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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Symposium #456
CE Offered: BACB
Assessment and Treatment of Problem Behavior Maintained by Automatic Reinforcement
Monday, May 26, 2008
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
International South
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Eileen M. Roscoe (The New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Eileen M. Roscoe, Ph.D.

Problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement can be difficult to treat because the reinforcer is directly produced by the response. Reinforcement based interventions, such as noncontingent and contingent reinforcement for an appropriate response, have been found effective for reducing automatically-reinforced behavior. However, often more direct interventions, such as response blocking and overcorrection, are required for obtaining successful outcomes. This symposium will include four presentations discussing research on the assessment and treatment of automatically-reinforced behavior. A variety of response topographies will be reviewed, including rumination, vomiting, echolalia, motor stereotypy, and self-restraint.

Functional Analysis and Treatment of Chronic Rumination and Vomiting.
SARAH E. BLOOM (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
Abstract: This study describes the assessment and treatment of four individuals who engaged in chronic rumination and/or vomiting. Results of functional analyses indicated that rumination (3 participants) was maintained by automatic reinforcement but that vomiting exhibited by the fourth participant was maintained by social-positive reinforcement (access to attention). Reinforcement-based interventions for the 3 participants who exhibited rumination were developed based on their assessment results but were ineffective. Response cost (2 participants) and overcorrection (1 participant) subsequently were effective in eliminating or greatly reducing rumination. The fourth participant’s vomiting was treated successfully with a differential reinforcement procedure. Results are discussed in terms of the progression from assessment to treatment and practical implications for the use of reinforcement and punishment.
Functional Analysis of Echolalia and its Treatment Using Script Fading.
AMANDA KARSTEN (Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Abstract: Many individuals with autism display echolalia, the parrot-like repetition of words or phrases spoken by another individual either in the preceding moments (i.e., immediate echolalia) or after a substantial period of time has elapsed (i.e., delayed echolalia). Although a number of hypotheses have been proposed regarding causes and correlates of immediate and delayed echolalia, a limited number of investigations have used controlled functional analysis methods (a) to systematically evaluate the function(s) of these aberrant responses or (b) to develop effective treatments. In this investigation, a functional analysis was conducted with a 15-year-old male with autism, which confirmed that his delayed echolalia (e.g., repeating scripts from TV shows) persisted independent of social contingencies and was presumably maintained by automatic reinforcement. Next, appropriate social conversation was prompted using textual scripts and reinforced with descriptive praise. This intervention resulted in marked increases in appropriate communication and concomitant decreases in delayed echolalia and other vocal stereotypy's, and functional control of the treatment effects was established using a reversal design. Scripts were subsequently faded while maintaining high levels of appropriate vocalizations and low levels of echolalia and other vocal stereotypy's. These results are discussed relative to the function(s) of echolalia and its treatment via the promotion of appropriate social communication.
A Comparison of Redirection with and without Response Interruption for Reducing Stereotypy Maintained by Automatic Reinforcement.
AIMEE GILES (The New England Center for Children), Eileen M. Roscoe (The New England Center for Children), Sacha T. Pence (The New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (The New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Previous research has shown that response interruption and redirection can effectively reduce stereotypy maintained by automatic reinforcement. The current study evaluated the effects of a response redirection procedure implemented in isolation and in conjunction with response interruption on the stereotypic responding of two participants. Results of a functional analysis for both participants showed that their stereotypy was not maintained by social consequences. During the treatment assessment, response redirection alone and response redirection with interruption were evaluated using an alternating treatment and reversal design. Response redirection consisted of instructions to engage in motor tasks contingent on motor stereotypy, whereas the response redirection and interruption procedure also consisted of the therapist physically blocking the participant from engaging in the stereotypic response prior to implementing the redirection procedure. Results for one participant showed that both redirection and redirection plus interruption resulted in comparably low levels of motor stereotypy when compared to baseline, and results for the second participant showed lower levels of stereotypy only when response redirection was implemented in conjunction with interruption. The implications of these findings for treating behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement will be discussed.
Analysis of a Self-Restraint Response Hierarchy.
DARREL MORELAND (Munroe-Meyer Institute), Henry S. Roane (Munroe-Meyer Institute), Kelly J. Bouxsein (Munroe-Meyer Institute), Robert-Ryan S. Pabico (The Marcus Institute), Michael E. Kelley (The Marcus Institute and Emory University)
Abstract: A response hierarchy is a class of behaviors that occurs within a predictable order. Within the hierarchy, certain responses are more probable than others, and when these high-probability behaviors are prevented, other less-probable responses are likely to occur. Previous studies have demonstrated response class hierarchies with topographies of destructive behavior (e.g., screaming, aggression, self-injury). In the current study we examined the occurrence of two individuals’ self-restraint which occurred in a hierarchical manner. For both participants, self-restraint was maintained by automatic reinforcement and occurred in a predictable order. Multiple baseline and reversal designs were conducted to show that the use of response blocking to prevent highly-probable self-restraint responses led to an emergence of other, less frequent topographies of self-restraint. This study also examined the efficacy of providing non-contingent access to preferred items for reducing overall levels of self-restraint. Reliability data were collected for a minimum of 25% of sessions and averaged at least 80% for all dependent measures of self-restraint and object-interaction. These results will be discussed in terms of identifying the variables that influence the formation of response classes.



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