these skills in the natural environment. Highly structuredprogramming, as described above, may be necessary to develop generative language responding.Then natural programming techniques may be employed to generalize the language skills throughoutthe day. A common procedure is to gradually fade the structure of the language programs into thatof a natural play situation as each skill is developed. A significant fading step is to increase thenumber of modes used within the same activity until the natural variety of modes is arrived at.Maintenance programming is then assessed in the natural play activities rather than in the structuredactivities. Again, the strongest modes of language development may be used to develop the desirednatural uses in the environment. Incidental trials may be inserted in natural activities in order tocreate behavioral momentum for natural language usage and then planned reinforcement may beused to establish the necessary rate of the desired skill. After establishing the desired skill in thenatural environment, the contingencies may be faded to the natural rates found in the environment.Conversely, while therapy is progressing, natural language activities that demand a higher order(number of terms, unmastered mode) of language skill than that which has been mastered in directtherapy, should be avoided. Premature exposure to unsuccessful tasks may inhibit natural languagedevelopment, by counter-establishing stereotyped language behavior in those activities.© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  27. 27. Generative Language Matrix Page 27It is usually essential to target natural statements in the home, school, and community; as well as togeneralize statements to other persons in the environment, such as relatives and peers. Again, thisprogramming usually proceeds with a minimum of stereotyped errors if the language skills used inthese natural environments follow the sequence of generative programming, rather than not beingcoordinated with that sequence.Of course, the child’s therapy will progress most effectively if initial learning is programmed throughthe most highly successful structure for that individual child. After establishing the skill, the skill isgeneralized to all naturally occurring activities. One of the most significant areas for generalizing theskill is to operant responding. Free operant language responding takes many functions, butregardless of the function, the complexity of the language should be programmed in concert withmatrix progress. The spontaneous operant may be directly programmed by establishing labels thatare not dependent upon a specific vocal SD. Rather, the conditional discriminations are presented asthe materials themselves, and the prompts are faded until the child naturally labels a visual array.Then similar arrays can be arranged in natural settings, such as the living room, bathroom, orplayground. The child is then given repetitive errand trials to go to the setting and label a series ofarrays. After momentum is established, the artificial array is removed, and the child is given a newerrand trial to go to the same setting. The likely result is that the child will now label a natural arrayin the setting. This “spontaneous” label can then be operantly reinforced.Auditory comprehension programming. A focus on concrete requesting and labeling skillsenables the use of straightforward direct teaching procedures to establish a relatively high degree oflanguage skill, before moving into less concrete language skills, which are typified by auditorycomprehension skills. Initially, the comprehension skills can be established as direct concreteanalogues of the labeling skills. These comprehension skills are first developed as comprehensionquestions about visual stimuli, and then comprehension questions about analogous auditory stimuli.Then these comprehension skills can be developed into abstract and inferential comprehensionskills. A significant aspect of the comprehension skill for the treatment of autism is socialcomprehension. Upon this base, the development of attention span, communication of complexinformation, and conversational skill will also be developed. Simultaneously all of these skills aregeneralized to all of the natural activities in the child’s day, ensuring that their skill is fully establishedas a bona fide resident of the ecology of the child’s behavior.The progression of advanced communication skills follows this general course:o Requestingo Expressive labelingo Receptive labelingo Concrete reciprocalso Generative concept formationo Concrete visual comprehensiono Concrete auditory comprehensiono Abstract auditory comprehensiono Inferential auditory comprehensiono Social comprehensiono Naturally occurring language interactionso Complex language productiono Abstract conversations© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  28. 28. Generative Language Matrix Page 28o Comprehension of conversationsIn the auditory comprehension phase, the prerequisites (all generative) are seven-term conditionaldiscriminations and relevant concept categorization. Concept development is a particularlyimportant realm of language responding, as it forms a straightforward base for abstractcomprehension skill. Indeed most, if not all, knowledge can be conceptualized as a hierarchy ofcategories.After development of the multiple-term labeling and requesting skills, comes concrete developmentof language concepts through matching, sorting, categorizing, and labeling related to these skills.For example, a relatively high level of discriminative ability can be developed through nested andrelated concept matching (i.e., horse to horse; farm animal to farm animal; mammal to mammal;transportation to transportation; pet to pet; “cowboy stuff” to “cowboy stuff;” big animal to biganimal (two-term matching)). Not only are these concepts generatively matched, but relevant labelsare generative (given a class, name a member; given a member, name a class; given an attribute,name a class; given a class, name an attribute). When all of these skills become generative, the stageis set for the auditory skills. Both generalized vocabulary skills and higher-order concepts (typicallytaught through categorization) can be developed according to these principles. In particular, withconcept development, the language tasks (labeling members of a category, characteristics of acategory, etc) can conform to the child’s current skill level in the matrix of conditionaldiscriminations.The preliminary phase of comprehension programming is visual, in which the child is presented witha visual display, and then given an SDin the form of a question. A particular component of thevisual comprehension task that should always be checked, but may not need programming, is the“Wh” term discrimination. An individual child may need single term programming to discriminateWho-What-Where as a term, especially if these words have been used “indiscriminately” in earlierprogramming – resulting in potential latent inhibition. Normally, the “Wh” discrimination is begunas a two-term discrimination in the appropriate matrix of distracters (“who is jumping”). Beforeeach of the subsequent auditory comprehension tasks are delivered, the analogue visual task shouldbe mastered.Then the first phase of auditory comprehension is detail comprehension for each of the singleterms. Programming in this phase typically involves a discriminative stimulus which is composed oftwo two-term statements and one two-term question (Ed is running and Fred is sitting. Who issitting?). This is developed in a series of single trials, with each trial commencing with newstatements, because the content of the terms themselves is no longer being programmed. Each trialis a partial conditional discrimination for the sake of attention span, but through the course ofrepeated trials, every possible combination is pursued. Typical questions involve who, what, where,which, and yes-no. The skill can be directly taught, based upon the foundation of labeling, by usingthe direct visual labeling analogue of the comprehension skill. The visual analogue can be used aseither a prompt or for behavioral momentum. After generative responding at this level, the programprogresses to three-term statements and four-term questions (counting the “wh” word as a term).Finally, attention span is built by gradually increasing the number of sentences in a story and thenasking a single question.A sample two-term “wh” discrimination is as follows:© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  29. 29. Generative Language Matrix Page 29Arrange a layout with two sets of three unambiguous items and do actions with the two subjects(Ernie is in a racecar and Bert is next to the trash):SD: “Who is in?” R: “Ernie”SD: “Where is Bert?” R: “Next to”SD: “What did Ernie do?” R: “Drive”SD: “Who sneezed?” R: “Bert”A sample detail comprehension task embedded in a story would be as follows:“Piglet and Pooh went to Eeyore’s birthday party. Pooh brought honey and Piglet brought aballoon. The balloon broke and Eeyore said it was alright. Who brought the balloon?”The second phase is concrete reasoning comprehension. The common question words are when,how, why, if-what, and yes-no. This reasoning comprehension skill is termed “concrete” because ofthe existence of natural cue words (because, since, so, before, after, etc.) in the discriminativestimulus (in this phase, these cue words are not prompts). Here the direct response is to give theanswer based upon giving the content that is related to the cue word. This skill progresses throughthe same term structure as detail comprehension, until a full story is given and the correct responseis to give the answer based upon the cue word. The use of two cue words forces an activediscrimination that usually ensures accurate attending and responding.A sample concrete reasoning task would be as follows:“Mary and Margaret went to the store for dessert. When they got there, the man told them thatthere were no more cookies. So they went home. When did the man tell them there were no morecookies?”Note that a “When” question is a more relative comprehension question than is “who,” “what,” or“where.” In the concrete reasoning, there are many common cue words, such as “before,” “after,”“while,” “first,” “second,” and “then.” The child’s discrimination of these time concepts can beprogrammed generatively. These time-concept, cue words can also be used in the receptive andexpressive modes as a term: “push the ball then throw the ball.” Therefore, the child can masterthese relative time concepts in the labeling mode before being challenged in the comprehensionmode, and the labeling can be used as a prompt for the comprehension. In addition, it can be notedthat the time concept is then an additional term in the sentence: “hug and tickle the doll” requiresonly a three-term conditional discrimination, whereas “hug then tickle the doll” requires a four term.Once the concrete reasoning is mastered, abstract reasoning analogues can be built using the sameforms of statements and questions, but with no cue words. The same progression is followed asbefore. A sample abstract reasoning task would be as follows:“Jenny couldn’t get into the house when she got home. She looked and looked but couldn’t find akey. She went to Mary’s house and called her mother. Her mother came home and unlocked thedoor. How did Mary get into her house?”Then inferential comprehension is developed. The distinction between abstract and inferentialcomprehension is that no correct answer is given in the SD. The correct answer is a creative, butrelevant, answer to the question. Inferential comprehension questions include: “why do you think,”“how do you think,” “what do you think will happen next,” “if-what,” and “yes-no.” The sameprogression is followed as before.© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  30. 30. Generative Language Matrix Page 30To distinguish again between a matrix-based curriculum and a traditional early interventioncurriculum, common factual comprehension skills may not be programmed until mastery of thesereasoning skills is achieved in order to avoid the development of stereotyped “memorization” of theanswers to the factual questions without true comprehension. Instead, as the examples have shown,each of these tasks are plainly generative, in that the child is learning to answer questions aboutnovel content, and mastery is assessed when the generalization to novel material occurs.Social comprehension. At the heart of the focus on language comprehension, for most childrenwith autism, is social comprehension. Such tasks can be the most abstract, as the concepts aretypically based upon an analysis of a series of interactions between two or more persons. Some ofthe initial social comprehension tasks can be concrete (“who pushed the girl?”), but most becomevery abstract (“why didn’t they want to play with him?”). As such, the social comprehension tasksusually follow development of inferential comprehension. Then, when the social comprehensiontasks are initiated, they are based upon a story that allows for such social comprehension questions.A sample task would be as follows:Read a story about Arthur’s dog ruining the decorations for his surprise party for Francine. Hisfriends come over early and help him make new decorations just in time for the party. Atappropriate moments in the book, stop and ask the following questions.o What does Arthur want? Why?o How does he feel? Why?o How do his friends feel? Why?o What can they do for Arthur? Why?o What do you think will happen next? Why?o What would you do if you were Arthur’s friend? Why?In social comprehension, to establish thorough social competence, each common social concept isprogrammed across multiple exemplars. For example, various commercial stories, which contain thesame concept, can be presented in randomized fashion until correct generative responding is madespontaneously to a novel story regarding the same concept. The modes of the stories can becustomized to allow for the child’s strengths (video, picture book, written passage, computerizedbook) and ultimately generalized to answering questions regarding a role-played situation orconversation, as well as acting out the roles in a play. This is often presented as dramatic play basedupon a familiar book or video, but not following a memorized script) and mastery is assessed bothupon making the appropriate responses in the dramatic play, and in answering comprehensionquestions about the dramatic play. Sample social concepts, across which multiple exemplars areprogrammed, include:o Other children want to choose what to doo Children don’t want to do the same thing all the timeo Children want people to like themo Children want friendso Boys and girls like different thingso Children don’t like to have their things ruinedo Friends help each othero Children want to wino Sometimes children don’t want to be togethero Children get mad for a reasono Children can laugh when they are teased© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  31. 31. Generative Language Matrix Page 31o Children like to be good at somethingo Families love each othero Children want attention from otherso Children help someone who is hurto Children should be good winnerso Children should keep a secreto Children try to be like the otherso Children don’t like bulliesComplex language production. A particularly important aspect of language development iscreative speech. While much of the programming discussed throughout this chapter is creative in itsoutcome (novel recombinative generalization), a significant creative language skill is expression oforiginal ideas. In the matrix program, this progression may be taught through a story-tellingframework. Once the required multiple-term complexity is developed, the child’s basic story tellingskill is developed through expressive labeling of sequencing tasks. After the concrete sequencingtasks are mastered (expressive labeling and sequencing of a series of related two-dimensionalstimuli), more ambiguous two-dimensional stimuli are given. These ambiguous stimuli still arerelated and tell a sequential story, but there is sufficient complexity and variety faded into successivesequences that the child’s expressive labeling of each picture is necessarily more creative. Once thisresponding is established, the child is taught to tell a story using puppets or toys, through a simplechaining process. However, a rote script is not employed. Instead the child is labeling a variety ofavailable stimuli in a related fashion. Variations in the array of materials provided can force creativestory telling. For example, uncommon combinations of materials can be presented so that the childis highly likely to produce novel expressive labels of the materials available. Instructing creativityand differential reinforcement of creative terms and sentences are also significant techniques. Oncethe story telling is established with visual materials, the next step is to establish nonvisual storytelling. This can be done using similar materials for either momentum or prompts. A relatedprocess is to use pictures of actual events, to develop the skill of telling about daily events.Conversational skills. An important aspect of natural language development is conversationalskill. Conversational responding is a different function from the labeling, requesting, and question-answering skills which have here-to-fore been discussed. In conversational responding, the childreciprocates statements to those made by another. The skill involves creative speech, but also anecessary degree of responsiveness to the trend of the conversation. In the present framework, theappropriate reciprocals are developed only after mastery of the conditional discriminations isaccomplished, so that the conversational skills are generative rather than rote. To beginprogramming conversations, the reciprocal interactions can be programmed as visual reciprocals(manipulating a toy while labeling the action). To establish common conversational responding, thereciprocal response is to respond to at least one term of the conditional stimulus, and add to that, inthe common way that a natural conversation often involves a series of tangential statements. Theyare each related to the prior, but move in a connected series of tangents, as opposed to directlymimicking the form of the stimulus. For example, the SDmay be, “the car crashed the truck,” andthe reciprocal response is, “the truck’s on fire.” This tangential relationship is more conversationalthan mimicking the syntax as in, “the car crashed the truck,” reciprocated by, “the man pushed thebutton.” In this manner, the various modes of the labeling skills may be used as concrete promptsfor the reciprocal statements. Before transitioning to purely auditory conversations, the creativespeech programming is also very helpful as a prerequisite. Then, creative reciprocals may be© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.
  32. 32. Generative Language Matrix Page 32developed by repeatedly prompting “random” responses – never giving the same statement twice inthe prompting, until the child learns to spontaneously give a new response. In addition, effectivedifferential reinforcement is critical; and the use of sophisticated clinical judgment is called for, indetermining whether the child’s response was related enough to the original SDto qualify as arelevant reciprocal response, versus an autistically unrelated response. Observational learningprocedures have proven extremely valuable in rapidly developing conversational skill. Additionalprogramming for responsiveness to the partner involves complex contingencies such as cooperationand competition; and responsive peer tutoring. Auditory comprehension skills are critical for thedevelopment of conversational skill, and comprehension of conversations will be specificallytargeted.As described above, this language acquisition process is designed to culminate in the generalizationof natural language forms functionally into the child’s typical daily activities. However, thedevelopment of complex social interactions which involve language may need to be programmeddirectly. For example, differential reinforcement of target social skills in the natural environments iscommonly required (Buell, Stoddard, Harris, & Baer, 1968; Hart, Reynolds, Baer, Brawley, & Harris,1968). Children have been effectively learned to recruit social praise for appropriate behavior in theclassroom (Connell, Carta, & Baer, 1993; Stokes, Fowler, & Baer, 1978). Target social skills may beprompted using a two-dimensional stimulus in the natural setting (Curl, Rowbury, & Baer, 1985).Creative play may be differentially reinforced (Goetz & Baer, 1973). And prompt fading anddifferential reinforcement may be used to establish spontaneous initiations of sharing (Rogers-Warren, & Baer, 1976; Pinkston, Reese, LeBlanc, & Baer, 1973). In addition, peer programming andobservational learning techniques have been used to develop appropriate social behavior in thenatural settings (Odom & Strain, 1986; Tryon & Keane, 1986).The consideration of the clinical focus will also dramatically affect the level of social communicationthat generalizes from therapy to natural interactions. For example, if the child’s extreme acting-outbehavior is currently being reinforced by the reactive accommodations of caregivers, then thispattern may prevent the generalization of more natural social language into those activities. Theremediation of the challenging behavior may be necessary before natural social language occurs inthose natural settings. For example, it has been found necessary to establish compliance as acompeting response for attention-getting behavior, and then use differential reinforcement to alterthe rates of the two forms of interaction (Baer, Rowbury, & Baer, 1973; Pinkston, Reese, LeBlanc, &Baer, 1973). In another example, children’s lack of generalization from one-to-one to grouplanguage activities was accomplished by programming the presence of individual peers into the one-to-one activities (Larsson & Larsson, 1983).Nonverbal communication. An important feature of social communication is the skill ofcomprehending nonverbal communication or body language. Throughout this paper, we havereferred to modes of language behavior that are produced by the mouth as vocal behavior, ratherthan verbal behavior; and have referred to verbal behavior as any mode of language behavior thatinvolves a representational (or symbolic) form of language (such as written words, pictures, signs,gestures, or vocal words). However, the use of the term, “nonverbal” here is to refer explicitly tolanguage responses that are conditional upon the body language or inflection used in language. Forexample, a receptive statement might be: “pick it up.” If only one item is on the table, the statementis unambiguous, and merely a two-term conditional discrimination. However, if two items (a bookand a candle) are on the table, the correct conditional response depends upon the glance of thespeaker. If the speaker is looking at the book, then the correct three-term response is to pick up the© April 30, 2003, Eric V. Larsson, Ph.D.