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Keywords:

  • differential reinforcement;
  • DRO;
  • functional analysis;
  • self-injurious behavior;
  • side effects;
  • stereotypic behavior

A three-part controlled case study is presented in which severe and longstanding self-injurious behavior exhibited by a 9-year-old-boy was treated successfully with differential reinforcement of other behavior. In Phase 1, an experimental analysis demonstrated that the boy's scratching was not maintained by environmental contingencies; instead, it appeared that the self-injurious behavior was a stereotypic (automatically reinforced) response. In Phase 2, the effects of an escalating differential-reinforcement-of-other-behavior schedule mediated through token reinforcement (pennies) were evaluated in a reversal design. Results showed that differential-reinforcement-of-other-behavior eliminated self-injurious behavior very quickly and for periods of time as long as 30 min. A noteworthy side effect observed during Phase 2 was the occurrence of crying behavior following the nondelivery of reinforcement. In Phase 3, the token program was gradually extended in 30-min increments throughout the day. Additionally, results of a brief multielement manipulation showed that the effects of token reinforcement were superior to those of a more easily administered differential reinforcement of other behavior based on social reinforcement, which differed little from baseline.