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 #59
Variables influencing the persistence of adaptive and problem behavior
Saturday, May 23, 2009
2:30 PM–3:50 PM
North 120 A
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Eric Boelter (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Discussant: Wayne Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, UNMC)
Abstract: A common problem encountered when treating individuals with intellectual disabilities who engage in disruptive behavior is that problem behavior often persists despite attempts to teach adaptive behavior. The current collection of papers investigates variables that affect the persistence of both adaptive and problem behavior. First, Jackie MacDonald, William Ahearn, and William Dube present data showing that problem behavior is more persistent during periods of extinction following a period in which it was reinforced on a continuous schedule relative to an intermittent schedule. Next, Jennifer McComas, Ellie Hatman, Chin-Chih Chen, and John Hoch investigate the effects of both continuous and intermittent concurrent schedules of reinforcement for adaptive and problem behavior on the persistence of those behaviors during a subsequent extinction period. Results suggest that the response rates of behavior observed under the various schedules predicts the persistence of the behavior during extinction. Finally, David Wacker, Wendy Berg, Jay Harding, John Lee, Kelly Schieltz, and Yaniz Padilla present data showing that, following long-term treatment with functional communication training, appropriate mands can persist during periods of extinction even when several challenges to the behavior are presented. In summary, these papers address important issues related to the persistence of both problem and adaptive behavior.
Examining resistance in automatically reinforced and socially-maintained problem behavior
JACQUELYN M. MACDONALD (New England center for children), William H. Ahearn (The New England Center for Children), William V. Dube (UMMS Shriver Center)
Abstract: Some have suggested that continuously reinforced (CRF) behavior is less persistent during extinction (EXT) than behavior reinforced on an intermittent (INT) schedule; however, research generally supports the opposite (see Nevin, 1988; 1992). This general finding was supported by Ahearn and colleagues (2003). Automatically reinforced behavior was more resistant to disruption following periods of access to preferred stimuli delivered on a VT schedule relative to the absence of access to preferred items. It is likely that severe problem behavior is often maintained via intermittent contingencies in natural settings so the present study attempted to examine whether there is differential persistence during EXT when behavior is reinforced via CRF and INT schedules prior to EXT. Four children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder who engaged in problem behavior sensitive to social reinforcers participated. Two experimental conditions, CRF and INT, were compared; each condition involved a sequence of four components. With CRF, the four components occurred in the following order: (a) no social interaction, (b) continuous reinforcement of problem behavior, (c) EXT, and (d) no social interaction. With INT, intermittent reinforcement of problem behavior occurred during the second component. Behavior was more persistent during EXT in the CRF condition for each participant.
Persistence of Mands and Self-Injurious Behavior following Concurrent Continuous and Intermittent Schedules of Reinforcement
JENNIFER J. MCCOMAS (University of Minnesota), Ellie C. Hartman (University of Wisconsin-Stout), Chin-Chih Chen (University of Minnesota), John Hoch (University of Minnesota)
Abstract: The current study tested the persistence of mands and self-injurious behavior during extinction following concurrent intermittent and continuous schedules of positive reinforcement (tangible items). Persistence was measured in terms of both latency to respond and response rate. In addition, persistence was examined as a function of the preceding reinforcement schedule as in the presence of a novel stimulus (novel interventionist) and in the presence of a variety of establishing operations (preferred and non-preferred toys). Response rates during concurrent reinforcement consistently predicted persistence during subsequent extinction for latency and response rate and similar results were observed in the presence of a novel stimulus and variety of EOs. Results are discussed in terms of behavioral maintenance of responding in concurrent schedule arrangements and suggest that further research is needed to better understand the effects of concurrent schedules on response persistence.
Behavioral Persistence Following Long-term Treatment with Functional Communication Training
DAVID P. WACKER (University of Iowa), Wendy K. Berg (University of Iowa), Jay W. Harding (University of Iowa), John F. Lee (University of Iowa), Kelly M. Schieltz (University of Iowa), Yaniz C. Padilla (University of Iowa)
Abstract: Seven children with developmental disabilities who displayed destructive behavior (self-injury, aggression, and property destruction) received long-term (at least 1 year) functional communication training in their homes. The behavioral persistence of destructive behavior, manding, and task completion was evaluated via two sets of procedures. First, intermittently throughout treatment, a baseline extinction condition was conducted within a reversal design to evaluate persistence under brief extinction conditions. Second, at the completion of treatment, four distinct challenges to treatment were conducted within a multielement design: (a) establishing operations challenge, in which the baseline extinction sessions were increased to three times their original length; (b) change in discriminative stimulus (Sd) task challenge, in which the target task was changed to a novel task; (c) change in Sd mand challenge, in which the card signaling that mands would be reinforced was removed; and (d) competing schedules of reinforcement challenge, in which destructive behavior as well as mands were reinforced. Interobserver agreement was collected across 30% of all sessions and was at least 90% for all dependent variables. The results showed that behavioral persistence of adaptive behavior during brief periods of extinction increased over the course of treatment and remained stable across each challenge condition for most children.



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