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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #32
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Advances in the Measurement, Assessment, and Treatment of Stereotypy
Saturday, May 28, 2022
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Meeting Level 2; Room 258B
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Hannah Lynn MacNaul (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Discussant: Catia Cividini-Motta Cividini (University of South Florida)
CE Instructor: Catia Cividini-Motta Cividini, Ph.D.

Stereotypy consists of repetitive, persistent, and invariant responses that are not contextually appropriate (e.g., Hagopian & Toole, 2009; Rapp & Vollmer, 2005) and can include motor or vocal topographies (i.e., motor [MS] and vocal stereotypy [VS]). Although repetitive behaviors do not often result in injury, both MS and VS have been found to emerge into more severe forms of stereotypy that persist into adulthood and can impact an individual’s adaptive, social, and academic functioning (Crutchfield et al., 2015; Lanovaz, et al., 2013; Akers et al., 2020). Moreover, given the topographies of certain stereotypic behavior and the rate in which instances occur, reliable measurement based on observations can be difficult to attain. Therefore, further investigation to measurement, assessment, and intervention for stereotypy is warranted. This symposium will present recent research on stereotypy including innovative uses of artificial intelligence to measure stereotypy as well as novel interpretations of functional analysis outcomes to inform treatment approaches. Previous research as well as innovative evaluations of antecedent-based interventions for stereotypy will be discussed. Taken together, the results of these studies present important considerations and advances for our approach to the assessment and treatment of stereotypy.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Antecedent-based Interventions, Artificial Intelligence, Automatic Reinforcement, Stereotypy
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify novel approaches to the measurement of stereotypy; (2) classify functional analysis outcomes in regard to stereotypy; and (3) understand previous and current research on antecedent-based interventions for stereotypy.
Artificial Intelligence for the Measurement of Vocal Stereotypy
MARIE-MICHÈLE DUFOUR (Université de Montréal), Marc J. Lanovaz (Université de Montréal), Patrick Cardinal (École de technologie supérieure)
Abstract: Both researchers and practitioners often rely on direct observation to measure and monitor behavior. When these behaviors are too complex or numerous to be measured in vivo, relying on direct observation using human observers increases the amount of resources required to conduct research and to monitor the effects of interventions in practice. To address this issue, we conducted a proof of concept examining whether artificial intelligence could measure vocal stereotypy in individuals with autism. More specifically, we used an artificial neural network with over 1,500 minutes of audio data from 8 different individuals to train and test models to measure vocal stereotypy. Our results showed that the artificial neural network performed adequately (i.e., session-by-session correlation near or above .80 with a human observer) in measuring engagement in vocal stereotypy for 6 of 8 participants. Additional research is needed to further improve the generalizability of the approach.
Various Functional Analysis Patterns of Automatic Reinforcement: A Review and Component Analysis of Treatment Effects
AGUSTIN GONZALO PEREZ-BUSTAMANTE PEREIRA (Hospital Ramón y Cajal), Javier Virues Ortega (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)
Abstract: Various patterns of differentiation in functional analysis (FA) may predict treatment outcomes of problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement. FAs may include antecedent or consequent events that disrupt responding, and could be used to inform the development of individualized interventions. In Study 1, we proposed criteria to classify outcomes as attention condition lowest, demand condition lowest, and play condition lowest, according to the condition where problem behavior was most disrupted. We applied these criteria to 120 datasets and found that 60% could be classified using this method, while 89% of datasets showed a disruption of 50% or higher. In Study 2, we conducted a treatment component analyses for three individuals whose FAs were assigned to each of the three distinct patterns. The results indicated that specific elements of the FA conditions could reduce problem behavior. The possibility that these disruption patterns could help to predict treatment outcomes is discussed.

Antecedent-Based Interventions for Motor Stereotypy: A Systematic Review

ALYSSA ROJAS (University of South Florida), Catia Cividini-Motta Cividini (University of South Florida)

Motor stereotypy refers to persistent and repetitive fine or gross motor movements (e.g., finger tapping, hand flapping). In most cases, stereotypy does not result in injury to the individual or those around them (Akers et al., 2020). When stereotypy hinders acquisition of skills and social interactions, individualized treatment should be considered (Cook & Rapp, 2018). Previous research has evaluated numerous interventions designed to decrease stereotypy. The current literature review focuses on antecedent-based strategies because they are considered less intrusive. Twenty-nine studies met our inclusion criteria, and all evaluated the use of an antecedent-based strategy (e.g., non-contingent reinforcement, discrimination training) on non-injurious motor stereotypy (e.g., rocking, hand flapping). A total of 58 data sets were analyzed. Of those, 72% were male and 28% were female. Among the 29 studies, 61% of the studies evaluated the effects of non-contingent reinforcement (NCR) on motor stereotypy. To determine if these interventions were effective at reducing motor stereotypy, we calculated mean baseline reduction (MBR; Campbell, 2003). A summary of outcomes of these studies and implications for clinical practice and future research will be discussed.

Examining Procedural Variations of Delivering Competing Stimuli in the Treatment of Stereotypy
JULIA LYNNE TOUHEY (The New England Center for Children), Catlyn Li Volsi (The New England Center for Children), Alexis Shostek (The New England Center for Children), Michaela Efflandt (The New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (The New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Rooker et al. (2018) reviewed the literature for treating automatically reinforced self-injurious behavior (SIB). They found that noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) was a commonly effective procedure when informed by a competing stimulus assessment (CSA). Jennett et al. (2011) suggested for some cases non-contingent access to competing stimuli may be insufficient at decreasing target responding and additional treatment components may be necessary. The present experiment examined effects of procedural variations when presenting competing stimuli on functional engagement and stereotypy for seven participants with autism. A standard functional analysis of stereotypy was conducted. Next, at least three effective competing stimuli (ECS) were identified per participant via an augment competing stimulus assessment (A-CSA). Then, two procedural variations were examined: rotating competing items (RCI) and prompting functional engagement (PE). Item contact, functional engagement, and stereotypy were evaluated. Interobserver agreement data were collected in at least 33% of sessions in each condition for all dependent measures and mean total agreement was above 85% for each measure. Results suggest that for five participants both procedural variations were associated with lower levels of stereotypy and higher levels of appropriate behavior, and for the other two participants redirection to functional engagement was necessary to achieve desired outcomes.



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