Behaviors maintained through automatic reinforcement make it difficult to treat as the source of the maintaining variable may not be readily available for manipulation. One such behavior is automatically-reinforced vocal stereotypy (VS) which is defined as idiosyncratic, non-functional vocalizations. Vocal stereotypy occurs in various populations however, it is most often observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) where it becomes problematic if it occurs at high rates and interferes with socialization or functioning in structured settings. There are multiple effective interventions available in the literature, however, many procedures require high rates of interventionist time and target complete omission of the behavior which may be problematic in applied settings. One intervention which has not been assessed as an individual intervention in the automatically-reinforced VS literature is differential reinforcement of low rates (DRL). In the present study, a functional analysis was used to determine that the VS of two female adolescents with ASD was maintained by automatic reinforcement. A DRL procedure was implemented which incorporated: (a) a specified interval for reinforcement, (b) the permissible number of VS acceptable within the interval, (c) a behavior checklist, and (d) learner feedback. As the targeted behavior decreased across sessions, the DRL interval was systematically increased in order to thin out the schedule of reinforcement. The intervention reduced VS and increased untargeted task engagement in both participants. Applied and theoretical implications of the study, as well as ethical considerations, social validity, limitations, and future research are discussed.
The vast majority of maltreatment cases in the US occur at the hands of mothers, acting alone or in concert with others. Individuals with ASD are seven times more likely to experience abuse than the general population. Adults with ASD report they have been physically (57.8%) or sexually (55.6%) abused. Given behavior analysts are likely to have clients on their current caseload who are being abused, it is surprising articles describing training on abuse is absent from our literature. The majority of 579 respondents to a survey sent via the BACB reported low rates of substantiated abuse (83% indicated less than 10% of their clients have been physically abused and 96% reported their clients have not been sexually abused). Slightly more respondents suspect physical abuse is occurring. More than a third (37%) report that their agency does not have a protocol, they are unfamiliar with their agency’s protocol, or that the agency protocol for reporting abuse is insufficient. Perhaps even more worrying is that only 36% report their agency has a protocol on addressing clients as abusers. This paper discusses additional survey results and recommends individual and systemic changes needed to address this substantial quality of life concern.