Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #467
CE Offered: BACB
Innovations in Treatment for Automatically-Maintained Problem Behavior
Monday, May 29, 2017
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 4C/D
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Joanna Lomas Mevers (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University School of Medicine )
Discussant: Mindy Christine Scheithauer (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University School of Medicine)
CE Instructor: Joanna Lomas Mevers, Ph.D.

Behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement can present a challenge and are often more difficult to treat than behaviors maintained by social reinforcement. This challenge is often due to the mechanism that is maintaining the behavior and the inability to fully control access to the automatic reinforcement.. This challenge is compounded by limited empirically validated treatment options. The current symposium will present two papers focused on developing innovative treatments for behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement. The first paper focuses on the validation of a free-operant competing stimulus assessment (FOCSA) as an effective tool for identifying items which are highly-preferred, but also result in high-rates of stereotypy (HP-HS) and items which are highly-preferred, but result in low-rates of stereotypy (HP-LS). Results demonstrated the immediate effects of the HP-LS and HP-HS stimuli were correctly predicted by the FOCSA for each participant. The second paper focuses on the use of an activity schedule as a treatment for automatically maintained problem behaviors. Specifically, this study evaluated the use of providing differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior for completion of an activity schedule (without the use of differential reinforcement for the absence of the automatically-maintained problem behavior). Taken together, the results of both studies provide support for continued research on refinements and development of novel treatment approaches for behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Activity Schedule, Automatic Reinforcement, Competing Assessment

Extensions of the Use of Free-Operant Competing Stimulus Assessment to Identify Competing Items Used in the Treatment of Stereotypy

John T. Rapp (Auburn University), Erin Swinkels (Aubrun University ), KRISTEN BROGAN (Auburn University), Jennifer Lynn Cook (Monarch House), Kathryn McHugh (Monarch House), Kathryn Mann (Monarch House)

Frewing, Rapp, and Pastrana (2015) described a free-operant competing stimulus assessment (FOCSA) wherein they compared conditional probabilities of participants? engaging in stereotypy while manipulating items to the unconditional probability of stereotypy. We conducted a series of experiments to further evaluate this assessment tool. In Experiment 1, we showed that each participant?s repetitive behavior persisted without social consequences. In Experiment 2, we used the same FOCSA to identify high-preference, low stereotypy (HP-LS) items for four participants and high-preference, high-stereotypy (HP-HS) items for four participants. To validate the results of the FOCSAs (Experiment 3), we used a three-component multiple schedule to evaluate the immediate effects of a HP-LS stimulus, a HP-HS stimulus, or both (in separate test sequences) on each participant?s stereotypy. Results of Experiment 3 showed that the immediate effects of the HP-LS and HP-HS stimuli were correctly predicted by the FOCSA for each participant. We briefly discuss the clinical implications and limitations of this study, as well as directions for future research with this FOCSA.

Use of Activity Schedules to Treat Automatically Maintained Problem Behavior
JOELLE KRANTZ (Marcus Autism Center), Joanna Lomas Mevers (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University School of Medicine ), Mindy Christine Scheithauer (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University School of Medicine ), Kristina Gerencser (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: Automatically maintained problem behavior is particularly difficult to treat as the events that evoke or reinforce the behaviors often cannot be observed or manipulated directly (Vollmer, 1994). Reinforcement-based treatments to reduce such problem behavior have focused primarily on identifying competing stimuli that individuals will engage in to the exclusion of automatically reinforced problem behavior (e.g., Piazza et al., 1998; Shore, Iwata, DeLeon, Kahng, & Smith, 1997). However, this strategy may prove difficult if the individual does not have a wide array of activities that compete with the automatic reinforcement produced by the problem behavior. The present study applied a treatment strategy (activity schedules) shown to be effective at promoting adaptive play in other populations to children exhibiting automatically maintained self-injury. Specifically, we used a differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA) procedures to teach children to utilize the activity schedule, where alternative activities were trained and reinforced. All participants demonstrated significant reductions in problem behavior following treatment, with treatment gains maintained over time. The findings from the study provide support for a novel intervention to treat automatically maintained problem behavior.



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