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 #15
CE Offered: BACB
Implementing Functional Analysis and Function-Based Interventions With Considerations for Ecological Validity
Saturday, May 29, 2021
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Catharine Lory (Purdue University)
CE Instructor: Catharine Lory, M.S.

As variations of functional analysis (FA) continue to be studied and expanded, the feasibility and acceptability of implementing FAs in applied settings have increased. However, there remain gaps in the literature in terms of limitations in ecological validity, such as using natural settings, involving indigenous implementers, having normative comparisons, and maximizing the usefulness of FA results in guiding intervention selection. This symposium will present two single-case design studies on adaptations of FA procedures to address these issues and one systematic review that examined the ecological validity of function-based interventions (FBIs). The first paper identifies appropriate communication and play skills in typically developing children using a modified trial-based functional analysis and provides a normative sample for comparison with children who are targeting the acquisition of appropriate skills to replace problem behavior. The second paper examines potential sub-functions of automatically reinforced stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through a practitioner-implemented modified FA to determine if stereotypic behaviors are influenced by varying levels of environmental stimulation. The third paper examines existing FBIs for children with ASD in schools to identify strengths and weaknesses related to ecological validity. Recommendations for improving the ecological validity of FAs and FBIs will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): ecological validity, function-based interventions, functional analysis, problem behavior
Target Audience:

Researchers, BCBAs, graduate students in applied behavior analysis or special education. Prerequisite skills include knowledge or experience in implementing functional analyses and function-based interventions.

Learning Objectives: 1. Describe how a trial-based functional analysis may be implemented with typically developing children 2. Determine potential sub-functions of automatic reinforcement based on functional analysis data 3. Identify factors that impact ecological validity of functional analyses and function-based interventions
Appropriate Behavior Occurring in Functional Analysis Conditions in Typically Developing Preschoolers
CHRISTINA WARNER (California State university Northridge), Monica Montalvo (California State University Northridge ), Alyssa Rojas (University of South Florida), Saba Mahmoudi (Utah State University), Tara A. Fahmie (California State University, Northridge)
Abstract: Functional analyses are commonly used to classify problem behavior. However, they also could be used to identify the presence of functional replacements to problem behavior. In the current study, 27 typically developing preschool children participated in a modified trial-based functional analysis. Groups of three children were put in play situations and exposed to three common FA conditions (attention, tangible, and escape) in which thirteen appropriate behaviors (e.g. communication, play, social skills) were scored across five sessions per participant. The purpose of this brief assessment was to identify what appropriate skills were exhibited by typically developing preschoolers with minimal problem behavior when attention, escape, and tangibles were withheld. Appropriate behaviors seen most across all participants were functional play, sharing independently with adults, statements of disinterest, and compliance. Behaviors that were seen the least were imaginative play, joint play, and polite statements (e.g. thank you). We also analyzed the relation between functional requests and problem behavior in our sample. Our results may be used as a point of comparison to other populations (e.g. ASD), to identify skills to be taught at the preschool levels, and potentially to identify skill deficits that could lead to the development of more severe problem behavior.

Examining Sub-Functions of Automatically Maintained Stereotypy in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder Through a Modified Functional Analysis

CATHARINE LORY (Purdue University), Mandy J. Rispoli (Purdue University), Rose A. Mason (Purdue University), Brandon Keehn (Purdue University), Ben A Mason (Purdue University)

Prior research has established that automatic reinforcement is the most prevalent function of stereotypic behavior, which is typically determined through a functional analysis (FA). However, difficulty in accessing and manipulating the contingencies that automatically maintain stereotypic behaviors restricts the ability to determine potential sub-functions of automatic function (i.e., automatic positive reinforcement or automatic negative reinforcement), which may lead to limitations in designing function-based interventions that specifically address variables that maintain stereotypic behavior. Identifying potential sub-functions of automatically maintained stereotypic behavior may help practitioners determine if an individual engages in stereotypic behavior to access or escape stimulation. We conducted a modified functional assessment across three young children with ASD including a brief interview, a screener FA with an alone condition, and a pairwise FA consisting of high-stimulation alone and low-stimulation alone conditions. FA results show that one participant engaged in diminishing levels of stereotypic behavior across both high- and low-stimulation conditions, indicating that the behavior had a social function. Two participants engaged in higher levels of stereotypic behavior in the low-stimulation alone condition, indicating that their stereotypies were primarily maintained by automatic positive reinforcement. Our findings offer practical implications for environmental modification to address stereotypic behavior in children with ASD.

The Ecological Validity of Function-Based Interventions in Research and Practice
LAURA C. CHEZAN (Old Dominion University), Meka McCammon (University of South Carolina), Erik Drasgow (University of South Carolina), Katie Wolfe (University of South Carolina)
Abstract: The importance of evaluating the ecological validity of interventions examined in applied research studies and the need for developing instruments to measure this construct have been highlighted in the literature. We conducted a systematic review to determine the extent to which ecological validity was demonstrated and assessed in single-case experimental design (SCED) studies examining the effectiveness of function-based interventions (FBIs) for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) within schools. First, we examined the extent to which researchers provide a detailed description of the procedures implemented in a study. Second, we evaluated aspects of ecological validity, such as setting, implementer, schedule, type of activity, and number of individuals required to implement the intervention. Third, we examined whether ecological validity was assessed by researchers and the instruments used to assess it. Results indicated that approximately half of the FBIs were conducted by teachers in classrooms. Approximately 50% of the FBIs were implemented within the context of isolated sessions and required multiple implementers. Ecological validity was assessed in seven of the 55 studies reviewed. A complete description of implementation procedures was provided for approximately half of the FBIs. Implications for researchers and practitioners are discussed.



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