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.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #360
CE Offered: BACB
Assessment and treatment of problem behavior exhibited by individuals with high functioning autism and Asperger's syndrome
Monday, May 25, 2009
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
North 120 A
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Henry S. Roane (University of Nebraska Medical Center & Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Discussant: Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
CE Instructor: Claire St Peter Pipkin, Ph.D.
Abstract: Although destructive behavior among individuals with autism and related disorders has received considerable attention in the extant literature, few investigations have examined the occurrence of destructive behavior in individuals with high functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger’s Disorder (AD). These diagnoses present unique clinical challenges as those individuals generally have relatively high IQ scores (i.e., 70 or higher) and relatively well-developed verbal repertoires, while also exhibiting impaired social functioning and maladaptive behavior. The current symposium is designed to highlight current research with this population. The first study describes the successful treatment of perseverative conversations through the use of a signaled DRO paradigm. The second study describes a discrimination training procedure in which participant mands were only reinforced in the presence of a specific discriminative stimulus while destructive behavior was placed on extinction. In the final study, a social skills training procedure was used to augment schedule thinning within the treatment of destructive behavior. These studies will be discussed with specific regard to treatment considerations for individuals with HFA and AD and within the general context of reinforcement-based treatments for destructive behavior.
Treatment of Perseverative Comments in a Child Diagnosed with High Functioning Autism
KASEY STEPHENSON (Munroe-Meyer Institute; UNMC), Henry S. Roane (University of Nebraska Medical Center & Munroe-Meyer Institute), Rebecca A. Veenstra (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
Abstract: Individuals with high functioning autism (HFA) exhibit a variety of repetitive behaviors such as engaging in perseverative speech (Rehfeldt & Chambers, 2003). In the current study a signaled differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO) procedure was implemented with a child diagnosed with HFA who engaged in near exclusive perseverative vocalizations on a restricted set of topics (e.g., Star Wars, Kimonos, and Tea). Specifically, in the DRO contingency access to and reinforcement of perseverative vocalizations was delivered contingent upon the omission of perseverative comments for a pre-specified interval (ranging from 60 to 300 s). In addition, separate discriminative stimuli were employed to signal when perseverative comments (i.e., pictures of the topics of perseverative topics) or when alternative comments (i.e., pictures of topics deemed socially appropriate) would be differentially reinforced. The intervention successfully decreased perseverative vocalizations and increased appropriate vocalizations across three different sets of therapists. In addition, the number of conversational topics increased during treatment relative to baseline. Two-week follow-up data indicate treatment maintenance. Results suggested that the signaled DRO functioned as an effective means for not only reducing perseverative vocalizations but also increasing appropriate vocalizations.
The Boss Hat protocol: A treatment for destructive behavior reinforced by increased caregiver compliance with the child's mands
REBECCA A. VEENSTRA (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Wayne Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, UNMC), Henry S. Roane (University of Nebraska Medical Center & Munroe-Meyer Institute), Terry Falcomata (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Kelly J. Bouxsein (UNMC), Joanna Lomas (Marcus Institute)
Abstract: Individuals diagnosed with high functioning autism (HFA) typically have well-developed verbal behavior repertoires with which to request both proximal (e.g., “Give me that.”) and distal (e.g., “Take me to the zoo.”) reinforcers. Previous research has shown that intense destructive behavior may be evoked when such requests (or mands) are denied and may function to increase the probability of reinforcement of mands (i.e., destructive behavior functioning as a pre-current response for mands; e.g., Bowman et al., 1997). The current research investigated the effects of a discrimination training procedure in which participant mands were only reinforced in the presence of a specific discriminative stimulus while destructive behavior was placed on extinction. Specifically, a discriminative stimulus (e.g., a hat or necklace) was used to signal to the participants when they were in “control” of the situation (i.e., others would comply with his or her mands) and when they are not in “control” of the situation (i.e., he or she was required to comply with other’s mands and destructive behavior was not reinforced). Results indicate that this procedure was effective at decreasing destructive behavior while allowing caregivers to limit when and which child mands would produce reinforcement.
Social Skills Training in the Treatment of Problem Behavior in an Individual with Asperger’s Syndrome
HEATHER K. JENNETT (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Ainsley Thompson (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: One of the primary diagnostic characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome is a deficit in social skills (DSM-IV, 2000). Individuals who engage in problem behavior such as aggression, self-injury, or property destruction may do so because of deficits in social skills (Duncan, Matson, Bamburg, Cherry, & Buckley, 1999). Therefore, teaching social skills to these individuals may help to improve problem behavior by altering the establishing operation for the problem behavior. The current study will focus on teaching social skills as an adjunct to typical reinforcement based treatments. An individual diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome participated and was treated for aggression and property destruction. Following functional analyses, an initial treatment consisting of a multiple schedule of reinforcement was developed and found to be effective in reducing problem behavior. However, when reinforcement thinning was initiated, the reduction did not maintain. After three relevant social skills were taught, reinforcement thinning was continued and a subsequent reduction in problem behavior was observed.



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