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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #159
Advances in the Assessment and Treatment of Problem Behavior Maintained by Automatic Reinforcement
Sunday, May 28, 2017
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 4C/D
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Marc J. Lanovaz (Université de Montréal)
CE Instructor: Marc J. Lanovaz, Ph.D.

Most children with autism spectrum disorders engage in problem behaviors (e.g., stereotypy) that are maintained by automatic (nonsocial) reinforcement. Given that researchers and practitioners typically have no control over the consequences maintaining these behaviors, assessment and treatment are often a challenge in applied settings. To address this issue, the symposium aims to present recent advances in both the assessment and treatment of problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement in children with autism spectrum disorders. The first presentation will discuss the use of a modified trial-based functional analysis to identify the function of automatically-reinforced behavior following ambiguous results. The second presentation will examine the effects of using a technology-based intervention on engagement in stereotypy and other challenging behavior in a girl with autism. Finally, the third presentation will present the results of a study on validating the algorithms of an app designed to support parents in the reduction of stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorders. Altogether, the presentations will provide an overview of recent research on the assessment and treatment of automatically-reinforced behavior in this population.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Automatic Reinforcement, Functional Analysis, Stereotypy, Technology
Advances in Trial-Based Functional Analysis of Automatically Maintained Challenging Behavior
MANDY J. RISPOLI (Purdue University), Katie Wolfe (University of South Carolina), Matthew T. Brodhead (Michigan State University), Emily Gregori (Purdue University)
Abstract: Trial-based functional analysis (TBFA) allows for the experimental assessment of variables which may influence challenging behavior within ongoing activities and routines in the learner’s natural environment. The purpose of this study was to extend the work on TBFA to assess vocal scripting behaviors in three boys with autism spectrum disorder. Following initial ambiguous TBFA results, the TBFA procedures were modified to capture relevant motivating operations. These modified TBFAs led to the identification of an automatic function for all three participants’ vocal scripting. The validity of the TBFA results was examined for each participant using an ABAB design in which A was baseline and B was noncontingent attention. Under the noncontingent attention conditions, vocal scripting dropped to near zero levels. These results speak to the utility of modifying the TBFA to identify the function and relevant abolishing operations for stereotyped behavior. Implications for future research and practice will be discussed.

Effects of Visual Activity Schedules With Embedded Video Modeling on the Academic Skills and Challenging Behaviors of a Child With Autism

KATHERINE LEDBETTER-CHO (Texas State University), Russell Lang (Texas State University-San Marcos), Melissa Moore (Texas State University), Katy Davenport (Texas State University-San Marcos), Allyson Lee (Texas State University), Caitlin Murphy (Texas State University), Laci Watkins (The University of Texas at Austin), Mark O'Reilly (The University of Texas at Austin)

The use of portable electronic devices to learn novel skills offers a number of benefits to individuals with autism including social acceptability and increased independence. A multiple baseline across behaviors design was used to evaluate the effects of iPod-based visual activity schedules with embedded video models on the academic skill acquisition of a young girl with autism. The participant engaged in stereotypy, which was reported to increase in the presence of the iPad, and other challenging behaviors during work. Results indicated that the intervention was effective at improving the participants performance of each academic task. Following the removal of intervention, the participant accurately performed two of the three skills without additional teaching procedures. Stereotypy remained stable and the participants engagement in challenging behavior decreased as she demonstrated acquisition of each academic task. Stimulus generalization across academic targets was demonstrated and skill acquisition was maintained during three-week follow-up probes. Implications for practitioners and directions for future research are discussed.

Using Mobile Technology to Reduce Stereotypy: Validation Study of the Decision-Making Algorithms
ISABELLE PRÉFONTAINE (Université de Montréal), Marc J. Lanovaz (Université de Montréal), Emeline McDuff (Université de Montréal), Catherine McHugh (Monarch House), Jennifer Lynn Cook (Monarch House)
Abstract: Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often engage in stereotypy, which may interfere with ongoing activities and social interactions. Parents do not always have access to the resources necessary to implement behavioral interventions that will effectively reduce engagement in stereotypy. To address this issue, we developed an iOS app, the iSTIM, designed to support parents in reducing stereotypy in their child with ASD. The purpose of this study was to test the effects of the iSTIM on the behavior of children with ASD. To this end, university students implemented the procedures recommended by the iSTIM (i.e., noncontingent access or differential reinforcement) and examined their effects on the stereotypy and appropriate behavior of 11 children with ASD between the ages of 3 and 8 using an alternating treatment design. Using the iSTIM reduced engagement in stereotypy while increasing appropriate engagement in 8 participants. Our results indicate that the iSTIM may decrease engagement in stereotypy, but that some of the decision-making algorithms may benefit from modifications before beginning testing with parents. We may need to modify the implementation of the latter to improve its efficiency. The next steps are to update the app and test it using parents as behavior change agents.



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