Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) often exhibit challenging behavior, such as aggression and self-injury. In studies of children with other types of developmental disabilities, attention or escape from demands more often maintains challenging behavior. Less is known about the operant function of challenging behavior in children with ASDs.
The aim of this study was to analyze the function of challenging behaviors in 10 children with ASDs or pervasive developmental disorders—not otherwise specified. Researchers assessed each child across five conditions (attention, escape, tangible, alone, and play). Researchers presented each condition 8 to 10 times in a multielement design and recorded the percentage of 10-second intervals of challenging behavior. The results showed that automatic reinforcement maintained challenging behavior for 8 of the 10 children and that multiple sources of reinforcement maintained challenging behavior for the other 2 children. The overall findings differ from the results of studies on children with other types of developmental disabilities, suggesting the possibility of a characteristically more nonsocial function to the challenging behavior of children with ASDs.
O’Reilly, M., Rispoli, M., Davis, T., Machalicek, W., Lang, R., Sigafoos, J., . . . Didden, R. (2010). Functional analysis of challenging behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders: A summary of 10 cases. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4, 1–10.