FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS AND TREATMENT OF SELF-INJURY ASSOCIATED WITH TRANSITIONS

Authors


Psychology Department, The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.

Abstract

We applied functional analysis methodology to the assessment and treatment of 2 individuals' self-injurious behavior (SIB), which was reported to be occasioned by transitions from one activity or location to another. A structural (task) analysis of activity transitions identified at least three separate components that might influence behavior either alone or in combination: (a) termination of a prechange activity, (b) initiation of a postchange activity, and (c) movement from one location to another. Results of preference and avoidance assessments were used to identify activities to which participants were exposed in varying arrangements during transitions in a functional analysis. Results of 1 participant's functional analysis indicated that his SIB was maintained by avoidance of having to change locations, regardless of the activity terminated prior to the change or the activity initiated following it. The 2nd participant's analysis revealed the same function but also an additional one: avoidance of certain task initiations. This information was used to identify transition contexts during intervention and to design treatment procedures appropriate for a given context and behavioral function. A procedure involving advance notice of an upcoming transition had no effect on SIB, and differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA) had limited effects in the absence of extinction. Sustained decreases in SIB were observed when DRA was combined with extinction and response blocking. Further extensions of functional analysis methodology to the assessment of problem behavior in situations characterized by multiple or protracted stimulus changes are discussed.

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