1 Proceedings of UHCL Student Research Projects 1 (2009) 1 - 7 Functional Analysis and Treatment of Attention-Maintained Elopement in Children with Autism and Downs Syndrome Using Discriminative Stimuli Tesa Sansbury, Amber Sanchez, and Pamela Jones University of Houston-Clear Lake Abstract Elopement is a dangerous behavior demonstrated by some individuals with developmental disabilities. Previous studies on the treatment of elopement have focused on the use of noncontingent reinforcement (NCR), punishment (Kodak, Grow & Northup, 2004), and functional communication training (FCT) (Piazza et al., 1997; Tarbox Wallace & Williams, 2003).The examination of the use of discriminative stimuli combined with extinction and response blocking is absent within the literature. We conducted functional analyses of problem behavior demonstrated by two males, both diagnosed with Autism and one with a co-morbid Downs Syndrome diagnosis. It was determined that elopement behaviors were sensitive to care provider reprimands. Subsequent treatments consisted of S-Deltas in the form of unique cards combined with a locked door and the removal of staff attention. Results indicated that both participants attempted to elope less often in the presence of the S-Delta. Implications and ideas for further consideration are discussed. Elopement demonstrated by individuals with disabilities is a dangerous behavior placing restrictions upon an individual’s life and reducing one’s autonomy. It is estimated that approximately 4.9% of individuals out of a population of 30,000 individuals with developmental disabilities engage in elopement that places their lives at risk (Jacobson, 1982). In spite of large numbers of individuals demonstrating this problem, relatively little attention has been given to the behavior in the research literature. Recently, studies have examined more effective ways of determining the function of elopement through the refinement of functional analysis procedures (Piazza, Hanley, Bowman, Ruyter, Lindauer, & Saiontz, 1997). Likewise, the use of punishment in the form of verbal reprimands paired with discriminative stimuli (i.e. wristband) has also been demonstrated to completely reduce eye poking maintained by automatic reinforcement in one participant (McKenzie, Smith, Simmons, & Soderlund, 2008). Other studies have examined the efficacy of function-based interventions, such as noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) and differential reinforcement (e.g., Kodak, Grow & Northup, 2004). For example, in Piazza et al. (1997), the authors demonstrated the utility of functional analysis procedures and unique discriminative stimuli (i.e. brightly colored cards) to signal reinforcement was available for staying in a designated area. After the function of elopement was determined for all three participants, the authors taught each participant to touch a card to receive the reinforcer that had previously maintained elopement (i.e., attention or delivery of highly preferred edibles). During treatment, the authors delivered the reinforcer(s) indicated by the participant when the card was touched on various schedules resulting in a decrease in elopement across participants. In a study conducted by Tarbox, Wallace and Williams (2003), the experimenters extended the methods of Piazza et al., (1997) to assess and treat the elopement of three developmentally disabled individuals using functional communication training and NCR. Results of the assessment indicated that elopement was maintained by access to tangible items (i.e., access to a toy store and delivery of highly preferred edible items) for two individuals. One individual’s elopement was maintained by access to adult attention in the form of reprimand. Upon successful card exchange demonstrated by the participants, they were given access to the item, preferred activity, or 30-s of care provider attention resulting in a reduction in elopement across all participants. Although these findings are noteworthy, the studies contained some limitations. With the exception of one study, attention was delivered in varying degrees contingent on the elopement. For instance, physical redirection back to the designated area was used even when elopement occurred within a controlled environment (Piazza et al., 1997; Tarbox 2 T. Sansbury et al. / Proceedings of UHCL Student Research Projects 1 (2009) 1 – 7 et al., 2003; Kodak et. al., 2004). Severe elopement places an individual at risk and often cannot be ignored. This may be problematic when treating elopement that is maintained by care provider reprimands. Likewise, with the exception of the study conducted by McKenzie et al., (2008), generalization of the treatment to other settings was not included in any of the studies. Although the reduction of the behavior within the setting wherein it normally occurs is noteworthy, the inclusion of other settings would be an important addition to the literature. Strategies are needed for reducing the likelihood that elopement will occur outside of the treatment setting where it is likely to contact maintaining reinforcers (e.g., attention from others). One possible solution is to establish discriminative control over the behavior in the treatment setting and then transfer this control to the generalization settings. Previous research suggests that the utilization of discriminative stimuli may be effective in reducing aberrant responding maintained by adult attention (Cammilleri, Tiger, & Hanley, 2008; Tiger, Hanley & Heal, 2006). For example, Cammilleri et al. demonstrated stimulus control utilizing discriminative stimuli in conjunction with a multiple-schedule procedure. Three classrooms, each staffed with two teachers, were examined. The authors established discriminative stimuli in the form of various colored leis worn by instructors to signal to children when attention was and was not available. Results showed a decrease in student attempts to gain instructor attention across classrooms when attention was unavailable. As it may be possible to establish discriminative control over an individual’s behavior and transfer it to a generalization setting, the following study sought to examine the use of a discriminative stimulus to signal that reinforcement in the form of care provider reprimand or physical contact was not available (i.e., an S-Delta). It was hypothesized that elopement attempts would be reduced by pairing a distinct stimulus with the removal of attention paired with a locked door. Finally, it was hypothesized that elopement responses would remain low across generalization settings once the discriminative stimuli were introduced into those settings. Methods Participants and Settings Two students were chosen for participation because their teachers reported that they frequently eloped from designated multiple areas throughout the day. Informal observations conducted prior to the study suggested that the elopement was maintained by attention from teachers in the form of verbal reprimands, chasing, and/or physical contact when blocking or redirecting. James was a 7-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He had an IQ of 76. He had been observed to elope at a high rate from multiple areas of his school building, often placing him at high risk of injury (i.e., he ran to major highways). Jonathan was a 7-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with Downs Syndrome, autism, mental retardation, visual impairment, ADHD, and sensory integration disorder. He had an IQ of 23. Jonathan had been observed to attempt to elope at a high rate from the classroom and on the playground. An interview of the staff and parents revealed he had also tried to elope from other doors at his school and at home. For James, training settings consisted of three sets of windowed, doubled-doors exits leading to the outside of the school. Generalization probes were conducted with similar doors in the cafeteria and gymnasium. A functional analysis of elopement was not conducted for James (see results and discussion for further detail). A functional analysis of Jonathan’s elopement was conducted in an unfurnished, empty classroom consisting of one exit. An empty classroom with one door was used during training sessions. Generalization probes were conducted at one gated exit on the school playground and one exit out of the cafeteria doors leading to an interior hallway. Response Measurement Elopement for James was defined as the placement of the hands on the bar of the door and pressing of the bar. Interior elopement was measured to determine if the participant would begin allocating responding to elopement behavior within the building (i.e., away from care providers) but not through doors. Interior elopement was defined as movement out of the 8 ft circumference in front of the door and attempts to run from staff in the hall. Jonathan’s elopement was defined as the placement of his hand on the classroom door handle combined with the opening (in baseline conditions) or effortful pulling (in Sconditions) of the door Internal elopement was defined as any movement out of a 15 ft radius from the experimenter. During baseline and treatment for both participants, frequency data were collected on elopement using paper and pencil. These data were expressed as the percentage of opportunities in which elopement occurred per session. Each session was comprised of three distinct opportunities to elope. During baseline sessions, an opportunity was defined as the removal of staff attention after noncontingent attention for a designated interval and the initiation of an interval wherein all problem behavior was ignored with the exception of elopement. During treatment sessions, an opportunity was defined as the removal of staff attention after noncontingent attention for a designated interval and the initiation of an interval wherein attempts to elope through S- doors were ignored. Upon conclusion of the full opportunity interval, the participants were given noncontingent attention again to reset the next opportunity to elope. This occurred three times per session. During the functional analysis of James’s and Jonathan’s problem behavior, the frequency of problem behavior or elopement attempts were collected across 10- 3 T. Sansbury et al. / Proceedings of UHCL Student Research Projects 1 (2009) 1 - 7 min sessions, and the response per minute of aberrant responding was the dependent variable examined. Interobserver Agreement Interobserver agreement (IOA) was obtained for a mean of 52% across all treatment sessions by trained paraprofessionals or graduate students using pencil and specially prepared data collection sheets. IOA was collected for 42% of James’s functional analysis sessions using Instant Data 1.0 on a laptop and hand-held computer. IOA was collected on 29% of Jonathan’s functional analysis sessions using specifically prepared data collection sheets. Sessions were divided into 10-s consecutive intervals to compare the two observers’ records and agreement was determined by examination of the corresponding intervals. The observers independently recorded their respective observations but were not be able to see each others’ recordings. For all functional analyses, an exact measure was calculated as the number of 10-s intervals with agreement divided by the total number of intervals multiplied by 100. An agreement consisted of both observers independently recording the presence or absence of elopement within a 10-s interval. A disagreement consisted of only one observer recording the presence of the behavior. Mean agreements for James’s and Jonathan’s functional analyses were 93% (range, 83.9%-96.8%) and 98.5%% (range, 96.6%-100%). Mean agreements for James’ and Jonathan’s treatment sessions were 98% (range, 83%-100%) and 98.8% (range, 0-100%). Procedure Functional analysis. A functional analysis of James’s problem behavior was conducted in his classroom prior to his inclusion in this study. A functional analysis of elopement was not conducted due to the large size of the participant, the severity of the behavior, and available staff needed to secure his safety during assessment. Prior to his inclusion in the study, a brief functional analysis of problem behavior revealed James demonstrated some sensitivity to attention as a maintaining reinforcer for aberrant responding. Direct observation of elopement attempts and subsequent staff interactions led us to believe elopement was maintained by attention as he was often observed to turn and laugh to see if staff were chasing him. A multielement design across conditions was conducted (Iwata et al., 1982). During the play condition, the participant was seated on the floor of his workspace with moderately preferred toys. Noncontingent attention was delivered approximately every 10-s, and problem behavior produced no consequences. In the demand condition, low preference academic tasks were delivered using a three-step prompting sequence. If the student failed to initiate the task within 5-s, the paraprofessional serving as the therapist initiated a gestural model. A full physical prompt was implemented if the student failed to engage in the desired task. Problem behavior resulted in removal of task materials and a 30-s break. During the attention condition, the participant was seated on the floor with moderately preferred items. The therapist instructed the participant that she was busy and had work to do. She then removed attention and began reading a magazine. Attention in the form of verbal reprimand and physical redirection back to his designated area from the paraprofessional was delivered for 30-s contingent upon demonstration of problem behavior. A tangible condition was conducted as staff and care providers reported problem behavior occurred when access to highly preferred toy items or activities was restricted. During the tangible condition, the participant was allowed access to a highly preferred leisure item for 30-s and then the item was removed. Contingent upon aggression or disruption, the item was redelivered for another 30-s. A functional analysis of elopement was conducted for Jonathan by the first two authors to determine if attention served as the reinforcer maintaining this behavior. All sessions were 10 min in length and rotated using a multielement design (Iwata et al, 1982). In the play condition, the student was seated with the primary experimenter, and the participant was engaged with moderately preferred toys. Noncontingent attention was delivered to the student approximately every 10-s, and problem behavior was ignored. Attempts to elope from the room were blocked by the experimenter by turning her back to the participant and placing her body between the door and the participant, but no verbal attention was delivered. The participant was physically guided back to the play area without verbal attention or eye contact. During the contingent attention condition, the participant was seated with the same toys. Problem behavior other than elopement was ignored. Attention in the form of verbal reprimand, physical contact, and redirection back to the play area was delivered for 10-s contingent upon elopement Baseline. For James, baseline sessions were comprised of three 30-s opportunities to elope. Prior to initiation of the session, the participant was directed to an area 6 ft-8 ft directly in front of a door leading to the outside of the school building at one of the three training sites. The experimenter removed attention from the student for 30-s. All problem behavior was ignored during this interval. Elopement attempts resulted in 10-s of attention in the form of a verbal reprimand and physical attention. The primary experimenter blocked the participant’s path if he attempted to elope to another area (i.e., hallway), and refrained from eye contact while redirecting the student back to the radius until the full interval elapsed. The student was then directed to the next training area. Three opportunities to elope were presented to the student at three different exits around the building per session. If the participant did not attempt to press the door within an opportunity, no attention was delivered and staff directed the student to the next training area. During baseline sessions Jonathan was seated on the floor with moderately preferred toy items in front of him. 4 T. Sansbury et al. / Proceedings of UHCL Student Research Projects 1 (2009) 1 – 7 After 1 min of play with the primary experimenter, attention was removed from the participant for up to 6 min. Attempts to elope resulted in 1 min of verbal reprimand and physical contact. The student was redirected back to the floor to play, and the experimenter continued the cycle until three possible attempts to elope within the specified interval occurred. If the student did not elope within the 6 min interval, the experimenter ended the opportunity and engaged the participant in another 1 min of play. Upon the conclusion of the interval, attention was again removed and the next opportunity to elope was initiated. S-Delta (S-). S-Delta sessions were comprised of three opportunities to elope per session utilizing the same doors as in baseline. Sessions were randomly alternated with baseline conditions once stable responding in baseline occurred. For training sessions with James, all training doors were blocked from the outside and a red card was placed at eye level on the opposite side of the glass. As in baseline, the experimenter led the student to the training area in front of the door and removed attention for 30-s. Attempts to elope through the door were ignored, but the experimenter pointed to the red card. Other forms of problem behavior were ignored (i.e., yelling or screaming did not result in verbal reprimand). Attempts to elope from the training area to other areas of the school were blocked by placement of the experimenter’s or paraprofessional’s body between the participant and the area outlying the radius. If the participant did not attempt to press the door in the S-Delta condition, 10-s of attention in the form of praise and physical contact was delivered, and the student was verbally redirected to the next site. The process continued until all three doors had been visited. During the S-Delta condition for Jonathan, the experimenter was seated with the participant in the same location as in baseline and engaged the student with moderately preferred toys for 1 min at the initiation of the session. A brightly colored, yellow and fluorescent pink card was placed at eye level directly under the door handle of a locked door. After the 1 min play interval elapsed, the experimenter removed attention for up to 6 min. Attempts to elope did not result in the delivery of attention, verbal reprimand or physical contact and the experimenter pointed to the brightly colored stimuli. If the student did not elope within the interval, the experimenter re-initiated a play interval and removed attention again. This occurred until three opportunities to elope had been completed. Mass Trial Sessions. The training procedures were altered for Jonathan when he seemed to have trouble acquiring the discrimination. Single trials under the baseline and S-Delta conditions were rapidly but randomly alternated within a multielement design. The number of trials conducted during each session varied depending upon the availability of the participant on a given day. Each opportunity began with a 1 min interval of play followed by the removal of attention and the initiation of a 6 min interval. During a baseline opportunity, an elopement attempt resulted in 1 min of verbal reprimand, physical redirection and direction back to the play area. During an S – opportunity, elopement attempts did not result in attention and the re-initiation of the 1 min play interval occurred after the full 6 min interval had elapsed. Generalization. Generalization probes were conducted for each participant in settings where staff had reported previous attempts to elope. These probes were conducted prior to and following training. James’s generalization probes were conducted in the cafeteria and in the school gymnasium. The student was led to each of the exits and the session was run as in baseline. Jonathan’s generalization probes were held on the playground and in the cafeteria. The primary experimenter led the participant to an area approximately 8 ft from a playground exit. The primary investigator initiated a 1 min interval of play using the same leisure items used in baseline and S- conditions with the participant and then removed attention as in baseline sessions. If the participant attempted to open the door the experimenter delivered a verbal reprimand and physical contact and redirected the participant back to the play area. This cycle was repeated until three opportunities to elope had been presented. Upon separation in the data path between S- and baseline conditions, additional generalization probes were conducted. Participants were placed in their relative areas and S- conditions were conducted with blocked doors. Upon 3 consecutive sessions wherein the student did not attempt to elope, the doors were then unblocked and the stimuli left in place. The stimuli were faded by ¼ for each 5 sessions that were conducted in the absence of elopement. Experimental Design. The effects of discrimination training were evaluated in a combined multielement and multiple baseline design. Results Figure 1 displays the functional analysis results for James. It may be noted that the response per minute of problem behavior was sensitive to escape from task demands, attention and access to tangible items (attention; M = .93; escape; M = .86; tangible delivery; M = 1.2). Because of the severity of aggression demonstrated by the participant, the analysis was terminated prematurely. Informal observations of actual elopement attempts and staff availability led to the decisions not to conduct a functional analysis of elopement. However, because aberrant responding in the initial analysis seemed to be somewhat sensitive to attention and direct observation of numerous elopement attempts yielded the conclusion that attention was the maintaining reinforcer for the response, a treatment designed around this function was implemented. Functional analysis results for Jonathan (see bottom panel, Figure 1) indicate a sensitivity to care provider reprimand delivered contingent upon elopement (contingent attention; M = 2.2; control; M =.06). 5 T. Sansbury et al. / Proceedings of UHCL Student Research Projects 1 (2009) 1 - 7 2.5 Response per Minute 2 Play 1.5 Attention Demand 1 Tangible 0.5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Session Elopement per Minute 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 Play 0.4 Contingent Attention 0.3 0.2 0.1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Session Figure 1. Functional analysis results for James (top panel) and Jonathan (bottom panel). Figure 2 displays the percentage of opportunities James tried to elope during sessions. Baseline responding maintained at a relatively high percentage of opportunities across sessions (M = 87%) relative to S – sessions (M = 26%). Across conditions, elopement eventually reduced across settings and therapists to 0 attempts once the Scondition was introduced. Likewise, for Jonathan, elopement maintained during baseline sessions (M = 98%) while decreasing during the S- sessions (M = 31%). Elopement attempts during the S- condition were completely eliminated once mass trials were initiated. Generalization to the playground and cafeteria settings were not accomplished within the first presentation of the card but stimulus control over elopement behavior was obtained within three training sessions. Discussion The results suggest elopement attempts significantly decreased across participants and settings in the presence of the S-Delta. There are numerous implications of the results of this study. As the literature examining methods for the reduction of elopement have consisted of punishment or reinforcement, a method utilizing discriminative stimuli may be more easily applied by classroom staff and care providers once initial training has been completed. If the simple placement of a unique card on various doors of a participant’s environment reduced elopement attempts, staff and care providers may find this to be a more desirable alternative to having to implement a dense reinforcement schedule or the use of punishment as seen in previous research. Generalization to other areas of the student’s surroundings may also be accomplished more easily by staff members once initial training has been conducted. Likewise, if desirable results utilizing a discriminative stimulus are obtained, favorable results may be obtained across care providers as the card would serve to control student behavior and not the integrity with which staff implement a reinforcement or punishment contingency as seen in previous research. It is hypothesized James demonstrated an overall extinction effect of elopement across baseline and S-Delta conditions. During the course of treatment, staff reported James continued to elope out of session (i.e. on the 6 T. Sansbury et al. / Proceedings of UHCL Student Research Projects 1 (2009) 1 – 7 Mass T rial S-Delta T raining 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Baseline S Delta Cafeteria Playgrd Playgrd S- Training Baseline 113 Session Sdelta + Ext 106 99 92 85 78 71 64 57 50 43 36 29 15 8 Cafeteria S- 1 Percent Baseline 22 Baseline 100 baseline Percent 80 Sdelta 60 Elopement out of other area P.E. 40 20 Cafeteria Session 57 2. 49 45 41 37 33 29 25 21 17 13 9 5 1 0 Para Baseline Para Cafeteria Figure 2. Percentage of opportunities eloped per session for James (top panel) and Jonathan (bottom panel). playground) even though he no longer attempted within session. This reduction in attempts with sessions across treatment settings could be attributed to the participant’s higher level of cognitive functioning relative to the other participant. It is hypothesized James simply learned that if he waited long enough, a situation would arise out of training sessions wherein he could run and gain high quality attention from care providers due to the nature of the setting (i.e., recess) as care providers reported attempts to run out of session even though an overall reduction of elopement within session occurred. It is also hypothesized that attention delivered contingent upon elopement behaviors in baseline sessions for James was less desirable than the invivo attention delivered when the participant actually eloped out of session. Successful elopement attempts outside of sessions generally produced long periods of attention as staff redirected the student back to the school building. This could explain why elopement may have extinguished during sessions but maintained outside of treatment sessions. A more parsimonious explanation for the decrease in elopement across conditions demonstrated by James may be because the response never came under the control of the SDelta stimuli and that he failed to discriminate between the two conditions. However, during treatment sessions James would frequently ask the experimenters to remove the cards so he could leave the building when his father came to pick him up from school. Likewise, when he observed baseline doors, he would tell experimenters and school staff not to put the card in place so he could leave or so that his parents could enter the building. This would suggest James did acquire the discrimination between conditions but that differential responding was not captured within treatment sessions. Jonathan took much longer to discriminate between baseline and S-Delta conditions than James. During baseline and S-Delta training sessions, every attempt was made to block the light switches next to the training door. If the participant was able to tear off the heavy tape restricting access to the switches, the experimenter would physically block the participant from reaching the lights by placing her hand over the light switch plate and turning her face from Jonathan. It is possible that this served as a form of attention and increased the duration of training making discrimination between conditions more difficult. Once light switch play was no longer blocked, a rapid discrimination between conditions was obtained. These events may be important to 7 T. Sansbury et al. / Proceedings of UHCL Student Research Projects 1 (2009) 1 - 7 control in future training sessions wherein it may be necessary to examine all methods of possible attention that may hinder discrimination between conditions for participants. As in this case, even a small amount of attention may have dramatically increased the duration of training. One limitation of the study is that although a functional analysis of problem behavior was conducted for James, no functional analysis of elopement behavior was conducted. Although his aberrant behavior was shown to be sensitive to attention, it is possible elopement was maintained by another consequence. Due to the severity of the individual’s elopement at the time of the study, an actual functional analysis of elopement was not considered feasible. Likewise, as elopement can be an extremely dangerous behavior, it is possible students may successfully elope from the training setting before staff are able to block, placing participants at risk for injury during training sessions. Although an overall reduction in elopement attempts occurred when S-Delta stimuli were added to conditions, the treatment did not address elopement in areas where the response cannot be blocked or ignored (i.e., mall). Further research should examine safer treatment options for the reduction of elopement behavior through the use of discriminative stimuli to reduce elopement attempts in an effort to keep individuals close to care providers. Although no reliable data were collected on elopement attempts out of session, further research should examine ways to effectively reduce elopement attempts demonstrated by participants outside of sessions during treatment as this places individuals at increased risk. The results of the present study suggest the use of SDelta stimuli indicating the maintaining reinforcer is not available for elopement attempts maintained by attention may offer a practical and way to reduce elopement. However, given the limitations mentioned, further study should be conducted to increase the autonomy and safety of these individuals. 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