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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #178
CE Offered: BACB
Innovative Treatment for Problem Behavior of Autistic Children and Teens: The Use and Comparative Analyses of Precursor Behavior, Response Interruption and Redirection, and Matched Stimulation
Sunday, May 29, 2022
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Meeting Level 2; Room 258B
Area: AUT/DEV; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Alanna Dantona (Claremont Graduate University)
Discussant: Ruth M. DeBar (Caldwell University)
CE Instructor: Ruth M. DeBar, Ph.D.

Autistic children exhibit a number of problem behaviors, including aggression and stereotypy, that can be disruptive, dangerous, stigmatizing, and hinder skill acquisition (Chevalier, 2012; Cunningham & Schreibman, 2008). These behaviors continue to be a target of treatment for this population and treatment approaches need to be compared. Additionally, innovative treatment approaches need to be explored. The present symposium focuses on four studies that target the reduction of common maladaptive behaviors that autistic children and adolescents exhibit. In Study 1, autistic children are taught breathing and relaxation techniques to reduce the frequency of aggressive behavior by targeting precursor behaviors as an antecedent intervention. In Study 2, a Matched Stimulation (MS) procedure was compared with a Preferred Stimulus (PS) access procedure to reduce stereotypy while in Study 3 the effects of both procedures upon post intervention sessions and ancillary behaviors will be reported. Finally, in Study 4, motor stereotypy was targeted using matched stimulation (MS) compared with a response interruption and redirection (RIRD) procedure. These four procedures and the data from these studies presented in this symposium will be wrapped up by the Discussant who relates the current findings to the treatment of autistic children’s problem behaviors.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): aggression, autism, problem behavior, stereotypy
Target Audience:

Some professional experience with autistic children/teens and/or behavioral programming

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify common problem behaviors for autistic children and teens; (2) use evidence-based research to inform treatment options of problem behaviors for autistic children, and (3) consider and address socially significant targets of intervention for autistic children.
Reducing Problem Behavior in Autistic Children by Implementing a Relaxation Exercise Intervention at the Onset of Precursor Behavior
ALANNA DANTONA (Claremont Graduate University), Jessica Padover (Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Severe problem behaviors are highly prevalent in autistic children (Schreibman, 2005). Relaxation exercises have been successful at decreasing problem behaviors (Charlop & Kelso, 1997; Loomis, 2013) but using such procedures with precursor behaviors has not been explored. Research demonstrates treating precursor behaviors, or mild problem behaviors that precede those that are more severe, may be effective in reducing severe problem behaviors (Dracolby & Smith, 2012). The present study used a multiple baseline design across four autistic children (aged 7-11 years) to assess the efficacy of a relaxation intervention on reducing precursor and problem behavior. During an observational functional analysis, researchers identified precursor behaviors and antecedents of problem behaviors. In baseline, participants worked on their typical therapeutic tasks. If problem behaviors occurred, researchers implemented the participant’s behavior plan. During separate relaxation training sessions, children were taught deep breathing relaxation exercises. Following this relaxation training, researchers cued relaxation exercises when precursor behaviors occurred during the children’s typical therapy sessions. Frequency of precursor, problem, and on-task behavior were recorded. Results indicated that problem behaviors decreased for all participants following intervention. Precursor behaviors decreased and on-task behaviors increased for 3 of 4 participants. Results suggest future research is needed on precursor behavior.

A Comparative Analysis of Response Interruption and Redirection and Matched Stimulation for Reduction of Stereotypy in Autistic Children

CATHERINE LUGAR (Claremont Graduate University), Vicki Spector (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)

Stereotypy has remained a persistent interfering and stigmatizing behavior for autistic children despite numerous interventions addressing its remediation. A needed addition to the literature are comparative analyses of effective programs and further examination of their use. This study presents a treatment comparison of an antecedent intervention, Matched Stimulation (MS), with a consequent intervention, Response Interruption and Redirection (RIRD) and their effects on the stereotypy of six autistic children. A multi-element design with a multiple baseline design as an additional control was used. Generalization probes and follow-up measures were also taken. Results showed that for five of the six participants, stereotypic behavior decreased from baseline levels as a function of the MS intervention. Stereotypy was reduced completely for several sessions for three participants. Evidence that generalization across setting and maintenance of treatment effects occurred was limited. The importance of conducting comparative analyses and the implications of this study in an applied setting are discussed.


A Comparative Analysis of Matched Stimulation and Preferred Stimulus Access in Decreasing Motor Stereotypy in Autistic Children

BRIANNA WATERBURY (Autism Spectrum Therapies), Sabine Scott (University of Washington), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)

Autistic children engage in rigid, repetitive, stereotyped behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Stereotypic behavior is often targeted for reduction because it can interfere with appropriate behavior and engagement with learning opportunities (Cunningham & Schreibman, 2008). Research has demonstrated matched stimulation’s efficacy in reducing motor stereotypy during periods of continuous, non-contingent access (Gunter et al., 1993), but no previous study has examined the implementation of matched stimulation (MS) in short intervals while the participant is engaged in a work session. The present study used a multi-element multiple baseline design across five autistic children (ages 9-14) to examine the effectiveness of a non-contingent MS intervention on motor stereotypy during a work session. As a comparison, a preferred stimulus (PS) intervention was used to determine the efficacy of MS; in these sessions, participants had non-contingent access to highly preferred stimuli during a work session. Compared to baseline and PS sessions, four of five participants demonstrated a decrease in stereotypic behavior during MS sessions. These findings demonstrate effective functional matching for participants thus improving evaluating techniques for reducing motor stereotypy in work sessions. Moreover, these findings highlight the effectiveness of MS in reducing motor stereotypy during learning sessions.

Preferred Stimuli and Matched Stimulation Effects on Motor Stereotypy in Autistic Children During Post-Intervention Sessions
JAIME DIAZ (Claremont Graduate University), Sabine Scott (University of Washington), Marjorie H. Charlop (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Autistic children often display stereotypic behavior which interferes with daily life. Research on stereotypy reduction has indicated the utility of non-contingent Matched Stimulation (MS) over the use of unmatched preferred stimuli (PS), although findings have been mixed. MS is an abolishing operation which decreases stereotypic behavior by replacing it with a more appropriate behavior that provides the same reinforcement, while PS provides highly preferred items whose functions do not compete with stereotypic behavior. This study used a multi-element multiple baseline design across five autistic children (ages 9 – 14 years) to compare the post-intervention effects of a five-minute MS intervention on motor stereotypy to baseline and a five-minute unmatched PS control intervention. There was no clear difference between MS and PS indicative of a post-intervention effect. However, following the MS and PS interventions, two of five participants demonstrated a downward trend in motor stereotypy rates compared to baseline and variability of on-task behaviors. While MS has been proven effective, these findings highlight that access to a preferred stimulus may decrease the occurrence of motor stereotypy and increase on-task behaviors of autistic children.



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