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 #493
Advances in Assessment and Intervention for Difficult-to-Treat Problem Behavior
Monday, May 30, 2022
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 251
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Joseph D. Dracobly (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Lindsay Lloveras, Ph.D.
Abstract: Since seminal work by Iwata et al. (1982/1994), researchers and clinicians have adapted functional analyses (FA) to assess and treat a wide variety of forms of problem behavior across many populations and settings. Although treatments derived from FAs are substantially more effective than non-functional, default treatments, there remain behavior disorders that present difficulty for identifying relevant controlling variables. Without precise identification of these variables, it can be difficult to develop effective, function-based treatment. Recently, researchers have begun adapting common FA procedures, to better identify the influence of idiosyncratic variables on problem behavior (e.g., Roscoe et al., 2015). These adaptations present an opportunity to further understand forms of problem behavior for which common FA procedures are insufficient to identify all relevant variables. In this symposium, three presenters will describe experimental analyses of variables related to three difficult-to-treat forms of problem behavior: automatically maintained problem behavior, problem behavior influenced by sleep, and rumination. Each presenter will describe their unique experimental analyses and how these analyses allowed for more precise determination of the relevant controlling variables, which increases the likelihood of effective, function-based treatment.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): assessment, functional analysis, problem behavior, treatment
Target Audience: Intermediate. Attendees should have a experience with conducting in experimental analyses and treatments of severe behavior disorders.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentations, participants will be able to: 1. Describe how a function-analytic approach can be used to assess variables related to difficult-to-treat problem behavior. 2. Describe how to assess, through behavioral and physical measures, the influence of sleep on problem behavior. 3. Describe how an analysis of components of control conditions in FAs can be used to inform treatment. 4. Describe methods to analyze various parameters of food, to determine which parameters most influence rumination.

An Evaluation of the Relation Between Sleep and Problem Behavior in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

LINDSAY LLOVERAS (University of Florida ), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

Previous research has demonstrated that children with ASD exhibit less sleep in a 24-hour period than their typically developing peers (Goodlin-Jones, 2008), and increases in problem behavior are associated with sleep deprivation (Goldman et al., 2011). However, there are few studies that evaluate this putative relation using direct measurement of both behavior and sleep. The general aim of this study is to extend the research on sleep and its relation to problem behavior. Using wearable and non-wearable sleep trackers, we collected data on various measures of sleep and compared them to in-clinic daytime problem behavior. Additionally, we conducted structured descriptive assessments (Anderson & Long, 2002) across days to evaluate if changes in sleep change how different establishing operations affect behavior. We will discuss how the social validity of well-established sleep treatments (e.g, Jin et al., 2013) would be greater if the effect of improved sleep on daytime behavior was directly evaluated.


An Analysis of the Play Condition in a Functional Analysis as a Basis for Treatment of Self-Injury Maintained by Automatic Reinforcement

SAVANNAH TATE (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

Hagopian et al. (2015) delineated subtypes of self-injurious behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement partially based on occurrence of self-injury in the play condition (i.e., subtype one). They also analyzed treatment data with respect to subtypes and found that subtype one is less resistant to treatment than subtypes two and three. For one child with autism with oral-motor self-injury, we conducted a functional analysis and a more fine-grained analysis of engagement in the play condition. The functional analysis indicated that oral-motor self-injury was maintained by automatic reinforcement. However, oral-motor self-injurious behavior was reduced in the play condition. We used this information to conduct a component analysis of the play condition, and we found that combinations of stimuli reduced engagement in self-injurious behavior, with little differentiation across multiple stimuli used in this condition. We then conducted a competing stimulus assessment, both with items used in the play condition and with novel items, and found single stimuli were insufficient for reducing self-injury.


An Evaluation of Variables That Influence Rumination

AARON JOSEPH SANCHEZ (University of North Texas), Joseph D. Dracobly (University of North Texas), Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas), Elizabeth Joy Houck (University of North Texas)

Rumination, repeated regurgitation of ingested food, can be a difficult problem to assess and treat. Early research focused on punishment of rumination (e.g., Becker et al., 1978 ) whereas more recent research has focused on the food quantity (e.g., Kenzer & Wallace, 2007). However, there is limited research on the influence of food type on rumination. We analyzed effects of several dimensions of food, including food type and food category, in addition to total quantity and total calories, on rumination with an adult with intellectual disability. Initially, we equated calories across food types, which involved different quantities of food based on food type. We observed that rumination was lower when our participant consumed larger quantities of food. Subsequent analyses suggested a more dynamic interaction between food type and food quantity – at least two foods with different quantities produced low levels of rumination. We will discuss how an analysis of parameters of food could advance effective treatment of rumination.




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