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 #226
CE Offered: BACB
Not Your Average Assessment: Considering Unique Variables in the Objective Assessment of Problem Behaviour
Sunday, May 26, 2024
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 113 C
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Marie-Chanel Morgan (Brock University)
CE Instructor: Jennifer N. Fritz, Ph.D.

Problem behavior may be broadly operationalized as any behavior which threatens the safety and quality of life of an individual, their peers, or caregivers (Evers & Pilling, 2012; Hanratty et al., 2015; Lowe et al., 2007). This collection of works features three papers focused on exploring different variables that may impact assessments of problem behavior with individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The assessments are surrounding objective measures such as functional analyses and a proposed tool to classify severe problem behavior. Speakers will discuss their research regarding the effect of language proficiency and preference on the results of a functional analysis, the impact of statements that describe programmed consequences in functional analysis, and exploring preliminary results of validity testing regarding a novel tool to classify severe problem behavior. Authors will share findings across various participants and the implications their results may have in methods or procedures of assessing problem behavior.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Functional analysis, Objective assessments, Problem behavior
Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 

  1. Describe issues related to the classification of problem behavior
  2. Describe how contingency-related statements can influence the outcomes of functional analyses
  3. Describe how language preference and proficiency can influence the outcome of functional analyses
The Effects of Consequence-Related Statements on Responding in Functional Analysis Test Conditions
ALISON ALVAREZ (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Jennifer N. Fritz (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Victoria Fletcher (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Samantha Dyer (University of Houston Clear Lake)
Abstract: The functional analysis is the most precise method for identifying environmental variables that maintain the occurrence of problem behavior. When behavior is hypothesized to be maintained by social consequences, the functional analysis involves observing a target behavior under controlled antecedent and consequent conditions. In some studies, statements that describe the programmed consequence have been provided following the occurrence of problem, specifically during the tangible condition or demand condition. For instance, experimenters have provided statements such as “you don’t have to do work” when providing escape in the demand condition or “you can have this back” when delivering the item in the tangible condition. It is unclear if doing so would produce different patterns of responding compared to an assessment without the statements. It is possible that the statements synthesized with the programmed consequence might result in an interaction effect. Alternatively, the rate of problem behavior might decrease overall with the statement increasing the saliency of the reinforcement period. Results showed that the consequence-related statements affected responding for two of four participants.
The Effect of Language Preference and Proficiency on Problem Behavior
JENNIFER CARRERA (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Jennifer N. Fritz (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Victoria Fletcher (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Frances Gabriella Feliciano (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
Abstract: There is extensive research on the use of a functional analysis to determine the function of problem behavior. However, there is minimal research on the effect of a participant’s language proficiency and preference on the results of a functional analysis. This study evaluated the effect of language proficiency and preference on the results of a functional analysis that was conducted in English and Spanish with bilingual children. The language proficiency assessment determined the participants’ language ability, and the language preference assessment determined the participants’ preference for either Spanish or English. These results showed that there was a difference in the function between both languages for two of four participants, and that for all participants there was a differentiation in the rate of responding in English compared to Spanish. This suggests that practitioners should be sensitive to the language to which individuals are exposed and the context in which problem behavior occurs, and in some cases, functional analyses conducted with caregivers might yield different results if they speak a different language than the practitioner.

A Preliminary Descriptive Analysis of an Objective Severity Tool to Classify Severe Problem Behavior

SONIA STELLATO (Brock University), Alison Cox (Brock University), Hannah Lynn MacNaul (University of Texas at San Antonio), Marie-Chanel Morgan (Brock University), Nazurah Khokhar (Brock University), Lauren Gonzales (University of Texas at San Antonio)

The application of the term ‘severe’ when referencing problem behavior is often subjectively defined. This has led to a wide range of interpretations, which could impact the replication of studies and procedural implementation in clinical practice. Morgan and Cox (in progress) developed a 26-item tool comprised of four sub-domains to classify severe problem behavior more objectively. The current project exemplifies some next steps in tool validation. That is, Brock University researchers partnered with researchers in the Severe Behavior Lab at the University of Texas, San Antonio to begin steps of the tool validation process. For the current study, individuals diagnosed with Autism who engage in problem behavior were invited to take part in a tiered service model provided by the Severe Behavior Lab to address their problem behavior. Concurrently, Brock University researchers supported caregivers in completing the severity tool following the onset of their treatment with the Severe Behavior Lab. Outcomes from these study elements (e.g., subdomain and overall severity tool scores, final service level received) assess the utility of the severity tool through a comparative analysis of tool raw scores and participant outcomes. Importantly, study outcomes may outline further steps in the process of tool validation.




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