Functional assessment of problematic forms of prelinguistic behavior

Jeff Sigafoos, Mark F. O’Reilly, Giulio E. Lancioni, Amarie Carnett, Alicia Bravo, Laura Rojeski, James W. Halle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Autism spectrum disorder is associated with communication impairment and problem behavior such as aggression and self-injury. Researchers have found an inverse relation between problem behavior and communicative competence, suggesting that some problem behavior might have a communicative basis. Additional support for this relation emanates from studies aimed at identifying variables that control problem behavior with experimental-functional analysis methodology. In this chapter, we review the results of current research that has used experimentalfunctional analyses of problem behavior among individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Results suggest that a substantial percentage of individuals with autism spectrum disorder present with problem behavior controlled by (a) attention from another person, (b) access to preferred objects/activities, and/or (c) escape from or avoidance of non-preferred objects/activities/people. Problem behavior controlled by these variables might be conceptualized as prelingusitic forms of intentional communication related to (a) recruiting attention, (b) requesting access to preferred objects/activities, and/or (c) rejecting non-preferred objects/activities/people. In such cases, intervention aimed at replacing the problematic forms by teaching appropriate communication alternatives has proven to be effective. Challenges in conducting experimental-functional analyses and interpreting their results are discussed, as are directions for future research related to replacing problematic prelinguistic forms with more acceptable alternatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPrelinguistic and Minimally Verbal Communicators on the Autism Spectrum
EditorsDeb Keen, Hedda Meadan, Nancy C Brady, James W Halle
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9789811007132
ISBN (Print)9789811007118
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Social Sciences


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