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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #69
CE Offered: BACB
Extensions in the Assessment and Treatment of Automatically Maintained Behavior
Saturday, May 24, 2014
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
W185a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kenneth Shamlian (Nova Southeastern University)
Discussant: Michael E. Kelley (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology)
CE Instructor: Kenneth Shamlian, Ph.D.

Reinforcement that is not socially mediated presents with unique properties for assessment and intervention. Often the reinforcer and the specific reinforcing consequences are not clear. In addition, the reinforcer in question either cannot be directly manipulated and the behavior and the reinforcing consequences cannot be separated (Piazza et al., 2 000). Due to individual idiosyncratic preferences that often emerge in the assessment of automatically maintained behavior, novel utility of these methods are required to effectively assess and treat the interfering behaviors. Also, while numerous studies have examined various assessments and treatments in relation to this topic, systematic extensions of these methods are still needed in pursuit of understanding: (a) the effects of duration and number of exposures to stimuli in assessment, (b) how competing stimuli are selected for treatment, (c) how to control for the effects of stimuli over time, and (d) the differential effectiveness of stimuli in treatment. This symposium presents four studies related to the assessment and/or treatment of behavior that is demonstrated to be maintained by non-socially mediated forms of reinforcement and interfere with daily functioning. Results from these studies suggest extension of methods for assessment and treatment for automatically maintained behavior can: (a) accurately identify auditory stimuli that effectively decrease levels of vocal stereotypy and are compatible for use with ongoing academic demands, functional analysis methodology can successfully identify the reinforcing properties of property destruction, competing item s identified via an MSWO procedure can be comparably effective to those identified using a competing stimulus assessment, and earlier competing stimulus assessment sessions with matched and unmatched stimuli provide differential results when compared to latter exposures.


Effects of Brief and Extended Access to Competing Auditory Stimuli on Vocal Stereotypy during Academic Demands

KIMBERLY SLOMAN (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Matthew L. Edelstein (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University  ), Katelyn Selver (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Rebecca Schulman (Rutgers University), Mariana Torres-Viso (Rutgers University ), Amy Paige Hansford (Rutgers University)

Previous research has shown that access to auditory stimuli has been effective in the treatment of vocal stereotypy (e.g., Lanovaz, Fletcher, & Rapp, 2009; Rapp, 2007; Taylor, Hoch, & Weissman, 2005). However, previous research has not evaluated the compatibility of auditory stimuli with academic demands. Furthermore, research has typically evaluated the stimuli during brief exposures (e.g., 5 minutes). Thus, the extended effects of access to auditory stimuli is unknown. This presentation includes three studies on the effects of competing auditory stimuli on vocal stereotypy. In Study 1, we evaluated the effects of various types of auditory stimuli on automatically reinforced vocal stereotypy in four students with autism. Preferred music resulted in decreased levels of vocal stereotypy for 3 out of 4 participants. The three participants for which auditory stimuli resulted in lower levels of vocal stereotypy participated in Study 2. In Study 2, we evaluated the compatibility of access to auditory stimuli with ongoing academic demands. Results showed for all participants that auditory stimuli resulted in decreased vocal stereotypy and was compatible with academic demands. In Study 3, we evaluated extended exposure (i.e., 90 minute sessions) to auditory stimuli for two participants to assess if habituation to the stimuli occurred over time. Results showed for both participants decreased effects of auditory stimuli over time.

Extension of Assessment Methods for Determining the Reinforcing Functions of Property Destruction
KRISTINA SAMOUR (Nova Southeastern University ), Kenneth Shamlian (Nova Southeastern University), Brenna Cavanaugh (Nova Southeastern University), F. Charles Mace (Nova Southeastern University)
Abstract: Property destruction may emerge in numerous forms and serve various functions. To date, many studies have conducted functional analyses (FA) and provided function based treatments for property destruction. However, to date, minimal research has been conducted to determine if there are particular sensory effects related to maintenance of certain topographies of property destruction and applications of competing stimulus assessments to determine item(s) that could effectively compete with the target response. In the current study, we conducted a functional analysis with a four-year-old male diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to assess the function of paper-tearing and further determine the salient sensory consequences that contributed to its maintenance. Subsequently, we also conducted a competing stimulus assessment to further determine stimuli that would potentially effectively compete with the target response based on the FA results. The results from the analysis demonstrated that: (a) paper-tearing was primarily maintained by sensory effects of paper tearing, and (b) the competing stimulus assessment based on the FA results successfully informed what stimuli would be potentially more effective in subsequent treatment(s).
Comparison of the Effects of Preferred and Competing Stimuli on the Treatment of Destructive Behavior
BRENNA CAVANAUGH (Nova Southeastern University), Kenneth Shamlian (Nova Southeastern University), Kristina Samour (Nova Southeastern University ), F. Charles Mace (Nova Southeastern University)
Abstract: The treatment of automatically maintained problem behavior posits a unique challenge for conventional differential reinforcement interventions, since the effects of sensory reinforcement are often difficult to reproduce and compete with. Typically, clinicians will either use highly preferred stimuli, concluded from standard preference assessments, or highly competitive stimuli, concluded from standard competing stimulus assessments, to serve as alternative reinforcers during intervention. However, few studies have directly compared the efficacy of preferred and competitive stimuli in interventions for reducing problem behavior, and debate continues regarding the relative effectiveness of these two types of reinforcers. The current study sought to directly compare results from both a competing stimulus assessment (CSA) and a multiple stimulus without replacement (MSWO) preference assessment in the treatment of automatically maintained destructive behavior in the form of paper tearing. Initial treatment consisted of environmental enrichment intervention across items identified via the MSWO and CSA with a subsequent analysis of added adjunct procedures of response blocking and environmental enrichment. Results suggest that the presence of a highly preferred item was initially more effective in reducing paper tearing in the context of a treatment using environmental enrichment. However, both stimuli over time demonstrated decrements in their ability to compete with the problem behavior without additional components of response blocking and re-presentation. Considerations for clinical practice based on these results are discussed.
Analysis of the Effects of an Extended Competing Stimulus Assessment
DANIELLE TARVER (Nova Southeastern University), Brenna Cavanaugh (Nova Southeastern University), Kenneth Shamlian (Nova Southeastern University), F. Charles Mace (Nova Southeastern University)
Abstract: Following functional analyses that conclude behavior is maintained by automatic reinforcement, additional assessments are commonly used to identify competing stimuli to formulate function based treatments (Groskreutz, Groskreutz, & Higbee, 2011). Competing stimulus assessments are often used to identify stimuli’s relative preference by measuring an individual’s allocation of time spent interacting with a particular stimulus or engaging in problem behavior when both responses are concurrently available. Subsequently, items found to be effective for reducing the proportion of time allocated to engaging in the problem behavior are selected for use in subsequent treatments. For behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement, the competing stimulus assessment often includes stimuli with potentially matched sensory consequences and stimuli identified through standard preference assessments or caregiver interviews (i.e. unmatched). The current study employed a competing stimulus assessment with various matched and unmatched items for a child with self-injurious behavior. Stimuli were presented for an extended amount of trials and demonstrated decreasing trends in SIB across all items and increasing trends in engagement with some items. Results suggest that extending the number of exposures to stimuli yields different results over time and the potential utility/necessity for reevaluating items’ ability to compete with problem behavior. In addition, the findings provide direction for potentially beneficial modifications for competing stimulus assessment methodology.



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