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 #509
CE Offered: BACB
Filling in the Gaps: Expanding Our Understanding of Automatic or Undifferentiated Functional Analysis Findings for Individuals With Challenging Behavior
Monday, May 27, 2019
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Lobby Level, Crystal Ballroom B
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Translational
Chair: David R Donnelly (University of Rochester)
CE Instructor: David R Donnelly, Ph.D.

Since first published (Iwata et al., 1982), the process of Functional Analysis (FA) has profoundly changed the process and effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analytical (ABA) treatment for individuals with challenging behaviors. Across ages and diagnoses, ABA has provided empirically validated evidence based treatment for behaviors maintained by attention, escape from demand, or tangibles. Yet in the years that have followed, the identification of automatic (assumed to be sensory) or undifferentiated findings has not kept pace, and this has left Behavior Analysts without a clear approach to treatment. This often results in needing to rely on default technologies that are often controversial, and less effective. In this symposium, we will discuss the potential significance of behavioral history on understanding the individual’s idiosyncratic function(s) of behavior; Looking at biological variables as potential motivating operations in further clarification of the function(s) of behavior; and working toward moving to more environmentally mediated variables informed by fine grained analysis of automatic reinforcement maintaining the behavior. Practical suggestions regarding more effective practice and research to address challenging behavior will be included.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

BCBAs and BCBA-Ds in practice, as well as those providing training for Behavior Analysts

Learning Objectives: 1) Symposium attendees will be able to identify potential benefits to Functional Analysis from including Behavioral History in their assessment. 2) Symposium attendees will be able to identify potential biological contributors to challenging behavior, as well as treatment approaches incorporating this information. 3)Symposium attendees will be aware of the relationship of scheule of automatic reinforcement, and the potential this information has in providing effective treatment for challenging behavior.

Expanding the ‘Standard’ Functional Analysis: The Contribution of Behavioral History to Understanding and Treating Challenging Behavior

(Service Delivery)
DAVID R DONNELLY (University of Rochester)

Each individual’s behavior is a result of their own ontogeny, or individual behavioral history, in the environment(s) where the behavior occurred. The concept that future behavior is influenced by past consequences is a cornerstone of the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In assessing the function of present behavior, however, most Functional Analysis (FA) approaches place little or no emphasis on this important source of information. Obtaining a behavioral history can shed light on the potential function of behavior that would otherwise seem to be maintained by sensory or undifferentiated (unknown) reinforcement, but may in fact be maintained by idiosyncratic consequences. This presentation will focus on the process and value of analysis of historical information in developing a hypothesis regarding the function of challenging behavior, which is the purpose behind FA. Application of this process can significantly improve the accuracy of a FA, and potentially give rise to treatment that is more effective.

Transfer of Behavioral Function: From Automatic Function to Social Function
(Service Delivery)
ZHICHUN ZHOU (Webster University ), David R Donnelly (University of Rochester)
Abstract: Prior work in the behavioral field has produced four main functions to explain the exhibition of challenging behaviors. Different variations of socially mediated functions and the schedule programming of these social functions have also been discussed in hopes of developing tools to fully analyze behavioral functions, thereby designing and strengthening function-based behavioral interventions. However, the degree of understanding of automatically-maintained challenging behaviors remains at the beginner stage in the field. This presentation will shed light on the topic that has been barely examined by behavioral researchers; namely, the function of the schedule of automatic reinforcement on challenging behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement. The presentation will examine how behavior analysts can program the schedule of social functions to compete the effects of the schedule of automatic reinforcement, in order to gradually transfer the function that is unobservable and unmeasurable to the social function that is observable and measurable. Further, potential behavioral intervention that is based on the schedule of automatic reinforcement will be discussed.
Toward a Biological Analysis of Self-Injury: A Critical Review of Behavior Analysts' Methods of Analyzing Automatic Functions of Challenging Behavior
ELIZABETH ANDRESEN (Autism Learning Partners), David R Donnelly (University of Rochester)
Abstract: The field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has greatly progressed since Iwata and colleagues (1982/1994) established a method to analyze and understand challenging behavior with the standard functional analysis (FA). However, behavior analysts still continue to face difficulty when analyzing and treating complex behaviors; particularly self-injurious behavior (SIB) maintained by automatic reinforcement. Automatic reinforcement as we know it is defined by the absence of social reinforcement; however, does this really indicate full understanding? Recent data suggest that treatment for automatic reinforcement, especially when indicated by an undifferentiated FA pattern, is significantly less effective than treatments for socially mediated behaviors (Hagopian, Rooker, & Zarcone, 2015). Additionally, despite a significant literature base supporting biological components of these complex behaviors, little research has been done in this area since the late 20th century, and little has been incorporated into functional analysis methodologies. This presentation will serve as a critical review of the literature analyzing behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement, indicated through functional analysis, citing data from behavior analytic and neurobiological journals. All in all, this presentation will strongly suggest a synthesis of biological and environmental variables when analyzing behavior to promote the most effective treatment.



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