Joel Wright December 10, 2012 SPED 471 Functional Behavior Analysis

Student Description: Thor is a 14-year old, African American male student currently enrolled in the 9th grade at Christmas High School. Thor has a disability label of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and, according to his IEP, he spends between 21%-60% of his school day in a general education setting. His curriculum is currently divided between an academic curriculum and a functional curriculum. He takes grade-level English and math classes in an excluded setting with other students with disabilities, and he has a resource period in the afternoons. He is in inclusive settings in Music, P.E., and Health/Nutrition. He also eats lunch in the cafeteria with his general education peers. Social skills are a major area of concern for Thor. In 2003, a teacher wrote: “Lack of knowledge of personal space and lack of knowledge of social skills causes inappropriate physical aggression and inappropriate verbal remarks.” These issues continue today, although physical aggression is not a high concern, and inappropriate sexual comments and gestures are. A BASC-2 assessment in 2009 identified “externalizing problems.” In middle school, he would expose his genitals to other boys in the bathroom. Thor struggles with certain expressive communication skills, such as initiating and maintaining appropriate conversations, and using language (rather than gestures or noises) to obtain the attention of teachers and peers. He uses a communication book to assist him in initiating and maintaining conversation on preferred topics, such as music, movies, and sports. Thor has very well thought out, definitive plans for his future, including obtaining his commercial driver‟s license, working for and eventually owning a trucking company, and taking acting and drama classes. Target Behaviors: Thor‟s target behavior is making verbal or non-verbal utterances in social situations. The operational definition for these behaviors are, “Thor will make one of several non-verbal sounds with his mouth that include an unvoiced lingual-labial trill (raspberry), a laugh out of context, and a short, shrill yell,” and “Thor will utter a brief, one or two word exclamation in a raised voice without context, e.g., „hello mother,” “yeah, buddy,” or „hey, you!‟” Non-examples include greeting an acquaintance in a semi-formal manner, “Hi, Stephen,” or “Hello, Mr. Wright,” laughing in a contextually appropriate and polite manner, e.g., at a joke, and mumbling or speaking under his breath.

Behavioral Hypothesis: “During recreational or leisure activities, across school environments, including the cafeteria, the gym, and in hallways, Thor will attempt to get the attention of other students by making obscene noises and saying vulgar, sexual phrases, in order to make them laugh or respond to him.”

A-B-C Observations: DATE/TIME/LOCATION ANTECEDENT Oct. 15, 11:14 a.m. Sits down at table cafeteria Eating lunch with friends Other student at table says, “He cussed at me!” 11:21 a.m. Being ignored at lunch. Other student walks past table. Student at table says he likes the band, Daughtery. BEHAVIOR Singing to self Says, “Mr. Wright.” Ignores. Continues eating. Calls out, “Stephen!” (V) CONSEQUENCE NOTES Eats lunch with friends Attention from Mr. Wright Positive attention from Mr. Wright Ignored by student, teacher.

Gives a Attention and thumbs down. laughter from other students at table. Laughing, talking Asks to play Receives iPhone, with peers. with teacher‟s attention. iPhone. Other student Says to Attention from says something student, “Eat other student, incomprehensible. that!” “Ew! No!” Other student Laughter Asks to leave saying, “Ew! (NV) cafeteria. No!” ANTECEDENT Being ignored in classroom while teacher prepares lesson. Other student asks questions of teacher. Talking with peer. Out of seat, offtask. BEHAVIOR Laughs. (NV)

End time: 11:34 a.m.

DATE/TIME/LOCATION Oct. 25, 9:50 a.m., English/ELA (selfcontained) 3rd Hour

CONSEQUENCE NOTES Teacher ignores.

Thor pokes peer. Gets out of seat. Walks out of classroom.

Peer says, “Stop it!” Teacher ignores. Other students laugh.


End time: 10:00 a.m.

DATE/TIME/LOCATIO N Oct. 25, 10:03 a.m.

ANTECEDEN T Does not have


CONSEQUENC E Receives teacher


English/ELA (selfcontained) 3rd Hour

lined paper. Doing individual classwork Doing individual work.

hand. Asks for help. Chatting with peer. Students begin to laugh. (NV) Makes mouth sound. (NV) Laughs (NV)

attention, materials. Receives paraprofessional attention. More laughter, students off-task. Teacher ignores. Peer says, “You disgusting.” Teacher calls on him to answer question about reading. Says, “I don‟t know.” Class ignores.


Paraprofessiona l leaves room.

Doing group work. Continuing group work.

Is work too difficult? SR+? Punishment? Intended punishment?

Continuing group work. Other students off task.

Says, “Excuse me.” (V) Class laughter (NV)

Class resumes group work, engaged in discussion. Thor not participating. Class resumes group work. Peer pokes Thor.

Teacher attends to off-task students, and takes one of them into hallway. Mouth Peers respond SR+ Sound (NV) with laughter, “You‟re nasty!”

Mouth sound (NV) Laughter. (NV)

Peers ignore. Peer continues poking until teacher verbally intervenes. 10:21 a.m. Rate of V+NV = .556/min. (one every two minutes.)

DATE/TIME/LOCATION ANTECEDENT BEHAVIOR CONSEQUENCE NOTES Oct. 30, 11:31 a.m. Not receiving “Hey, Peer Ignore Thor attention from Buddy!” appropriately peers (NV) asked to sit with a new

table at lunch. He received some attention for negative behaviors from peers, but, with teacher coaching, managed to maintain some positive conversation. 11:42 a.m. DATE/TIME/LOCATION ANTECEDENT Nov. 12, 11:03 a.m. Being ignored Cafeteria by peers at lunch table. Teacher walks past lunch table. Peer walks past table. BEHAVIOR Laughs (NV) “Hi, Ms. Jones.” “Hi LeeRay.” CONSEQUENCE NOTES Peers ignore.

Teacher ignore. Peer ignore. Thor is exhibiting positive behaviors, but not being reinforced by them. SR+? 11:09 a.m.

Mr. Wright engages Thor.

Thor asks if I like SpiderMan

Positive conversation.

DATE/TIME/LOCATION ANTECEDENT Nov. 12, 12:40 p.m. Math Independent class 6th Hour math work

BEHAVIOR Asks for help after 9 minutes independent work


CONSEQUENCE NOTES Aide provides Very few assistance. distractors in classroom. Only 1 other student. Asks verbally “Take it one step P?

assistance/ attention from aide Working with aide Receives verbal prompt Teacher gives direct verbal prompt about work assignment Teacher gives direct verbal prompt.

for help.

at a time.”

Looks at aide. (Nonverbally) Mumbles under his breath. Not participating

Receives verbal prompt. “Alright, do the next one.” (i.e., math problem) Teacher repeats prompt with additional directions. Teacher gives praise.


Teacher appears to be using least-tomost. SR+? End Time: 12:59 p.m.

ABC Summary: A-B-C observations resulted in the identification of several recurring elements of Thor‟s behavior. The most striking was the consequence of peer attention acting as a reinforcer for Thor‟s targeted behaviors. Approximately 40% of the time, (on 13 of 32 observed instances), Thor‟s targeted behavior of either making a verbal or a non-verbal utterance was followed by gaining attention from his peers, which led to his repeating the targeted behavior. This led Thor‟s IEP team to formulate the functional behavioral hypothesis that his behavior was being positively reinforced by receiving peer attention. Functional Assessment Interview: I interviewed the Social Worker, Ms. H, at the high school where Thor is a student. Thor currently receives 40 minutes per week of social work. Because of his past behavioral concerns, Thor already has a Behavior Intervention Plan, although it requires numerous updates. In addition, many of his IEP goals are behavior based goals that were written for him while he was in middle school. These include making relevant comments during conversation and independently initiating conversation, as well as having positive interactions with peers, although the nature of those interactions is not specified. The school Social Worker has been working with Thor‟s case manager, his IEP team, and his mother to re-write some of these goals and create a meaningful and functional behavior plan for Thor. 1) In your opinion, what are the highest priority behaviors of Thor‟s to address? a) In Middle School, it was more aggressive, more physical behaviors. He had major problems with sense of space, getting in other people‟s space. There were also sexual behaviors, he would try to touch other students, boys and girls, inappropriately. One time, he exposed himself to a

group of boys in the bathroom. This year, we haven‟t seen as many of those kinds of behaviors, which is a good thing. But we still have some behaviors, like cussing, and saying sexual things to other students. 2) What settings tend to trigger these behaviors the most often? a) I‟m not sure. Off the top of my head, I would say transitions. He has to have an aide with him whenever he is in the hallway between classes. Other than that, I would say classes where the work might be too tough for him, or when he doesn‟t know what to do, like in English or math class. 3) What consequences act as reinforcers for these behaviors? a) He wants to have friends so badly. But most of the other kids, they grew up with him, they‟ve known him for a long time, and they know him as that weird kid, who does weird things and says weird things. So they‟ve learned to avoid him. And the only way he knows to interact with them, to get their attention, is by doing these weird, sometimes gross things. There‟s a shock value in that. 4) What functional alternative behaviors does Thor already know? In group, we work on starting conversations with people we know. For students with autism, one thing that is really hard for them is empathizing with other people, with talking and doing things that they‟re interested in. In Thor‟s case, he loves to talk about Spider-Man, and will do that even if it is clear – or, clear to someone like you or me – that the other person does not want to talk about Spider-Man. In fact, I‟ve actually talked to Thor about this, we call it the “SpiderMan Rule,” that we have to find other things to talk about. Another thing that we talk about in group is the difference between red thoughts and actions and green ones. If we want someone to like us, and to want to talk with us, then we need to “be green,” and when we‟re “red,” that‟s when people have weird thoughts about us, and don‟t want to hang out with us. And I think that Thor gets this, at least sometimes. He can tell me what sorts of things are red and what sorts of things are greens, at least in some cases.

Functional Assessment Observation: (see attached forms) FAO Summary Statement: When in the cafeteria, and when in the presence of familiar adults and peers, Thor will respond to a social demand or request with a cluster of behaviors that include appropriate verbal responses, farting, and non-contextual laughing in order to get or obtain the attention of his peers. Functional assessment observation took place in the cafeteria during the leisure time of lunch. Fourteen different events were observed and recorded. The most common behaviors that were observed during these periods were farting, laughing, and making verbal utterances appropriate to the context, with less frequent instances of the target

behavior of inappropriate verbal utterances. Because these observations were taking place during the third week of November, Thor could use his alternative taught behavior of making appropriate verbal comments rather than making the targeted behavior of inappropriate verbal utterances. Functional Assessment Manipulations: (see attached forms) i. Hypotheses: a) During recreational or leisure activities, across school environments, including the cafeteria, the gym, and in hallways, Thor will attempt to get the attention of other students by making obscene noises and saying vulgar, sexual phrases, in order to make them laugh or respond to him. b) During recreational or leisure activities, across school environments, including the cafeteria, the gym, and in hallways, and when presented with a social demand or request, such as being asked a question, Thor will respond with an inappropriate behavior, including farting, laughing, or making a non-sense sound. ii. Rationale: Hypothesis a) is the stronger of the two hypotheses. It is very strongly supported by data from the A-B-C charts, and is also supported by the FAO data, although to a slightly lesser degree. The A-B-C data strongly supports the belief that Thor‟s target behaviors are reinforced by obtaining attention from his peers and by other preferred individuals. The FAO data gives some credence to hypothesis b), which suggests that Thor may exhibit the target behaviors as an escape from certain social contexts where he does not know how to respond or what precisely is being asked of him. Based on my hypotheses, I would manipulate the antecedents in the settings so that Thor either is or is not receiving the attention of his peers and other individuals in the environment. Hypothesis a) could be confirmed if Thor‟s target behaviors occur with increasing frequency when he does not have access to the attention of his peers. Hypothesis b) could be confirmed if Thor‟s target behaviors iii. Description: In the first FAM, the antecedent being manipulated would be the presence of preferred persons with whom Thor could talk. Because attention would already be being delivered to Thor, hypothetically this would reduce the desire for him to engage in the targeted, inappropriate, attention-seeking behaviors. In the second FAM, the consequence manipulated would be whether or not Thor receives attention for his behaviors. Attention would only be given to Thor through appropriate social interactions, and any engaging on his part on of inappropriate social interactions would be ignored. Hypothetically, this should decrease the rate of inappropriate behaviors and increase the

rate of appropriate behaviors, because it would make the desired behaviors a more effective means for Thor to obtain his desired consequence of attention. iv. Implementation: I implemented the FAM to test hypothesis a) from December 5 – December 6 . When Thor was receiving attention in the form of social conversation, his instances of verbal and non-verbal utterances was very low. I took data in event recording form on a 5-minute time interval procedure, and Thor averaged 1.5 non-verbal utterances per 5-minute interval and 0 verbal utterances per 5-minute interval. During the intervals when the antecedents were set for Thor to receive no attention for either acceptable or inappropriate behaviors, his rate of non-verbal utterances raised to 2.6 instances per five-minute interval and 0.6 verbal utterances per fiveminute interval.
4.5 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Non-Verbal Verbal

Preference Assessment: i. Interview – In multiple interviews with Thor, I discussed with him what his preferred topics of conversation and activities were. I divided his responses into the two broad categories, with the entries in each category based on how Thor himself ranked his preferences, and with the frequency with which he would bring them up in daily conversation. ii. Hierarchy: Topics Spider-Man Rap music, esp. Nicki Minaj Transformers Cities he has visited Semi-trucks Activities Going out to eat, esp. Chinese food and BBQ Writing rap lyrics Riding the MTD bus Watching music videos on YouTube Playing basketball

Data Collection: Event Recording Rationale: Because the behaviors targeted are discrete and my objective is to decrease their frequency, I opted for an event recording data collection method. This proved to be highly effective and an easy way to collect data. In addition, it made inter-observer agreement more effective, and was easy to train other staff members in its use. I also added a time interval element in order to have a better picture of the topography of the behavior. Data See attached Inter-Observer Agreement: (see attached forms) i. Inter-Observer Agreement was collected during consecutive sessions in a leisure setting, the cafeteria at lunch. Two observers were used, each using an event recording method to record DJ‟s two behaviors, verbal utterances and non-verbal utterances. Data sheets were designed to divide recordings into five-minute intervals. ii. Inter-observer agreement on non-verbal utterances was 66% (6/9) for one observation and 100% (5/5) for the second. Total inter-observer agreement for non-verbal utterances was 78% (11/14). Interval event recording agreement for non-verbal utterances, however was 100%, with agreement that the behavior occurred or did not occur in 12 out of 12 time intervals. Unfortunately there was little agreement on verbal utterances, with inter-observer agreement for both sessions on 8 of 12 events, for an inter-observer agreement rate of 67%. This suggests that the operational definition for non-verbal utterances ought to be refined. References: Neitzel, J. (2010) Positive behavior supports for children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Preventing School Failure, 54(4), 247-255. The author discusses ways in which the use of positive behavior supports can reduce the rates of undesirable behaviors in students with autism spectrum disorders, including repetitive, stereotypical, and disruptive behaviors. The author recommends a tiered instructional approach that emphasizes prevention of problem behaviors. Specifically, she provides many evidencebased practices and strategies for teaching communication and social skills to students with ASD, including peer-mediated instruction, naturalistic interventions, and social-skill groups. She also supports using antecedent-based interventions to affect the environment in which the student is learning. Sharma, R.N., Singh, S., and Geromette, J. (2008) Positive behavior support strategies for young children with severe disruptive behavior. The Journal of the International Association of Special Education, 9(1), 117-125.

The authors provide a rationale for using a variety of behavioral strategies for students with disruptive behaviors, including self-injurious and aggressive behavior. They also outline several methods and procedures for helping to develop intervention strategies. These include using antecedent prevention strategies, providing long term supports, and providing routine and reliable schedules for students to follow. Wei, X., and Marder, C. (2012) Self-concept development of students with disabilities: Disability category, gender, and racial differences from early elementary to high school. Remedial and Special Education, 33(4), 247-257. The authors conducted a research on students with disabilities and their differences in selfconcept along the lines of race, gender, and disability. The authors found that, through a longitudinal study, students with autism were far less likely to have developed self-confidence in the areas of academics, social interactions, or overall self-confidence than their non-disabled peers. In addition, they found that all of these levels decline in students with disabilities as they enter adolescence, and they claim that it is important for students with disabilities to have confidence in themselves and positive self-concepts in order to be successful both academically and socially. Wolfe, P.S., Condo, B., and Hardaway, E. (2009) Sociosexuality education for persons with autism spectrum disorders using principles of applied behavior analysis. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42 (1), 50-61. The authors identify four different strategies for teaching social skills and sexual safety to students with ASD. These include video modeling, visual strategies, social scripts, and task analyses. One specific intervention that they recommend is using social scripts with students with ASD to help them generalize social skills by first identifying a past social interaction that was successful, and applying that lesson to different contexts. Other content areas that the authors address include reproductive rights, health and hygiene, relationships, and self-advocacy. Intervention Program: Antecedent-based intervention: Using social scripts and placement with preferred conversation partners to increase appropriate social interactions during recreational and leisure times. Annual Goal: During social and leisure times across school environments (cafeteria, gym, classroom, and hallway), Thor will use his conversation notebook to initiate conversations with preferred individuals – either peers or adults – maintaining on topic conversation for at least five turns. He will successfully accomplish this at least once per day for five consecutive days. Antecedent manipulated: Presence of preferred conversation partner Alternative skill taught: On topic conversations

Rationale: Thor needs a more effective and efficient way to obtain the attention and the social approval of his peers in recreational and leisure settings. By manipulating his environment to give him more access to preferred persons, and by pre-teaching appropriate conversation skills, it will become more effective for him to use these behaviors to obtain the attention of others than by engaging in inappropriate behaviors. In the future, this intervention ought to be implemented across multiple environments, including classrooms and during transitions. Hypothesis: During recreational or leisure activities, across school environments, including the cafeteria, the gym, and in hallways, Thor will attempt to get the attention of other students by making obscene noises and saying vulgar, sexual phrases, in order to make them laugh or respond to him. Reinforcement: Access to preferred topics, activities, and people Data collection: Event recording Instruction: When in recreational or leisure settings, Thor will use his conversation notebook to initiate appropriate conversations with his peers. In the cafeteria, during lunch, he will sit with peers who he knows, and with whom he knows that he has shared interests as listed in his conversation book, such as music, movies, and career interests. Thor will then select an appropriate topic from his book and initiate conversation, for example, by saying: “Jason, I would like to talk to you about Nicki Minaj.” Thor will then follow the social script that he has practiced and that is written down for him in his conversation book in order to continue the conversation in an on-topic manner, for at least five turn per person. After the conversation has concluded, Thor may select a different topic and a different conversation partner. He will successfully accomplish this task at least once per day for five consecutive days. Consequence-based intervention: Positive behavior support Objective: Providing Thor with positive reinforcement for appropriate social interactions, and extinguishing his inappropriate behaviors by ignoring them and not giving him attention. Consequence manipulated: Responses to Thor‟s inappropriate behaviors Rationale: According to the vast majority of the data, Thor‟s inappropriate behaviors are being reinforced through the obtaining of the attention of his peers, even if it is negative in nature, such as their recoiling from him or insulting him. His inappropriate behaviors ought to be extinguished so that they are no longer effective at garnering him attention. Instructional methods: During recreational or social activities in the gym, cafeteria, or classroom, Thor will receive positive reinforcement from peers and staff members for engaging in appropriate social interactions. Reinforcement can be in the forms of verbal praise, or shared activities, such as listening to music or playing a game. If Thor engages in either verbal or non-

verbal inappropriate behaviors, then staff will ignore him and redirect their attentions elsewhere. If behavior persists, staff can attempt to redirect Thor to use his conversation notebook, or to behave in a “green,” appropriate manner. However, only acceptable behaviors ought to be responded to with attention and praise.
1.6 1.4 1.2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 V Rate Per Minute NV Rate Per Minute

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