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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #270
CE Offered: BACB
Attention, Escape, and Tangible: Critical Analysis of Problem Behavior and Its Controlling Variables
Monday, May 30, 2016
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
Columbus Hall AB, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: PRA/AUT; Domain: Translational
Chair: Joseph Michael Lambert (Vanderbilt University)
CE Instructor: Joseph Michael Lambert, Ph.D.
Abstract: Functional analysis (FA) is a dynamic assessment that allows practitioners to produce empirical evidence of the relationship between problem behavior and its controlling variables. Furthermore, standard test conditions (i.e., attention, escape, and tangible) have demonstrable utility and provide practitioners with obvious starting points when tasked with the organization and analysis of the unique learning histories of strangers who engage in chronic problem behavior. However, positive test outcomes are a function of more than the mere arrangement of contingencies between problem behavior and known reinforcers (talk 1). Often, nuanced analysis of idiosyncratic behavioral and/or environmental events is required to identify functional relationships between response classes and their controlling variables (talks 2 and 3). The primary purpose of this symposium is to highlight factors that might contribute to successful functional analysis outcomes when traditional test conditions are contraindicated. A secondary purpose is to dispel myths of the counter-therapeutic qualities of the FA and to highlight the complexity of positive function identification.
Prompts, Probes, and Correspondence Between Reinforcer Assessments and Functional Analysis Outcomes
RACHEL MOTTERN (Vanderbilt University), Joseph Michael Lambert (Vanderbilt University), Lillian Stiff (Vanderbilt University), Nealetta Houchins-Juarez (Vanderbilt University)
Abstract: One concern with functional analysis (FA) is that practitioners evoke and reinforce problem behavior, with the potential of facilitating its acquisition of new functional classes. If arranging contingencies between known reinforcers and problem behavior (in the absence of additional instruction) can confound FA results, then reinforcer assessment outcomes should be predictive of FA outcomes. In the current investigation we conducted a series of preference assessments to identify high-preferred tangible items, high-preferred social interactions, and low-probability demands. We then evaluated the reinforcing effects of contingent access to (or escape from) these stimuli/events during subsequent reinforcer assessments. Finally, we conducted FAs of each participant’s problem behavior and arranged consequences identical to those manipulated during previous reinforcer assessments. Correspondence between reinforcer assessments and FA outcomes was low, with reinforcer assessments implicating both false positive and false negative behavior functions. Our results suggest that the threat of new learning during FAs is likely minimal.

Functional Analysis and Treatment of Aggression Maintained by Access to Physical Play

ELIZABETH DAYTON (Melmark), Jim Chok (Melmark), Lauren Davison (Hogan Learning Academy), Amanda Gill (Melmark), Arthur Dowdy (Melmark)

In the case of severe challenging behavior there are instances that require physical restraint in order to maintain safety for the individual served as well as others. There are many concerns with the use of physical restraint, including the possibility that restraint may serve as a reinforcer. One possible way to compete with the reinforcing effects of restraint is to find an alternative activity that the individual can access. We discuss a case in which a childs aggression often necessitated the use of physical restraint. During a functional analysis, physical play was used as reinforcer for aggression during test conditions and applied noncontingently during control sessions. Differentiated results were obtained during the functional analysis. Subsequently, the individual was taught a functional communication response that provided access to physical play. The intervention resulted in a decrease in aggression and an increase in the functional alternative response. The results of the study highlight a possible intervention for individuals with severe aggression who often require physical restraint to maintain safety, but whose aggression is also maintained by the stimulus properties associated with restraint.

Assessing Physical Aggression and Physiological Reaction to Environmental Noise
SAMANTHA RUSSO (Melmark), Samantha Smith (Melmark), Jennifer Croner (Melmark), Kady Gahman (Vanderbilt University)
Abstract: Forty percent of children with Autism have hypersensitivity to noise (Rimland & Edelson, 1995). Few studies have evaluated aversive noise in correlation with challenging behavior, even less show treatment interventions following assessment. Results in the current published literature evaluating noise have found that various types of noises may serve as an establishing operation for challenging behavior (McCord, Iwata, Galensky, Ellingson, & Thompson, 2013). The purpose of this study was to evaluate heart rate as a reliable measure of agitation and to identify the correlation between increased heart rate and aggression when presented with an aversive noise. This hypothesis was evaluated using a pair-wise functional analysis with a multi element design testing various aversive noises which were found in the participant’s natural environment. The participant engaged in relatively low levels of challenging behavior across all test conditions, however there was a significant correlation between instances of aggression and maximum heart rate.



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