Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Sarah E. Bloom, Timothy Slocum


Sarah E. Bloom


Timothy Slocum


Andrew L. Samaha


Thomas S. HIgbee


Courtenay Barrett


Research has demonstrated that function-based interventions are most effective for addressing problem behavior. However, many function-based interventions, such as differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA), rely on extinction procedures. Extinction is not feasible in all cases and can be counter-therapeutic if implemented without optimal treatment integrity. Researchers have successfully implemented DRA without extinction when various parameters of reinforcement (rate, quality, magnitude, immediacy) have been manipulated to favor alternative behavior; that is, participants engaged in higher rates of alternative behavior when reinforcement was delivered contingent on both alternative and problem behavior, but the alternative response produced better reinforcement in terms of rate, quality, magnitude, or immediacy. Parameter sensitivity, however, has been found to be idiosyncratic and therefore warrants individual assessment. Previous researchers have assessed individual sensitivities to parameters of reinforcement in the context of problem behavior; however, this resulted in problem behavior occurring during assessment, which could be problematic given severe problem behavior. The purpose of this study was to use arbitrary responses to assess individual sensitivities to quality, magnitude, and immediacy of reinforcement maintaining problem behavior and use the results to implement an intervention for problem behavior without extinction. The results indicate that arbitrary responses may be used to identify individual sensitivities to parameters of reinforcement that maintains problem behavior. Additionally, interventions were more effective when parameters for which participants were most sensitive were manipulated than when parameters for which participants were least sensitive were manipulated.