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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #158
Recent Advances in the Assessment and Treatment of Problem Behavior Maintained by Automatic Feinforcement
Sunday, May 24, 2015
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Grand Ballroom C1 (CC)
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
Discussant: Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
Abstract: Many operant responses persist in the absence of social reinforcement. These responses are hypothesized to produce reinforcement automatically as a direct consequence of the response. For example, scratching an itch may temporarily produce relief from the aversive sensory stimulation produced by the itch, and thus scratching would produce automatic negative reinforcement. In this symposium, we will present a series of empirical investigations examining assessments and treatments for problem behavior hypothesized to be maintained by automatic reinforcement. The paper by Haddock and Iwata examines ways of predicting the effectiveness of treatments for automatically-reinforced problem behavior based on the results of a functional analysis. Lichtblau and colleagues conducted functional analyses and treatment evaluations to evaluate the relative contributions of competing items and response blocking in the treatment of automatically reinforced pica. The paper by Wunderlich and colleagues examined the stability of automatically-reinforced problem behavior over time and the treatment implications of their findings. Finally, Pizarro et al. analyzed the relative contributions of medical interventions (e.g., gastric tube placement) and behavioral intervention (e.g., fading and reinforcement) in the successful treatment of emesis and rumination. The overall theme and implications of these for empirical studies will be discussed and summarized by Dr. Brian Iwata.
Keyword(s): Automatic Reinforcement, Functional Analysis, Problem Behavior, Treatment
Functional Analysis Response Patterns as a Predictor of Treatment Effects for Stereotypy
JENNIFER N. HADDOCK (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
Abstract: Problem behavior maintained by social reinforcement typically occurs at low rates during functional analysis (FA) control conditions. By contrast, control-condition responding is unpredictable when behavior is maintained by automatic reinforcement. Nevertheless, these patterns might suggest which types of interventions would be more or less effective. In Study 1, we examined published data sets to determine whether patterns of responding during FAs of problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement were predictive of treatment outcomes. In Study 2, we conducted FAs and a progressive series of treatments for motor stereotypy maintained by automatic reinforcement exhibited by individuals with intellectual disabilities to clarify the results of Study 1. As seen in Figure 1(an example), high rates of stereotypy and low rates of toy play in the play (control) condition predicted the ineffectiveness of NCR (free access to toys) as an intervention. Results such as these suggest that control-condition responding during FAs of problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement may have prescriptive value.
Treatment of Automatically Maintained Pica Using a Combined Intervention Approach
KATIE LICHTBLAU (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Amanda Zangrillo (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Valdeep Saini (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Ashley Niebauer (University of Nebraska Medical Center)
Abstract: The current set of evaluations sought to replicate previous research (Piazza et al., 1998) on the importance of (a) using a functional analysis to identify the variables maintaining pica, (b) conducting a competing-stimulus assessment to identify items that compete with automatically maintained pica, and (c) providing noncontingent access to competing stimuli during treatment. Functional analysis results suggested pica for two children was maintained by automatic reinforcement. Next, a competing-stimulus assessment was conducted with both subjects to identify stimuli that occasioned low rates of pica and high rates of item interaction. A combined intervention was then evaluated that consisted of providing competing stimuli, blocking pica, and redirecting the child to engage with the competing stimuli. Results showed that pica for both children, maintained at low levels across several sessions. For one subject, competing items and redirection were removed from the combined intervention to evaluate the effectiveness of blocking alone. Higher rates of pica were measured when competing stimuli were removed. Levels of pica subsequently decreased when competing stimuli were later reinstated.
Stability of Function of Automatically Reinforced Behavior Over Time
KARA L. WUNDERLICH (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida), Lindsay Mehrkam (University of Florida), Erica N. Feuerbacher (University of Florida), Catherine B Simms (University of Florida)
Abstract: Few studies have assessed the stability of the function of behavior across time. Because behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement, such as stereotypy, are often difficult to treat effectively or with long-term maintenance of treatment effects, repeated functional analyses of these behaviors may be warranted when the behaviors persist. Results of a repeated functional analysis may have new treatment implications that were not originally evident; for example, lower levels of behavior in the play condition of the functional analysis in a second functional analysis may indicate that environmental enrichment may be an effective intervention. The current study conducted a second functional analysis between one and three years after a first functional analysis to evaluate changes in responding within and across conditions. Preliminary results indicate that, overall, the function of automatically reinforced behaviors is stable across time. Implications for the treatment of behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement will be discussed in the presentation.
An Evaluation of Treatments for Automatically Maintained Emesis and Rumination
ELIANA PIZARRO (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Nicole Lynn Hausman (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Molly Bednar (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Bailey Scherbak (University of Maryland Baltimore County), Crystal Thomas (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Jonathan Dean Schmidt (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Louis P. Hagopian (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Emesis and rumination are recognized as challenging behaviors among individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Self-induced emesis and rumination have the potential for several negative side effects including the rupturing of the stomach wall, weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, tooth decay, gastrointestinal bleeding, and even death. In addition to the adverse health effects, emesis and rumination may develop a negative social stigma, impeding typical social and cognitive development. Previous treatments have included overcorrection, gum chewing, stimulus fading, verbal reprimands, competing stimuli, medication interventions, and the manipulation of food consumption, all of which failed to produce a clinically significant reduction in emesis or rumination. Existing research demonstrates several aversive options for reducing emesis and rumination. In the current analysis, we will present treatments for three individuals who engaged in automatically-maintained emesis and rumination. Furthermore, we will discuss the interaction between medical interventions (e.g., gastric tube placement) and behavioral intervention (e.g., fading and reinforcement) in the successful treatment of emesis and rumination.



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