Evaluation of a self-instructional manual for conducting paired-stimulus preference assessment with individuals with developmental disabilities
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Ample research has shown that direct preference assessment is an effective method for identifying reinforcers for people with developmental disabilities with limited communication skills. Research has also shown that self-instructional manuals are an effective and efficient means for teaching individuals to implement a variety of procedures with individuals with developmental disabilities. I prepared a self-instructional manual to teach individuals to conduct a paired-stimulus (PS) direct preference assessment procedure. I used a concurrent modified multiple-baseline design across participants, combined with an unbalanced crossover design between groups, to evaluate the effectiveness of the manual to teach staff and university students to conduct the assessment. The manual was compared to a description of the assessment procedure adapted from the method sections of published research articles. Four university students and six staff members who work with individuals with developmental disabilities participated. None of the participants had previous experience conducting direct preference assessments. No participant met mastery criterion during simulated preference assessments before training. All participants met mastery criterion (80% correct or higher during a PS preference assessment) after studying the self-instructional manual. No participants met mastery after studying the method description adapted from published studies; participants subsequently met mastery criteria following study of the manual. Across all phases of the study, staff members performed with slightly higher accuracy than students. Training time required to master the self-instructional manual averaged 43 min. Participants’ performance remained at high levels during follow-up and generalization sessions. Participants also rated the self-instructional manual more favourably than the method description on a social validity questionnaire. The self-instructional manual offers an efficient, low-cost alternative to face-to-face training for teaching individuals to conduct paired-stimulus preference assessments.