Evaluation of the rate of challenging behavior maintained by different reinforcers across three preference assessments
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Preference is commonly incorporated into educational interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities. Preference assessments have a solid research base indicating that they are more reliable tools for finding preference than the subjective opinions of parents and teachers. As evidence-based practices have been emphasized, the preference assessment has been a regular component of interventions and instructional programs for the population. Along with the utility, research regarding the assessment and relevant variables has also increased. However, many questions still exist and wait for more inquiry. One of the practical issues is the occurrence of challenging behaviors of individuals with disabilities during preference assessments. Highly occurring challenging behavior during an assessment may interrupt the procedure and lead to inaccurate results about the individual’s preference. That may ultimately affect the effectiveness of the intervention or instructional program. Using a procedure that does not evoke challenging behavior is necessary for accurate results as well as ethically responsible. Therefore this study examined the relation between functions of challenging behavior and three commonly used preference assessment procedures: Paired-Stimulus (PS), Multiple-Stimulus without Replacement (MSWO), and Free-Operant (FO). This study had two phases: Functional analyses and preference assessments. First, functional analyses were conducted to identify the function of challenging behaviors. The participants were nine children with developmental disabilities whose functional analysis results indicated their challenging behavior was maintained by access to tangible items (5), attention (2), and escape (2) reinforcers. After identifying the behaviors’ functions, preference assessments were implemented to compare the rates of the challenging behaviors. Each preference assessment format was conducted 5 times, in a random order for each participant. The results of the study demonstrate that the occurrence of challenging behavior with different functions was different depending on procedure formats. This suggests that there would be a relation between functions of challenging behavior and preference assessment formats. In other words, depending on the function of challenging behavior, the assessment procedure may act as a trigger evoking the challenging behavior. This study discussed practical guidance to prevent challenging behavior during preference assessments.