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 #149
Treating Problematic Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sunday, May 24, 2015
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Grand Ballroom C2 (CC)
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Aaron D. Lesser (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Med)

Individuals with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder exhibit characteristics that may interfere with learning opportunities, prohibit skill acquisition, and affect daily sleep. This symposium includes a project designed to compare the independent and additive effects of faded bedtime with response and melatonin on delayed sleep onset (Lesser, Luczynski, Loughrey, Rodriguez, and Fisher). The obtained results suggest that melatonin is an effective treatment for delayed sleep onset. Kidder and Sassi conducted a study to determine whether lag schedules of reinforcement and teaching procedures are necessary to promote response variability. The data indicate that both lag schedules and teaching procedures are necessary to achieve response variability. Zabala, Fernand, and Vollmer evaluated procedures to assess problem behavior when interrupting ritualistic behavior. Implications for progressing through the assessment as well as what conditions should be included in the analysis are discussed. Faulty stimulus control may occur when teaching occurs in the context of irrelevant stimuli. Mitteer, Luczynski, and Kronfli evaluated the effects of background stimuli on the acquisition and generalization of tacts. The results of the study have implications for teaching tact relations which is an early-learner skill.

Keyword(s): lag schedules, routines, sleep onset, tacts
The Independent and Combined Effects of Faded Bedtime with Response Cost and Melatonin on Sleep Onset Latency for Children with Autism: A Preliminary Analysis
AARON D. LESSER (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Kevin C. Luczynski (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Tara Olivia Loughrey (The Victory Center for Autism and Related Disabilities), Nicole M. Rodriguez (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
Abstract: Sleep disturbance affects up to 68% of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (Richdale & Schreck, 2009). Of these children that exhibit sleep disturbance, 51% are referred for treatment of delayed sleep onset (Krakowiak, Goodlin-Jones, Hertz-Picciotto, Croen, & Hansen, 2008). We compared the independent and additive effects of faded bedtime with response cost (FBRC) and melatonin on delayed sleep onset for four children (37-55 months) with autism; children were randomized in dyads to receive either FBRC or melatonin as the first treatment. To date, four children participated for whom delayed sleep onset was the primary sleep disturbance. We scored each night using momentary time-sampling 10 min to measure the children’s sleep disturbance. All data were obtained from the children’s homes and transferred via a secure internet connection, and all procedures were implemented by the caregivers. We observed moderate (mean 25 min) to large (mean 56 min) decreases in sleep onset latency for three children with melatonin. By contrast, FBRC did not decrease sleep latency for two children and, when FBRC was introduced for a third child following melatonin, an additive effect of FBRC was not observed. These preliminary results suggest that melatonin is an effective treatment for delayed sleep onset.

Establishing Response Diversity in Leisure and Daily Routines in Individuals with Autism

AIMEE KIDDER (New England Center for Children), Jessica L. Thomason-Sassi (New England Center for Children)

One of the defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorders is difficulty tolerating variations in established routines (Hertzig & Shapiro, 1990). This study evaluates the use of lag reinforcement schedules and training procedures to promote response variability in two adolescent males diagnosed with autism. During baseline, reinforcement was delivered contingent on trial completion, regardless of response topography (variability). During lag reinforcement sessions, reinforcement was delivered contingent on the task arrangement differing from that of the previous trial. Investigators used a multiple baseline across responses with reversal design to assess the effects of treatment and possible generalization across responses. Data show that response topography was invariant during all baseline sessions. Introduction of the lag schedule alone was ineffective in promoting variability until a training procedure that consisted of pre-session forced exposure (physical guidance to complete varied topographies of the target response) or within-session physical prompts were introduced in conjunction with the intervention. To date, the lag schedule with training has resulted in increased variability for the three targeted responses and generalization to four alternate tasks has been noted across the two participants; topographies of three other responses are unchanged. Interobserver agreement data have been collected for 36.9% of sessions and equal 100%.


Functional Analysis of Problem Behavior Maintained by Access to Routines

Jonathan K Fernand (University of Florida), KARLA ZABALA (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

One of the defining characteristics of an autism diagnosis is behavior that is inflexible, repetitive, and described often as resistant to change. Recent research has demonstrated the flexibility in altering standard functional analysis conditions to identify functions of behavior that occur under idiosyncratic antecedent and consequent relations. Further, current empirical data support these stereotypic topographies are often maintained by some source of automatic reinforcement. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate procedures to assess problem behavior when interrupting the ritualistic behavior displayed by three children with autism. All participants engaged in repetitive item manipulation as well as aggression when routines were interrupted. Functional analysis conditions were similar to those arranged in previous publications (e.g., Rispoli et al., 2014) and clear outcomes were obtained for all participants. Future functional analysis developments with regard to routine-oriented behaviors are discussed. Specifically, how to progress through the assessment as well as what conditions to be included in the analysis are discussed in relation to the purpose of the assessment to be conducted.


CANCELLED: Effects of Background Stimuli on the Acquisition and Generalization of Tacts with Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

DANIEL R. MITTEER (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Kevin C. Luczynski (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Faris Kronfli (Kennedy Krieger Institute)

With expressive language skills, a common target is teaching the spoken label or name (described as a tact in Skinner’s [1957] taxonomy) to common visual stimuli such as a two-dimensional (2D) picture of an object. One aspect of 2D stimulus creation that has not been investigated are the effects of including or excluding contextually-relevant background details on the efficiency of teaching object categories and promoting stimulus generalization across category exemplars. Given that including background details during skill acquisition may produce undesirable effects (i.e., leads to faulty stimulus control, which slows skill acquisition) and desirable effects (i.e., promotes stimulus generalization), we compared teaching young children with an autism spectrum disorder to tact 2D photographs of animal and vehicle categories with or without contextually-relevant backgrounds. We assessed the effects of teaching on stimulus generalization across novel 2D photographs with backgrounds as well as across 2D motion videos and 3D figurines. To date, one child has completed the evaluation, and similar acquisition and generalization outcomes were observed across the background and no-background conditions. The results have implications for the type of 2D stimuli used to teach tacts, which is a ubiquitous skill domain in early intensive programming.




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