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.


11th International Conference; Dublin, Ireland; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #43
CE Offered: BACB
Beyond Preference, Choice, Motivating Operations, and Instructional Strategies: Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination of Individuals With Disabilities
Friday, September 2, 2022
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Liffey A
Area: DDA/PCH; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Stephanie M. Peterson (Western Michigan University)
Discussant: David P Wacker (The University of Iowa)
CE Instructor: Jennifer J. McComas, Ph.D.

Targeting change in proximal dependent measures is necessary but insufficient for the greater goal of promoting successful outcomes for people with disabilities. Arguably, distal variables including autonomy and self-determination should also be aims for behavior analysts who provide supports for people with disabilities. From a behavior analytic perspective, self-determination can be operationally defined as responses related to choice, self-control, and self-management. Thus, by using these measurable responses, behavior analysts can develop services for persons with disabilities to teach self-determination skills. This symposium will explore these concepts and illustrate how behavior analysts can align behavior-change objectives, like mand training and skill acquisition, with essential outcomes such as autonomy and self-determination. Presenters will discuss their single-case design data on proximal dependent measures in the context of autonomy and self-determination and the discussant will elaborate on these concepts and this direction for researchers and practitioners.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Intermediate. Should have basic understanding of behavior principles and familiarity with behavior interventions and supports.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1. describe how individual choice is important for autonomy and self-determination 2. describe the influence of context on preference 3. describe the relation between choice and preference

Preference for Low vs High-Tech Augmentative Alternative Communication Among Three Individuals With Rett Syndrome

JENNIFER J. MCCOMAS (University of Minnesota), Rebecca Kolb (University of Minnesota ), Shawn Nicole Girtler (University of Minnesota), Emily Unholz (University of Minnesota), Alefyah Shipchandler (University of Minnesota)

Choice is an essential element for one’s autonomy. In this investigation, we conducted a mand modality preference assessment with three individuals who have Rett syndrome. Three females, ages 4-21, who were non-vocal and who had motor impairments consistent with Rett syndrome participated. Prior to this investigation, we taught all three female participants to use both low- and high-tech augmentative alternative communication (AAC). Then we assessed whether each demonstrated a preference for one or the other communication modality. During the mand modality preference assessment, both low-tech and high-tech AAC systems were presented simultaneously and the coach instructed the participant to “tell me what you want to do.” Sessions were comprised of five trials each. The AAC system the participant used to request a preferred activity was recorded during each of the five trials. At least five sessions were conducted with each participant. Results indicated that all three participants chose the high-tech modality to the near exclusion of the low-tech modality in the training setting (in the family home). We will discuss results in the context of autonomous communication and considerations for future directions for research and instructional support.


Concurrent Operants Treatment of Escape-Maintained Interfering Behavior Using Random Reinforcement Schedules

REBECCA KOLB (University of Minnesota ), Stephanie M. Peterson (Western Michigan University), Denice Rios Mojica (Georgia Southern University), Nicole Hollins (The University of Kansas)

The treatment of escape-maintained interfering behavior is important given it interferes with crucial skill development that impacts an individual with disabilities’ long-term autonomy. Although there are many evidence-based treatments available, many of them have limitations when used in applied settings (Geiger, et al. 2010). One limitation is the use of extinction, which may be difficult to implement. In these situations, there are competing reinforcement schedules available for different responses—or concurrent operants. Interventions using concurrent operants have a developing literature base supporting their use in applied settings (e.g., Davis et al. 2018). However, these studies have often used progressive schedules of reinforcement. The current study evaluated the utility of random schedules of reinforcement within concurrent operant treatments in applied settings for children with developmental disabilities who displayed interfering behavior maintained by negative reinforcement. Treatments involved either two concurrent operants (interfering behavior and task completion) or three concurrent operants (interfering behavior, break requests, and task completion). For two participants, treatment that included break requests was more effective and for two, both were equally effective. The results suggest random schedules within concurrent operants treatment may be an effective alternative that increases task engagement and reduces interfering behavior without use of extinction.  

An Analysis of Motivating Operations in Demand Contexts and Mand Matching
CHELSEA E. CARR (The University of Arizona ), Andrew W. Gardner (University of Arizona - College of Medicine - Department of Psychiatry)
Abstract: Task refusal by children is a common behavioral concern of caregivers and a frequent reason to seek services to target for intervention. FCT is a commonly used intervention for the treatment of escape-maintained challenging behavior. Within the negative reinforcement paradigm, it is critical to identify precise functional variables related to the task demand context, especially when the individual’s attempts to escape or avoid a task cannot be negatively reinforced. The purpose of this study was to develop an efficient assessment method to identify the specific motivating operations (MOs) that increased the value of negative reinforcement related to task demands. Then, based on assessment results, participants were taught appropriately matched communicative alternatives (i.e., mand matched to MO), which were assessed to determine if those mands effectively abolished the MO for negative reinforcement related to the specific task. The results demonstrated that the demands themselves were not aversive; rather particular dimensions of the demand (e.g., difficulty, amount). Decreases were observed in challenging behavior, along with increases in task engagement and task completion for all participants.

An Evaluation of Preference for Academic Strategy Arrangements in a Child With Learning Disabilities

KELLY M. SCHIELTZ (University of Iowa)

Across subgroups of individuals with disabilities, studies on preference have shown that choice presentations result in more robust identification of preference than single-item presentations. As we transition our research to other subgroups and target behaviors, demonstrations of how to best assess preference is warranted. In this presentation, we discuss one approach for evaluating the preferences, across academic tasks, of an 8-year-old boy with learning disabilities who displayed frustration and task disengagement when instructed to read. The goal of this evaluation was to identify the conditions under which this child’s choices shifted; that is, how and what choices were made, as well as why those choices were selected. A three-phase analysis was conducted within a combination multielement and reversal design. Phase 1 evaluated the effects of contingent positive reinforcement. Phase 2 evaluated the combined effects of positive reinforcement and instructional strategies. Phase 3 evaluated the preference for the arrangement of academic strategies. Results showed that task engagement shifted towards reading with contingent positive reinforcement, frustration reduced with instructional strategies, and the combination of positive reinforcement and instructional strategies was most preferred. However, choices for the academic strategy arrangement were variable, suggesting that preferences for academic behavior may be highly individualistic.




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