Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Emily Jones

Committee Members

Joshua Jessel

Patricia D'Ateno

Robert LaRue

Debra Paone

Subject Categories

Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Mental Disorders | Other Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health

Keywords

autism, problem behavior, intellectual disability, applied behavior analysis, functional analysis, functional communication

Abstract

Problematic behaviors, such as self-injurious behavior or aggression, demonstrated by adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), create many significant life complications, some life-threatening. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is established as an evidence-based approach to treat problem behavior for children with ASD and shows promise as an effective treatment for adults, yet little research has been conducted within the adult population. Assessment and treatment of problem behavior with adults is often challenging due to funding limitations, increased severity and complexity of problem behavior, and underqualified staff. The purpose of the present study was to overcome these challenges by (1) identifying a functional assessment method that is effective, efficient, and socially valid, (2) evaluating the efficacy of treatment involving reinforcer parameter manipulation in functional communication training without extinction (extinction not often being feasible with adults due to increased severity of problem behavior), and (3) evaluating a novel efficient approach to effectively train staff to ensure correct treatment implementation. Results of the current study demonstrated an effective and efficient assessment and treatment option for adults with ASD and the need for ABA services through adulthood. The successful treatment of problem behavior for these adults with ASD has broad impacts such as improvement in quality of life, safety, health, and community opportunities.

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