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.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

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Symposium #438
Manipulations of Social Reinforcers in the Treatment of Problem Behavior Maintained by Automatic Reinforcement
Monday, May 28, 2007
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
Ford AB
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Wendy K. Berg (University of Iowa)
Discussant: John C. Borrero (University of the Pacific)
Abstract: Problem behaviors such as self-injury, destruction, and stereotypy that occur in the absence of social contingencies and fit the pattern for automatic reinforcement may be responsive to manipulations of social stimuli as either antecedent or consequent events. Three studies will be presented in which social stimuli (i.e, attention, escape, and access to preferred tangibles) were incorporated into treatments to reduce the occurrence of problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement. In the first study, social reinforcers were used to consequate an alternative adaptive response, and problem behavior resulted in response interruption and redirection to the alternative response. In the second study, the delivery of attention and preferred tangibles contingent on the occurrence of an adaptive response and the absence of self-injury resulted in reductions in self-injurious behavior for two participants. In the final study, a series of functional analyses showed self-injury was maintained, in part, by automatic reinforcement and that an additional social function also influenced the occurrence of self-injury. A treatment evaluation was conducted that targeted both automatic and social functions that maintained self-injury for two participants. The results of these studies suggest that social reinforcers may be effective tools in the treatment of behaviors that fit the assessment patterns associated with automatic reinforcement.
Assessment and Treatment of Stereotypy: Interrupting and Redirecting.
KATHLEEN M. CLARK (New England Center for Children), Jessica Masalsky (New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Stereotypy, typically defined as repetitive behavior that presumably occurs independently of social reinforcers, is not uncommon in the typical population and is one of the defining features of autism. It is problematic because it interferes with skill acquisition and is socially stigmatizing. Additionally, stereotypy can be difficult to treat because the maintaining variables may be hard to identify and we are often limited when attempting to provide alternating sources of reinforcement. This presentation will describe the procedures we have been using to assess and treat both motor and vocal stereotypy. For these participants, functional analyses suggested that their stereotypy did not appear to be sensitive to social consequences. A response interruption and redirection procedure was used to interrupt the target behavior and redirect the individual to engage in a more appropriate response that was reinforced. We will review redirection to various appropriate vocal and motor responses.
Attention as an Arbitrary Stimulus for Attenuating Behaviors Maintained by Automatic Reinforcement.
JASON M. STRICKER (University of Iowa), David P. Wacker (University of Iowa), Wendy K. Berg (University of Iowa), Joel Eric Ringdahl (University of Iowa), Kelly M. Vinquist (University of Iowa)
Abstract: Noncontingent delivery of stimuli that show no functional relationship to problem behavior have been used effectively to decrease problem behaviors maintained by social and non-social variables (Fischer et al., 1997; Vollmer et al., 1994) This study expands this notion to the contingent delivery of attention for toy play and the absence of problem behavior for 2 individuals diagnosed with autism who engaged in self-injurious face rubbing. Assessment results suggested that problem behaviors were not reduced by noncontingent attention and did not increase when attention was provided contingently. In addition, attention was never selected over being alone during a paired-choice assessment for one participant. However, during treatment, consisting of contingent attention for toy play (Cain) and for an appropriate response (Carla), both participants had reductions in problem behavior and high levels of toy play compared to free play and ignore plus toy conditions. Interobserver agreement was collected for at least 30% of sessions and averaged 96% for Cain and 93% for Carla for face rubbing and toy play. Results of this evaluation suggest that the contingent use of an arbitrary social stimulus can act as an abolishing operation for behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement.
Analysis of Social Variables when Initial Functional Analyses Indicate Automatic Reinforcement as the Maintaining Variable for Self-Injurious Behavior.
STEPHANIE A. CONTRUCCI KUHN (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Mandy M. Triggs (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Jennifer Rusak (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Functional Analysis is a useful tool for identifying variables maintaining self-injury. However, several challenges are presented when problem behavior occurs at high rates across all conditions, including an alone condition. This pattern of responding can suggest either an automatic function or multiple functions including automatic. In most cases it would be difficult or impossible to withhold reinforcement for problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement so that the influence of social variables could be further examined. In the current study, we conducted functional analyses for two individuals with self-injury. Results indicated that problem behavior was, at least in part maintained by sensory reinforcement. Further analyses utilizing protective equipment revealed an attention function for one participant’s self-injury and an escape function for the second individual’s self-injury. In both cases, these analyses confirmed that additional variables were influencing problem behavior. These variables were targeted during treatment evaluations along with interventions designed to target automatically maintained self-injury.



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