Matching training tasks to the abilities of developmentally disabled persons, ABLA test vs. experienced staff

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Stubbings, Vicki
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Front-line staff must confront the daily challenge of matching the demands of training tasks to the discrimination learning abilities of developmentally-disabled clients. In this study, three sets of predictions were made concerning the ability of 18 severely or moderately developmentally-disabled persons to learn 18 training tasks. First, test results of the clients on the Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities (ABLA) test were used to make 216 predictions (12 tasks x 18 clients). Second, experienced teachers who had worked with the clients for a minimum of eight months predicted which of the 12 training tasks the clients would be able to learn. Third, experienced teachers who did not know any of the 12 clients personally, but who were allowed 30 minutes of interaction with the clients (the length of time typically required for an ABLA test), predicted which of the 12 tasks the clients would be able to learn. Following these three sets of predictions, standard training procedures were used to attempt to teach each of the tasks to each of the clients until a passing criterion of eight consecutive correct responses occurred, or until a failure criterion of 120 training trials occurred. Test results on the ABLA more accurately predicted client performance on training tasks than either group of experienced staff, and the differences were highly statistically significant. A cost-effectiveness analysis indicated that use of the ABLA test for matching training tasks to abilities of clients could considerably decrease the high cost of unproductive training time.