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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Invited Paper Session #32
CE Offered: BACB — 
Self-Injurious Behavior: Decades Past, Decades Ahead (The Problem Is Not Solved)
Saturday, May 25, 2024
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Convention Center, 300 Level, Ballroom B
Area: AUT; Domain: Theory
Chair: Yanerys Leon (University of Miami)
CE Instructor: Timothy R. Vollmer, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: TIMOTHY R. VOLLMER (University of Florida)

For the past several years, my colleagues and I have been developing models for a deeper understanding of factors related to the development and maintenance of severe behavior. The recent passing of my mentor and colleague, Brian Iwata, has set the occasion for reflection on the past decades of behavioral research specific to self-injurious behavior (SIB). I will provide some historical context of research and practice related to SIB, including some perspectives from Dr. Iwata’s lab and publications. I will summarize some of the key findings from the past several decades to date. But, in addition, I will make a case that there is a long path ahead to complete our understanding of SIB, and to continue Iwata’s work in developing effective interventions. I will suggest future research and practice in the following areas: a) a deeper understanding of negatively reinforced SIB, b) a deeper understanding of automatically reinforced SIB, c) translation of basic research on self-biting and aggression that may shed light on functional properties of SIB, d) the need for development of detailed and complex case studies, and e) the need for prevention science (and the conundrum that arises from our traditional methodology).

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

behavior analysts interested in research, history of the field, and assessment/intervention for SIB.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe at least three variables that alter the value of escape as reinforcement; (2) describe at least two potential sources of automatic reinforcement for SIB; (3) describe at least one challenge related to evaluating the prevention of SIB.
TIMOTHY R. VOLLMER (University of Florida)
Timothy R. Vollmer received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1992. From 1992 until 1996 he was on the psychology faculty at Louisiana State University. From 1996 to 1998 he was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He returned to the University of Florida in 1998, where he has been ever since, and is now a Professor and Associate Chair of Psychology. His primary area of research is applied behavior analysis, with emphases in autism, intellectual disabilities, reinforcement schedules, and parenting. He has published over 200 articles and book chapters related to behavior analysis. He was the recipient of the 1996 B.F. Skinner New Researcher award from the American Psychological Association (APA). He received another APA award in August 2004, for significant contributions to applied behavior analysis, and received the Don Hake translational research award in 2022. He served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis from 2014-2016. He is a fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABAI), and he received the ABAI mentoring award in 2017. More recently, he received the University of Florida Dissertation Advisor Mentoring Award in 2022.



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