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 #8
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating Sensitivity to Consequences in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Saturday, May 27, 2023
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom D
Area: EAB/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Catherine Kishel (The University of Florida)
CE Instructor: Catherine Kishel, M.Ed.

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit problem behaviors maintained by a variety of reinforcement contingencies. These same behaviors also often contact specific consequences in the environment as caregivers attempt to reduce those responses. The present symposium comprises three studies that each seek to evaluate an aspect of the contingencies most relevant to problem behavior. We begin by detailing an analogue assessment of the functional effects of idiosyncratic consequences to the problem behavior of five children with ASD. The next paper details an evaluation of child preference for one of two reinforcers within the context of multiply controlled problem behavior and discusses how preference can be incorporated into schedule thinning during treatment. The final paper discusses a manipulation of several parameters of reinforcement (e.g., magnitude, response effort) within a concurrent schedule intervention that does not require extinction. Taken together, the papers presented provide a synthesis of information regarding the nuances of consequences to problem behavior; additionally, implications for ethical treatment that incorporates client choice are highlighted.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): concurrent schedules, idiosyncratic consequences, problem behavior, schedule thinning
Target Audience:

Target audience members include graduate students pursuing the master's degree and board certification and/or a PhD in behavior analysis. Audience members should have an understanding of functional analysis methodology as well as an understanding of concurrent schedule arrangements.

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to 1) describe the use of an arbitrary task to evaluate the functional effects of idiosyncratic consequences to problem behavior, 2) explain how preference for one of two reinforcers can be incorporated into schedule thinning, and 3) understand how to manipulate parameters of reinforcement to treat problem behavior in the absence of programmed extinction.
An Empirical Assessment of Common Consequences to Problem Behavior
CATHERINE KISHEL (The University of Florida), Savannah Tate (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit problem behavior. Behavior analysts often program consequences to problem behavior with the intention of reducing those responses. However, the functional effects of programmed consequences are not always known. It is important to know whether and how such consequences influence behavior, for at least three reasons. First, if they function as reinforcers, they should be eliminated or minimized. Second, if they reduce the occurrence of behavior (e.g., via extinction, mild punishment, or rule governance), they could remain in place, and third, if they have no effect on behavior (i.e., the effects are neutral), time and resources need not be directed toward therapist training to eliminate them or, alternatively, ensure they are provided. The current study sought to identify and evaluate the effects of idiosyncratic consequences using an arbitrary response task (e.g., Fiske et al., 2020) and to then validate those findings using a pairwise functional analysis of problem behavior. Data from the evaluation of five idiosyncratic consequences are presented: three consequences had no effect, one had a punishing effect, and results for the fifth consequence were inconclusive.
On the Disparate Reinforcing Efficacy of Individual Reinforcers for Multiply Maintained Destructive Behavior
HALLE NORRIS (Children’s Specialized Hospital-Rutgers University Center for Autism Research, Education, and Services ), Brian D. Greer (Rutgers Brain Health Institute; Children’s Specialized Hospital¬–Rutgers University Center for Autism Research, Education, and Services (CSH–RUCARES); Department of Pediatrics, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School )
Abstract: There may be potentially important differences in the reinforcing efficacy of individual reinforcers maintaining destructive behavior when such behavior is multiply maintained, which could have clinically meaningful implications for when, how, and to what extent reinforcement schedule thinning occurs for each function. The purpose of the present study was to explore this possibility while also assessing the generality of the results reported by Briggs et al. (2018) by implementing guided and free-choice trials in which participants chose between two multiple-schedule arrangements, each of which programmed signaled periods of isolated reinforcer availability and unavailability. Consistent participant choice and responding during free-choice trials was then used to thin the corresponding schedule of reinforcement. Results demonstrated surprisingly strong preference for one of the two functional reinforcers in all four participants, yet preferences differed across participants and were not well predicted by responding in prior analyses. Reinforcer-quality manipulations designed to disrupt or reverse preference were effective with three of the four participants.
Evaluation of Concurrent Schedule Components: Identification of Individual Sensitivities
Anna Elizabeth Butler (The University of Georgia), JESSICA HERROD (Ohio University), Cary Trump-Wood (Colorado State University), Joel Eric Ringdahl (University of Georgia), Kevin Ayres (University of Georgia)
Abstract: Recent trends in intervention research related to problem behavior have focused on the design of concurrent-schedule based treatments in which extinction as a necessary component is excluded. This line of research shows promise for overcoming the practical limitations inherent in conducting procedural extinction (e.g., lapses in procedural fidelity and transient, extinction-induced changes in rate and intensity of problem behavior as well as varied topographies of problem behavior). However, current intervention design approaches lack specificity with respect to how the components of the concurrent schedule are arranged. The purpose of this study was to evaluate choice among various reinforcer arrangements exhibited by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Specifically, reinforcer magnitude, response effort, and unit price were adjusted across conditions. Results indicated that individuals were consistent in their choice allocation across task arrangements, but not every individual’s choice allocation was sensitive to the same parameter of reinforcement. The results are discussed with respect to their implications for concurrent-schedule based intervention design.



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