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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #224
CE Offered: BACB
Methodological Advancements in the Use of Functional Assessment to Delineate the Risk of Problem Behavior
Sunday, May 26, 2024
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 103 C
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Isaac Joseph Melanson (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
CE Instructor: Isaac Joseph Melanson, Ph.D.

Descriptive assessments involve the observation of behavior under controlled (i.e., structured) and uncontrolled (i.e., unstructured) contexts in which the natural consequences of behavior remain intact. Descriptive assessments are commonly used to identify the prevalence of environmental correlates to problem behavior. The presenters in this symposium will describe three novel applications of descriptive assessment methodology to screen for the risk or occurrence of a variety of problem and appropriate behaviors. The first study includes data from descriptive assessments of diurnal bruxism, or the audible grinding of teeth while awake. The second study is an extension of research on sensitivity tests, which are brief screeners for the presence of emerging problem and appropriate behavior. The study compares the outcomes of sensitivity tests to functional analyses. The third study evaluates predictions made by the no-interaction screening tool with respect to the function of appropriate, neutral, or challenging behavior. Collectively, these studies emphasize the flexibility of descriptive methodology to inform ongoing, functional assessment of comprehensive behavioral repertoires.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): functional assessment, prevention, risk, screening
Target Audience:

Understanding of functions of behavior and basics of functional behavior assessment

Learning Objectives: (1) Identify events that correlate with higher and lower rates of diurnal bruxism (2) Describe the goal of sensitivity tests (3) Describe at least two ways to enhance data collection during the no-interaction screener
A Descriptive Analysis of Diurnal Bruxism
SAVANNAH TATE (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Yoselin Hernandez-Avalos (New England Center for Children Western New England University), Lindsay Lloveras (University of Florida ), Catherine Kishel (Rutgers University), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Diurnal bruxism, defined as audible grinding of teeth while awake, has several harmful side effects including abnormal tooth wear, loss of teeth, and tongue indentations. These issues often result in dental work, which may pose a challenge for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Research indicates that 10.3%-60% of individuals with ASD engage in diurnal bruxism. Thus, it may be important to identify environmental variables that are related or unrelated to the occurrence of diurnal bruxism. We conducted a descriptive analysis of diurnal bruxism and used calculations similar to risk ratios to identify environmental variables associated with differential levels of engagement in bruxism. Eight autistic children in early intervention settings participated. The children participated in observations that lasted between 15-30 minutes, and were conducted at least twice weekly for a minimum of one month. Based on our modified risk ratio calculations, we identified correlations associated with higher and lower relative rates of bruxism for all individuals. Ear plugging, attention, contexts with demands, other topographies of problem behavior, and prompts were correlated with higher rates of bruxism across many participants.

Correspondence Between Sensitivity Tests and Functional Analyses to Assess Emerging Problem Behavior

ISAAC JOSEPH MELANSON (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Tara A. Fahmie (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Emily Salvetti (University of Nebraska Medical Center; Munroe Meyer Institute), Jasmeen Kaur (University of Nebraska Medical Center - MMI), Javid Adam Rahaman (Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health)

Behavior analysts typically assess and treat problem behavior after it has already emerged and is occurring at high severity. Although effective, this reactive approach is quite costly, resource intensive, and dangerous. A growing body of literature supports an alternative preventive approach, the first step of which involves conducting sensitivity tests to screen the emergence of lower-severity problem behavior and functional skills (e.g., Fahmie et al., 2020). Research on sensitivity tests has shown that information on the function of both emerging problem behavior and alternative communication can be acquired in a relatively short period of time. However, the correspondence between sensitivity test and traditional functional analysis outcomes has not yet been established. In the current stud, young learners with autism who were referred for the presence of low-severity problem behavior participated in sensitivity tests and functional analyses. Preliminary data have shown moderate to high correspondence between both assessment outcomes. Implications for the use of sensitivity tests will be discussed.

Extending the No Interaction Screening Tool to Capture Varied Topographies of Appropriate and Challenging Behaviors
ALVA ELIZABETH ALLEN (Louisiana State University), Samuel L Morris (Louisiana State University)
Abstract: Recent research has demonstrated the utility of conducting extended no-interaction sessions (Slanzi et al., 2022) as well as recording (Fahmie et al., 2020) and reinforcing (Deshais et al., 2023) appropriate and challenging behaviors during functional analyses (FA). In this study, a no interaction session was conducted to test for automatic reinforcement prior to the first FA session. Next, two FA variations were compared, one that equated the contingencies for appropriate and challenging behavior and another in which the contingencies favored challenging behavior. Behavior was recorded using a rating scale that characterized the extent to which observed topographies were appropriate, neutral, or challenging. Data collection is ongoing, but results for participants with whom the no-interaction and FA sessions have been completed suggest that the no-interaction sessions may predict the type and severity of behavior that occurs during the FA. Additionally, the two FA variations may yield clear differences in sensitivity to different types of reinforcement and the degree of bias toward appropriate versus challenging behavior. Implications of these findings for future research and practice related to assessing and intervening on existing challenging behavior and preventing the emergence of more severe topographies of challenging behavior are discussed.



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