Sensory Extinction : Its Effects on Target Sterotyped Behaviors in Adjacent Non-Programmed Situations
Dolphin, Duane J.
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The problem. Recent studies have demonstrated that sensory extinction procedures can be effective in decreasing behavioral stereotypies. When a sensory extinction procedure is not continually maintained, the potential exists for an alternation between schedules of reinforcement and extinction. Studies from the animal literature indicate that this alternation can give rise to schedule interactions and result in possible unwanted effects on the target stereotypy. This study will assess possible additional effects of sensory extinction procedures on behavioral stereotypies in adjacent non-extinction settings. Procedure. Sensory extinction procedures were developed for two subjects. The procedures were then introduced and withdrawn in strict alternating fashion. The frequency and cumulative time spent responding was assessed during extinction as well as non-extinction periods. Findings. For both subjects, stereotyped responding in periods when the extinction procedure was introduced decreased below baseline levels. In the non-extinction periods for one subject, responding increased over baseline levels. During a second phase, response levels for both subjects again decreased beLow baseline levels during extinction periods. Response measures also decreased for both subjects below baseline levels in periods when the extinction procedure was withdrawn. Conclusion. The sensory extinction procedures used in the study were effective in decreasing stereotyped responding. These procedures also had an effect on the stereotypies in the non-extinction settings, as these responses deviated from baseline. Recommendations. The study indicates that sensory extinction procedures can lead to unintended effects on responding in adjacent non-programmed settings. Clinicians using such procedures need to assess what the exact effects, if any, will be. Further research needs to assess whether these findings extend to more clinically relevant situations.
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