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Title page for ETD etd-11302010-172507

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Robertson, Rachel Elizabeth
Author's Email Address rachel.robertson@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-11302010-172507
Title Increased Parent Reinforcement of Existing Mands in Children with Autism: Effects on Problem Behavior
Degree PhD
Department Special Education
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dr. Joseph Wehby Committee Chair
Dr. Craig Kennedy Committee Member
Dr. Frank Symons Committee Member
Dr. Mark Wolery Committee Member
Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter Committee Member
  • problem behavior
  • autism
  • mands
  • response class
  • early childhood
Date of Defense 2010-11-29
Availability unrestricted
Previous studies of response classes in children and adults with developmental disabilities have shown that continuous reinforcement of mild problem behavior or precursor behavior (innocuous behaviors that reliably precede the occurrence of problem behavior) often precludes or decreases demonstrations of functionally equivalent severe problem behavior, even when severe problem behavior continues to produce reinforcement. The purpose of this study was to expand such examinations to the effects of reinforcing existing mands functionally equivalent to problem behavior. First, parent-implemented functional analyses identified conditions associated with both increased problem behavior and increased mands in two children with autism. Then, parents provided the maintaining reinforcer contingent on child problem behavior alone or both child problem behavior and child mands in an A-B-A-B withdrawal design. The treatment analysis indicated that the same reinforcer maintained existing mands and problem behavior. In addition, parent reinforcement of child mands was associated with large reductions in child problem behavior even when problem behavior continued to produce reinforcement. Future research should investigate functional relations between existing mands and problem behavior in other children with autism, and examine whether interventions targeting functionally equivalent existing mands may effectively reduce problem behavior in this population.
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