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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #129
CE Offered: BACB
Treatment Variations for Problem Behavior in Children With Developmental Disabilities
Saturday, May 29, 2021
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Colin S. Muething (Marcus Autism Center)
Discussant: Joseph Michael Lambert (Vanderbilt University)
CE Instructor: Colin S. Muething, Ph.D.

Behavioral treatments are significantly effective in reducing problem behavior in individuals with developmental disabilities (Campbell, 2003). Common treatment components following a functional assessment such as a functional analysis include: extinction, functional communication training, differential reinforcement or noncontingent reinforcement. These components are well studied and empirically supported. However, some problem behavior is maintained by idiosyncratic functions or require variations to common treatment components. This symposium will present recent research on variations to treatments for problem behavior. Extinction, while common, may present an ethical dilemma or may not be feasible depending on a variety of factors. Some treatment components may be included that increase the feasibility of the intervention such as a variable momentary differential reinforcement procedure of other behavior procedure. Finally, treatments for idiosyncratic functions such as social avoidance may require variations in order to successfully reduce problem behavior. Taken together, the results of these studies present important variations for idiosyncratic presentations of problem behavior that may increase success of the intervention and fidelity of implementation.

Target Audience:



Differential Reinforcement Without Extinction: An Assessment of Sensitivity to and Effects of Reinforcer Parameter Manipulations

HANNAH LYNN MACNAUL (University of South Florida), Catia Cividini-Motta Cividini (University of South Florida)

Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often engage in problem behavior (Horner, Carr, Strain et al., 2002) that may limit access to traditional social and education settings, impact their health, and pose a risk to their safety and the safety of others. One of the most common interventions used to treat problem behavior is differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA), which is often used in combination with extinction (Shirley, Iwata, Kahng, Mazaleski, & Lerman, 1997). Implementation of extinction may pose an ethical dilemma and may not be feasible depending on the setting, topography of problem behavior, and/or size of the client. Therefore, we identified participant’s relative sensitivities to reinforcer parameters (i.e., quality, magnitude, delay) and used results to inform a functional communication training (FCT) intervention to treat problem behavior for four individuals with ASD. Results showed that both FCT conditions were effective at decreasing problem behavior and increasing communicative responses, but treatment effects were more robust when the most sensitive reinforcer parameter was manipulated.


Functional Communication Training Without Extinction to Decrease Self-Injurious Behavior With Subtype-1 Automatic Maintained Behavior

JORDAN WIMBERLEY (Autism Treatment Center), Leslie Neely (The University of Texas at San Antonio), Amarie Carnett (Victoria University of Wellington)

Functional communication training with extinction is a common intervention to treat problem behavior. However, there are some instances when an extinction component may not be recommended (e.g. intensity of behavior, safety of program staff, etc.). The purpose of this study was to evaluate an FCT intervention without an extinction component for a child who engaged in stereotype behavior and self-injurious behavior. Researchers conducted a functional analysis that identified the child’s stereotypical behavior was automatically maintained (subtype 1). A second functional analysis identified the self-injurious behavior was evoked when access to the stereotype behavior was not available. Researchers then implemented FCT with manipulation of the parameters of reinforcement (e.g. immediacy and quantity) to favor the functional communitive responses verses the self-injurious behavior. Researchers then implemented schedule thinning and manipulated parameters of reinforcement to favor engagement in competing activities during the FCT schedule thinning. Results suggest that FCT with parameters manipulation can be utilized to decrease challenging behavior and increase appropriate behavior without the use of extinction.


Consecutive Case Series of Problem Behavior Maintained by Social Avoidance

EMILY GOTTLIEB (Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta), Colin S. Muething (Marcus Autism Center)

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present with deficits in social interactions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). These deficits could manifest in the individuals finding social interactions to be aversive and therefore engaging in problem behavior to avoid them. Social avoidance is a specific type of escape maintained problem behavior where the individual engages in problem behavior in order to avoid social interaction (Harper, Iwata, & Camp, 2013). We conducted a consecutive case series analysis targeting individuals who engaged in problem behavior to avoid social interaction. We discuss the various strategies for assessing this function as well as treatment strategies. Multiple treatment components were used across individuals, including proximity fading, differential reinforcement of other behavior, pairing, a multiple schedule of reinforcement, functional communication training, and extinction. Overall, we identified three individuals who showed significant reduction in problem behavior and one individual with no reduction in problem behavior.


The Effects of a Variable Momentary Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior Procedure on Reduction and Maintenance of Problem Behavior

KYLE HAMILTON (University of Missouri), Casey J. Clay (University of Missouri), SungWoo Kahng (Rutgers University)

In this symposium, the author will evaluate behavior reduction and maintenance results, as well as discuss future research areas utilizing a variable momentary differential reinforcement of other behavior (VM DRO) procedure. In the present study, two individuals who had been diagnosed with developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorder participated. Results of functional analyses indicated that problem behavior for both participants was maintained by social-positive reinforcement. VM DRO was effective at reducing one participant’s problem behavior. Fixed interval differential reinforcement of other behavior (FI DRO) was effective at reducing the other participant’s problem behavior. Furthermore, VM DRO failed to maintain the results previously produced by the FI DRO procedure. These findings suggest that VM DRO may not be effective at reducing problem behavior for all individuals and that outcomes may be idiosyncratic. Future research is needed to determine the effects of VM DRO as a maintenance procedure for other DRO procedures.




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