This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Manipulating Reflexive Establishing Operations in Young Children with Pervasive Developmental Disabilities




Shillingsburg, Miriam

Type of Degree





Previous research has demonstrated the effects of manipulating establishing operations (EO) on problem behavior, task compliance, and the effectiveness of items as reinforcers. Much research on EO focuses on deprivation and satiation effects, whereas little research has been conducted on the manipulation of reflexive EO. The present study examined the manipulation of reflexive EO on in-seat behavior and other maladaptive behaviors during instructional tasks given to children with PDD. Two children with PDD were administered tasks during 10-minute demand sessions. Following the demand phase, one therapist removed demands and paired the teaching environment with the child’s preferred activities while a second non-pairing therapist continued to conduct demand sessions. Following the pairing phase, both therapists conducted demand sessions similar to the initial demand phase. It was hypothesized that pairing the teaching environment with the child’s preferred activities creates a reflexive EO that establishes interacting with the therapist as a valuable reinforcer and would evoke behaviors from the child that prolong the interaction. Thus, it was expected that each participant would display a higher percentage of in-seat behavior and lower levels of inappropriate behavior with the pairing therapist relative to the non-pairing therapist and relative to baseline conditions. Results indicate that in-seat behavior during post-pairing demand sessions was higher and aberrant behavior was lower relative to pre-pairing demand sessions and relative to the non-pairing therapist for both participants.