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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Invited Paper Session #175
CE Offered: BACB

Delineating Subtypes of Automatic Self-Injurious Behavior

Sunday, May 24, 2015
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Grand Ballroom C3 (CC)
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
CE Instructor: Louis P. Hagopian, Ph.D.
Chair: Andrew W. Gardner (Northern Arizona University)
LOUIS P. HAGOPIAN (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Dr. Louis Hagopian received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech, and completed his predoctoral internship in applied behavior analysis at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. He is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and licensed psychologist. He is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and program director of the Neurobehavioral Programs at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. This includes the Neurobehavioral Unit, which provides intensive inpatient treatment for individuals with intellectual disabilities, who exhibit self-injury, aggression, and other problem behavior; as well as the Neurobehavioral Outpatient programs. He has mentored dozens of predoctoral interns and postdoctoral fellows, and has been involved in numerous efforts to promote applied behavior analysis to the broader scientific and clinical community. Dr. Hagopian's clinical research focused on understanding and treating problems related to intellectual and developmental disabilities. The National Institutes of Health has funded his research continuously since 2004 and continues through 2018. This research crosses disciplines and seeks to understand the interaction of biological and environmental factors in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Dr. Hagopian has published his research in 21 different peer-reviewed behavioral, medical, and psychiatric journals.

Self-injurious Behavior (SIB) is one of the most serious problems experienced by individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. In most cases, functional analysis indicates that SIB is reinforced by caregiver reactions (e.g., attention). In roughly 25% of cases, however, SIB levels are unaffected by social consequences. In such cases, the term "automatic" reinforcement is used because the behavior is assumed to produce its own reinforcement. In contrast to the numerous categories of social functions, automatic SIB remains a single but poorly understood category--one in great need of further explication. Although the body of research on the biological bases of SIB and pharmacological treatment of SIB has produced some meaningful findings, it informs us little about automatic SIB in particular because the majority of studies neither report on the function of SIB or have any exclusion criteria listed that would allow us to hypothesize about the function. The current discussion will summarize our initial efforts to classify automatic SIB into subtypes according to patterns of responding during the functional analysis and the presence of self-restraint--based on the premise that these observable features reflect distinct functional properties of SIB unique to each subtype.

Keyword(s): autoreinforcement, SIB



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