Using Aberrant Behaviors as Reinforcers for Autistic Children

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Psychology (CMC)

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In a series of experiments, we assessed the efficacy of using autistic children's aberrant behaviors as reinforcers to increase their correct task responding. In Experiment 1, reinforcer conditions of stereotypy, food, and varied (food or stereotypy) were compared. In Experiment 2, the conditions were delayed echolalia, food, and varied (food or delayed echolalia), and in Experiment 3, perseverative behavior was compared with stereotypy and food as potential reinforcers. A multielement design was used for all comparisons, and side-effect measures were recorded during and after teaching sessions as well as at home. Results indicated that, in general, task performance was highest when brief opportunities to engage in aberrant behaviors were provided as reinforcers. Edibles were associated with the lowest performance. Furthermore, no negative side effects (e.g., an increase in aberrant behaviors) occurred. The results are discussed in terms of suggesting a more pragmatic treatment approach by addressing the contingent use of autistic children's aberrant behaviors as reinforcers.

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© 1990 Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

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