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 #365
CE Offered: BACB
Programming System-Wide Differential Reinforcement Procedures
Monday, May 31, 2021
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Area: DDA/EDC; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Dawn O'Neill (Judge Rotenberg Educational Center; Contextual Behavioral Science Institute)
Discussant: Ashley Shayter (Northern Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Ashley Shayter, Ph.D.

Differential reinforcement procedures involving behavior contracts and token economies are implemented program wide at a residential treatment facility for students with severe problem behaviors. The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) serves 138 school-aged students and 143 adults with ages ranging from 9 to 61 years old. Approximately 77% of clients have developmental and intellectual disabilities and the remaining 23% of clients have emotional and behavioral disorder classifications. We serve many individuals with limited verbal behavior, yet all clients have individualized behavior contracts with differential reinforcement of other, alternative, or incompatible behavior. Behavior contracts are set for specific times of day (overnight, transport, school hours, evening hours), settings (school, residence, or community), and include various response criteria (academic or adaptive tasks and withholding dangerous and disruptive problem behavior). The majority of school-age students also utilize token economies using conditioned reinforcers. We describe the programmatic implementation of large scale, yet individualized differential reinforcement procedures, and their impact on academic and adaptive behavioral functioning.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavior contracts, contingency contracts, monetary-based rewards, token economy
Target Audience:

Audience should have some working knowledge of behavior contracts and token economies.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to (1) understand the program-wide application of differential reinforcement procedures to a range of behavior topographies across settings and response criteria, (2) the unique application of behavior contracts with non-verbal clients, and the (3) application of a school-wide reward system to shape academic and adaptive behavior repertoires.

System-Wide Use of Behavioral Contracts Across Verbal Populations, Behaviors, and Settings

SIMMS HISE (Judge Rotenberg Educational Center), Dawn O'Neill (Judge Rotenberg Educational Center; Contextual Behavioral Science Institute)

Behavioral contracts, interchangeable with contingency contracts, are widely utilized in the field of applied behavior analysis. The use of which has been primarily associated with individuals who have a specific set of verbal and conceptual prerequisite capabilities (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2020). The purpose of this discussion is to denote the efficacy of behavioral contracting with individuals regardless of their level of functioning, verbal behavior, or diagnosis. Each of the clients we serve, from non-verbal clients with limited receptive language repertoires to fully verbal clients with emotionally disturbed classifications, benefit from differential reinforcement in the form of behavioral contracts. This is evidenced by the often immediate deceleration of target problem behavior and increase in appropriate replacement behaviors following contract implementation. Clients with limited verbal repertoires may take longer to discriminate the contingency, but repetition and contact with reinforcement generally leads to the desired outcome. The data collected show a direct correlation between the implementation of behavioral contracts with a wide array of individuals and the subsequent decrease in aberrant behavior. System-wide use of behavioral contracting fosters programmatic consistency, ease of implementation, and systematic replication.


Shaping Academic and Adaptive Behavior Repertoires With a System-Wide Token Economy

JOSEPH TACOSIK (Judge Rotenberg Educational Center), Dawn O'Neill (Judge Rotenberg Educational Center; Contextual Behavioral Science Institute)

Behavior analysts may assist with the development of academic goals and implementation of programs to improve academic performance and adaptive behaviors. A token economy is one procedure used by many behavior change agents to improve various topographies of behavior. Token economies can be used for a single topography for one client, such as attending behavior during brief sessions (Tarbox, Ghezzi, & Wilson, 2006) or for a large group of individuals and various response criteria, such as 600 mine operators without individual or within group injuries (Fox, Hopkins, & Anger, 1987). A carefully managed token economy can be inexpensive, applied across multiple students in a classroom, and effective. Here we review the system-wide use of a token economy in place at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC), a residential treatment facility. Students earn red and blue tickets (tangibles) as well as academic money (digital currency) for the successful completion of academic tasks and for engaging in positive, replacement behaviors. The use of a ticket system provides immediate conditioned tangible reinforcers for target behavior and helps improve academic performance across classrooms. We outline the implementation of the program wide token economy and demonstrate improvement for both academic and behavioral performance.




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