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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #311
CE Offered: BACB
Bringing the Lag Out of the Lab: Applied Lag Schedule Research
Sunday, May 26, 2019
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Lobby Level, Crystal Ballroom C
Area: DDA/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Andrea Ramirez-Cristoforo (The University of Texas at Austin )
Discussant: Ronald Lee (William James College)
CE Instructor: Clodagh Mary Murray, Ph.D.

The utility of lag schedules for increasing varied responding has been established in basic research with animals since the 1980s. This symposium aims to disseminate the latest research investigating lag schedules in applied settings. The first paper, a comprehensive research synthesis, will “set the scene” by providing an overview of the recent developments in applied, basic and translational research on lag schedules with human participants. This will be followed by three empirical papers describing lag schedule research for increasing variability in play behaviours of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The first of these increased variation in selection of toys, remediating a common problem among children with ASD, namely that they perseverate on a limited number of toys, missing out on opportunities for social and tangible reinforcement. The next paper describes the use of lag schedules to increase variation in appropriate play behaviors and the impact of this on stereotypy. This is timely as it represents a potential shift in how restricted repetitive behaviors are conceptualized. If we frame them as low behavioral variability then reinforcement-based strategies are indicated. The third paper outlines a lag schedule intervention to increase variability in play actions with toys, with a focus on generalization and maintenance effects and how these may be maximized. Together with the discussant, these papers will provide an engaging insight into the practical aspects of using lag schedules to increase variability in humans, with an emphasis on play.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

BCBA, BCBA-D Post graduate students, practitioners, researchers

A Systematic Synthesis of Lag Schedule Research in Humans
(Applied Research)
BRYANT C. SILBAUGH (The University of Texas at San Antonio, Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching ), Clodagh Mary Murray (National University of Ireland Galway), Michelle Kelly (Emirates College for Advanced Education), Olive Healy (Trinity College Dublin)
Abstract: Variability provides the basic building blocks for operant selection to shape the behavioral repertoires of individual organisms. Findings from basic and applied behavior analytic research conducted over multiple decades have converged to suggest that variability may be a dimension of operant behavior. Therefore, researchers have begun to develop and evaluate applied behavioral technology used to teach, strengthen, and bring operant variability under discriminative stimulus control for educational or clinical purposes, such as replacing repetitive behavior or stereotypy with variable behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The current study is the first comprehensive synthesis of basic, translational, and applied research on lag schedules in humans. We employed a multi-step search strategy to identify all experimental studies of lag schedules in humans published in peer-reviewed journals since 1985. We identified 38 studies that met inclusion criteria, then extracted data on participant and study characteristics and compared applied study characteristics to the 2014 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): Standards for Evidence-Based Practices in Special Education. Preliminary results suggest that (a) more translational research on lag schedules is needed to further characterize the effects of lag schedules in humans, (b) the effects of lag schedules in applied studies have largely been positive, and (c) lag schedules of reinforcement can increase operant variability in typically developing individuals and individuals with intellectual disabilities or developmental disorders across a range of ages, settings, and skill domains such as verbal behavior, play, and feeding. We conclude by discussing future avenues of research and some preliminary practice guidelines.

Increasing Variability in Toy Selection in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder Using Stimulus to Stimulus Pairing and Lag Schedules of Reinforcement

(Applied Research)
Catherine Moynihan (National University of Ireland Galway), CLODAGH MARY MURRAY (National University of Ireland Galway)

Research has demonstrated that children with ASD engage more in stereotyped, repetitive movements during play and demonstrate limited interest in varying the toys they play with. Therefore, evidence-based interventions are necessary to assist with widening the community of reinforcers and improving variability and flexibility of play among this group. In Phase 1, a stimulus-stimulus pairing intervention was successfully implemented to condition three toys as reinforcers for four children with ASD. In Phase 2, lag schedules of reinforcement were implemented in a non-concurrent multiple baseline across participants design to increase variability in toy selection for three children with ASD using the toys that were conditioned in Phase 1 along with three novel toys. Results indicated that lag schedules are an effective intervention for increasing variability in toy selection for children with ASD and that the toys that had been previously conditioned were not selected more frequently under lag conditions than the novel toys. Implications of this work for early intervention programs will be outlined.


An Evaluation of the Effects of Lag Schedules on Variable Play Behavior and Stereotypy in Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
ANDREA RAMIREZ-CRISTOFORO (The University of Texas at Austin ), Terry S. Falcomata (The University of Texas at Austin), Fabiola Vargas Londoño (University of Texas at Austin), Cayenne Shpall (Student)

The tendency of individuals with autism to engage in excessive repetitive and stereotyped behavior may be conceptualized as a deficit in variable responding. Basic and applied studies in the behavioral literature have demonstrated that, similar to other operant dimensions of behavior, variability can be impacted via the manipulation of reinforcement contingencies using lag schedules. Lag schedules have been demonstrated to positively impact variability across a variety of skills with individuals with autism including verbal behavior such as mands, tacts, and appropriate answers to social questions. Lag schedules have also been demonstrated to increase variability with toy play behaviors. In this study, we evaluated the effects of applying lag schedules to appropriate toy play behaviors on object-based stereotypy, appropriate toy play behavior, and novel play responses. We utilized an ABAB embedded in a non-concurrent multiple baseline design across participants. Results suggested that applying the lag schedule increased the cumulative number of novel responses and engagement in appropriate play. It also resulted in decreased time engaged in object-based stereotypy. The potential utility of lag schedules for decreasing object-based stereotypy in individuals with autism will be discussed.


Increasing and Generalizing Variability in Toy Play Actions of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder Using Lag Schedules of Reinforcement

(Applied Research)
RASHA BARUNI (New England Center for Children - Abu Dhabi), Daniel John Sheridan (Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Special Education operated by The New England Center for Children), Clodagh Mary Murray (National University of Ireland Galway), Michelle Kelly (Emirates College for Advanced Education), Jonathan Seaver (The New England Center for Children)

Restricted repetitive behaviors are frequently demonstrated by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Invariable behaviors, along with limited play skills, may result in little contact with social sources of reinforcement. Research has demonstrated variability to be an operant element of behavior, sensitive to reinforcement contingencies and lag schedules are gaining increasing attention in the research literature. The current study adds to previous work by investigating the use of lag schedules of reinforcement to occasion novel play actions with toys with three children diagnosed with ASD in the United Arab Emirates. A non-concurrent multiple baseline design across participants was utilized to evaluate the effects of lag 1 and lag 2 schedules of reinforcement. During baseline conditions, play behavior with was observed in the absence of intervention. During intervention conditions, reinforcers were delivered contingent on responses that met the lag criterion. Furthermore, prompts were introduced and faded to further increase variable toy-play behavior. The data indicate that the procedure was effective in increasing novel toy-play responding for all three participants. Additional data on generalization, maintenance and social validity will be presented and discussed as these factors are likely to influence the adoption of lag schedule interventions in applied settings.




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