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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #50
Manipulating Idiosyncratic Variables to Identify the Functions and Subsequent Treatments of Problem Behavior
Saturday, May 27, 2023
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 1E/F
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Claudia Campos (Simmons University)
Abstract: Functional Analyses involve the manipulation of environmental variables to identify variables influencing problem behavior and subsequently function-based interventions. Oftentimes, the standard Iwata et al. (1982/94) functional analysis methodology produces differentiated data, however, in some cases the results are undifferentiated or inconclusive. In these cases, idiosyncratic modifications are made to the assessment or additional assessments may be used to identify the specific controlling variable. The results of these assessments can inform treatment approaches to successfully reduce problem behavior. This symposium highlights idiosyncratic assessment and treatment approaches of behavior in individuals with developmental disabilities.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): developmental disabilities, functional analysis, problem behavior, treatment
Assessment of Higher-Order Restricted and Repetitive Behavior
JENNIFER REBECCA WEYMAN (University of Missouri), Lauren Powell (Columbia Public Schools)
Abstract: One of the main diagnostic features of autism spectrum disorder is the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. These behaviors can include repetitive motions, repetitive speech, and engaging in rituals. These behaviors can often present a variety of challenges for children with autism and their families. The purpose of the present study was to use a concurrent-operants preference assessment to evaluate if higher-order restricted and repetitive behaviors (e.g., rituals) are maintained by automatic positive or automatic negative reinforcement. That is, participants had the opportunity to choose between an interrupted and uninterrupted arrangement in order to hypothesize the specific idiosyncratic variable that was maintaining the behavior. The findings suggest that some individuals may choose to engage in behavior to avoid their ritual, which would suggest that it is maintained by automatic negative reinforcement, and some individuals may choose to engage in their ritual, which would suggest that it is maintained by automatic positive reinforcement. Implications and future directions will be addressed.
Assessment of an Idiosyncratic Function of Problem Behavior: Escape to Context Change
LAUREN LAYMAN (University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute), Cynthia P. Livingston (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute ), Sarah Elizabeth Martinez Rowe (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Abstract: The current study aimed to assess the effects of an idiosyncratic function of problem behavior, escape to context change condition (i.e., therapist attention, snack, therapist attention+ new toys, or alone), via a functional analysis (FA) with a subsequent treatment evaluation. A review by Schichenmeyer et al. (2013) notes that a clear function was identified in just 47% of initial FAs and increased to 87% when two or more modified FAs were implemented. The participant in the current study was an 8-year-old female diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder who was referred for aggression, disruption, and self-injurious behavior. The initial, standard FA was undifferentiated and a subsequent pairwise FA was implemented and identified an escape to context change function. A treatment evaluation was conducted using a reversal design and a 100% reduction in target problem behaviors and 100% independent engagement in the functional communication responses was observed.
Evaluation of a Break-to-Choice Chained-Schedule Intervention for Multiply Maintained Problem Behavior
SARAH ELIZABETH MARTINEZ ROWE (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Cynthia P. Livingston (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Heather Anderson (University Nebraska Medical Center), Isaac Joseph Melanson (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Abstract: The intervention for multiply maintained problem behavior often involves developing separate treatment conditions to address each function. Although isolating treatment conditions can lead to positive outcomes, developing and implementing individual treatments for each function may be time-consuming. Alternatively, synthesizing treatment procedures may allow for more efficient treatment effects. We extended previous research by evaluating a procedure consisting of functional communication training (FCT) and a chained schedule of reinforcement to treat multiply maintained problem behavior in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. First, we conducted a functional analysis that concluded problem behavior was multiply maintained. Next, we taught functional communication responses and implemented a chained schedule of reinforcement. During the initial link, functional communication responses for a break resulted in the presentation of a choice menu with the other punitive reinforcers in the terminal link. Contingent on the emission of subsequent functional communication responses, the relevant was delivered. Finally, we systematically scheduled thinned to caregiver-informed terminal schedules for each participant. Functional communication training combined with a sequential compound schedule of reinforcement effectively decreased multiply maintained problem behavior and increased appropriate alternative responses (FCRs and compliance). These effects maintained after thinning the schedule of reinforcement to terminal goals for all three participants.



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