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The purpose of the study Teaching Safety Skills to Children to Prevent Gun Play, by Himle, Miltenberger, Flessner and Gatheridge, was to teach children fire arm safety by using a behavioral skills training (BST) program that included, one-on-one training, repeated measures of skill acquisition and the implementation of scenarios that would promote generalization. Eight children, boys and girls, ages 4 and 5, were given the BST program intervention. Results showed that during baseline all children performed between a 0 and 1 on a numeric scale of 0 to 3. After the BST program, three of the participants reached the criterion, which required three consecutive scores of 3. The other five children were introduced to in situ training where four of the five reached criterion. With an extra in situ training all children reached criterion. When generalization assessments were given, 2 weeks to 2 months after the children's last training session, all of the children reached criterion. One child received a second generalization assessment before he reached criterion.
Accidently injuries and deaths due to fire arms are tragic, especially because these accidents can be prevented. With previous studies not yielding any helpful solutions or productive ways to teach children fire arm safety skills that could be used in realistic situations, it became important to find a solution. This is when Himle, Miltenberger, Flessner, and Gatheridge (2004) found evidence that using the intervention of a behavioral skills training program would increase fire arm safety skills in children.
The target behavior that the researchers wanted to increase was fire arm safety skills. These skills were defined as follows, when seeing a fire arm they do not touch it, once they see the fire arm they leave the immediate location of the fire arm and last they go inform an adult about the fire arm. Not touching the fire arm was further defined as not touching the fire arm with any part of the body or with any other object that would cause the fire arm to be moved. Leaving the location of the firearm counted if the child left the immediate area within 10 seconds of seeing the firearm. Lastly, telling an adult consisted of the child willingly telling the adult about the fire arm within 10 seconds of leaving the area of the fire arm. (Himle et al., 2004) The children's skills were assessed on a numeric scare of 0 to 3. With 0 being the child touched the fire arm despite subsequent responses, 1 being the child did not touch the fire arm but did not leave the room, 2 being the child did not touch the fire arm and left the room but did not tell an adult and 3 being the child did not touch the fire arm, left the room and told an adult. In an attempt to increase fire arm safety skill assessment scores from ones and zeros up to threes, the researchers used a single-subject, multiple baseline design with the intervention of a behavioral skills training program. The BST program implemented one-on-one training with the children, repetition of measures to check for skill acquisition and in situ training that would check for generalization of fire arm safety skills to real life situations. (Himle et al. 2004)
The BST program intervention was given to five girls and three boys, from a metropolitan area. Of the eight children, three were 4 years old and five were 5 years old. The basic outline of the study included a baseline assessment, the introduction of the BST program and depending on the children's level of achievement, if needed, in situ training (training that is done in the practice situation). Each child experienced the baseline and BST program training at the very least. The baseline data showed that all of the children scored between a 0 and 1. (Himle et al. 2004) Meaning the child either touched the fire arm or they did not touch the fire arm, but never left the area of danger. The treatment phase was to introduce the BST program. The order in which the BST was introduced was Karl, Sandy, Lisa, Steuart, April, Cindy, Anders and last Jackie. During this time the children experienced instructions, modeling, rehearsals, praise or corrective feedback, depending on the child's performance, to teach them to not touch the fire arm, leave the room and tell an adult. In the event that the child did not perform to criteria during the assessment, a total of three booster sessions could be used to increase performance. However, if the child showed they could not perform the proper safety skills during assessment sessions they were given in situ training. During in situ training a research assistant, posing as a teaching assistant, would intervene and retrain the child on what they should have done. This was all done while the child was still in the simulated situation. In the end, to check for generalization, the children were assessed for their fire arm safety skills in their home through previously arranged situations. In addition, it is important to know that if the child did not reach the criteria at home they were, again, given in situ training again. (Himle et al. 2004)
Results of this study were, of the eight children, Karl, Steuart and Jackie reached criteria during the assessments right after the training. Karl only needed one booster session, Steuart required two booster sessions and Jackie needed zero booster sessions. In situ training was not needed for these three. For Lisa, Sandy, April, Cindy and Anders, in situ training was required to reach criterion. Cindy was an exception to the group with a decrease in here score. However, with an extra in situ training she was able to meet criteria. Results for generalization were not complete because Sandy and Lisa moved away before they could be assessed at home. Of the six remaining children, all performed at criterion at home. Sanders needed two generalization assessments due to not informing an adult of the fire arm on the first generalization assessment. (Himle et al. 2004)
Himle et al. (2004) concluded that their study was the first program effective enough to teach children safety skills when they come across a fire arm. What makes their study so strong is they have experimental evidence that supports their hypothesis. They were able to conclude this because the evidence shows once the BST program was executed, with all of its parts, all of the children assessed and generalized at the criterion level of 3. The second conclusion the researchers made was that not all children require the same number of training sessions to learn and use fire arm safety skills in a new environment. Some children require few training sessions where some require more. In addition it was found that just providing examples of when to use these safety behaviors does not guarantee the skills are going to be used in the real world. The researchers concluded that for the best results, the BST program should include individualized training programs that assess the children in real situations, as well as in situ training for those children who still need it. They were able to come to this conclusion because the majority of the children were not able to perform to criteria in a natural setting. It wasn't until the in situ training, in a natural environment, that all the children could perform to criteria. (Himle et al. 2004) Perhaps if the initial training had been done in a natural setting the in situ training would not be needed and the children would have learned the fire arm safety skills quicker. In addition, since a multiple baseline design was used, it can be concluded that there were no extraneous factors that caused the change in behavior. The chance that the same coincidence interfered each time the researchers introduced the BST program to a new child is unlikely. The behavior change was most likely cause by the intervention.
In general, this study is important because it promotes awareness and safety in children who come across or have easy access to a firearm. The biggest reason this article stood out to me is because I believe that unintentional, accidental deaths, that could have been completely prevented, are a tragic waste of human life, especially when it is a loss of a child. Fire arm safety has always been important. However, if adults are not aware enough to properly lock up, store or hide their fire arms from children, it is even more important to teach children fire arm safety skills. The information from this study could be useful in decreasing the number of accidental fire arm injuries and deaths, it used properly for each child. As talked about in the discussion, having a generalization assessment for all eight children, having more information about whether the number of children around the gun makes a difference, and having a larger variety of locations to assess the children in, would make this study even stronger. With a strong intervention, in this case BST training, children will learn how to protect themselves around fire arms.