The Behavior Analysis Research Lab was established to capitalize on the strong tradition of clinical excellence in applied behavior analytic intervention services at Marcus Autism Center. Within that tradition, clinician researchers with expertise in applied behavior analysis (ABA) have historically conducted research within Marcus Autism Center clinical programs, including the Severe Behavior, Feeding, and Language and Learning programs. Our research often focuses on developing more effective behavioral assessments, interventions and training methods, as well as understanding or applying basic behavioral processes (e.g., noncontingent reinforcement) or frameworks (e.g., behavioral economics). Much of this work employs single-subject designs to demonstrate the types of outcomes that are possible for children and families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related disorders under best-case circumstances.
Although this work continues, the Behavior Analysis Research Lab recently expanded its research focus to include randomized clinical trials of behavioral interventions for core symptoms of autism, as well as co-occuring conditions or behaviors, such as elopement (e.g., wandering or running away) and encopresis (e.g., toileting concerns). Our goal is to disseminate the types of interventions and outcomes that can be achieved using ABA-based interventions to broader audiences by studying them in larger group designs.
We have also begun to engage in implementation science in an effort to understand the barriers and facilitators that affect the uptake of behavioral interventions. This includes studying the ways in which behavioral interventions can be embedded within healthcare settings to address barriers experienced by children with autism when it comes to receiving medical care. Finally, our team is focused on understanding how to produce the kinds of clinical outcomes that are meaningful to children and families affected by autism and related disorders. Thus, we are engaged in measuring development to help identify or create outcome measures that best capture the impact of successful interventions.
A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Structured Function-Based Elopement Treatment Program (Autism Speaks): This project builds upon our earlier federally funded pilot RCT (R03-HD082436) in which we showed that a structured, function-based elopement intervention is feasible and acceptable to participating families, with preliminary suggestions of effectiveness. This study will constitute a more-definitive RCT comparing this 16-week behavioral intervention to a psychoeducation program in autism.
Objective Measurement of Challenging Behaviors in Individuals with ASD (NIH R21): This project involves evaluating the use of body-worn accelerometers by individuals with ASD who also engage in problem behaviors, including aggression, destruction and self-injury, for the purpose of automating the collection of data on those behaviors. The accelerometry data are analyzed using machine learning techniques to develop an algorithm that can detect and differentiate between these three forms of problem behavior. Results of the algorithm will be compared to those of human observers.
A Multidisciplinary Intervention for Encopresis in Children with ASD (U.S. Department of Defense): This project consists of a randomized clinical trial of a novel multidisciplinary intervention involving children with ASD and encopresis. The treatment of concern employs medical approaches to screen participants for and address underlying constipation, and provide a medication regimen that increases the frequency and predictability of bowel movements. Behavioral interventions are used to establish continence, fade out the use of medications and train caregivers to maintain the intervention.
- Scheithauer, M., Call, N. A., Lomas Mevers, J., McCracken, C. E., & Scahill, L. (2020). A feasibility randomized clinical trial of a structured function-based intervention for elopement in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, electronic ahead of print. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04753-4
- Liollio, S. P., Scheithauer, M., & Call, N. A. (2020) A comparison of rate-based and latency-based assessments for determining demand aversiveness. Behavioral Interventions, 35, 446-457. doi: 10.1002/bin.1720
- Muething, C. Call., N., Pavlov, A., Ringdahl J., Gillespise, S. Clark, S., Lomas Mevers, J. (2020). Prevalence of Renewal of Problem Behavior during Context Changes. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 53, 1485-1493. doi:10.1002/jaba.672
- Lomas Mevers, J., Call, N., Gerenscer, K.R., Scheithauer, M., Miller, S.J., Muething, C., Hewett, S., McCracken, C., & McElhanon, B. (2020). A pilot randomized clinical trial of a multidisciplinary treatment for encopresis in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50,757-765. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-04305-5
- Scheithauer, M.C., Call, N.A., Simmons, C.A., Gillespie, S. E., Bourret, J., Lloveras, L. A., & Lanphear, J. E. (2020). Delay discounting by college undergraduates of hypothetical intervention effects for challenging behavior. Psychological Record, 70, 65-73. doi:10.1007/s40732-019-00367-0
- Slocum, S. K., Vollmer, T. R., & Donaldson, J. M. (2019). An evaluation of delays to time-out on problem behavior of preschool children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 52, 994-1004.
- * Morris, K. M., & Slocum, S. K. (2019). Assessment and treatment of self-injurious feather plucking in a black vulture (coragyps atratus). Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 52, 918-927.
- Wunderlich, K. L., Vollmer, T. R., Mehrkam, L. R., Feuerbacher, E. N., Slocum, S. K., Kronfli, F., & Pizarro, E. (2019). Stability of function of automatically reinforced vocal stereotypy over time. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 53, 678-689.
- Lloveras, L., Call, N. A., Bourret, J., Slocum, S. K. (in press). Evaluation of a concurrent-operant demand assessment to determine task preference. Behavioral Interventions.
- Slocum, S. K., Yatros, N., Scheithauer, M. (in press). Developing a Treatment for Hand-Clapping Maintained by Automatic Reinforcement using a Sensory Analysis, Noncontingent Reinforcement, and Thinning, Behavioral Interventions.
- Principle Investigator, Pediatric Research Alliance: Pilot Grant Award, Ambulatory Cardiovascular Reactivity Data as a Biomarker for Disruptive Behavior during Medical Appointments: A Feasibility Analysis, $50,000 , 8/1/2020-8/1/2021
- Co-Investigator, Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance Pilot Grants Program, Discounting of delayed outcomes of behavioral interventions for problem behavior by caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder, $41,250, 7/1/2020-6/30/2020
- Principal Investigator, Autism Speaks Science Grant: Treatment Award, A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Structured Function-Based Elopement Treatment Program, $749,824, 3/1/2018 – 3/1/2021
Previously funded research
Behavioral Economic Measures of Sensitivity to Social Reward in Children with ASD (NIH R21): This project used methods from experimental behavioral economics, including progressive ratio schedules, to evaluate sensitivity to social rewards in children with ASD. In addition, we evaluated an intervention targeting social reward in children with ASD, with the aim of increasing sensitivity to social stimuli.
Comparing Behavioral Assessments Using Telehealth for Children with Autism (NIH R01): The major goal of this project is to compare the effectiveness of two levels of intensity of behavioral treatments for severe problem behaviors in young children with autism when delivered via telehealth. A gold standard intervention that includes functional analyses and functional communication training will be compared to treatments that are based upon descriptive assessments of problem behavior and less intensive intervention.
A Feasibility Study of the Prevention and Safety Training Program (NIH R03): The major goal of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a manualized treatment for elopement, or running or wandering away, in children with ASD. This intervention includes teaching parents to employ universal safety measures, as well as individualized interventions for children depending on the type of elopement they exhibit.
An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Treatment of Encopresis in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Organization for Autism Research): The major goal of this project is to evaluate a novel intervention for encopresis, or toilet training, in children with autism. This is an interdisciplinary project that includes a medical component to produce continent bowel movements at predictable times and behavioral strategies to reinforce continence and promote independent bowel movements going forward.
Behavioral Economic Measures of Social Reward in Children with Autism (Emory University Research Committee): This project used the methods of behavioral economics to establish direct measures of the degree to which children with autism value social interactions with others. Given that deficits in this reward mechanism are thought to be the core feature of an autism diagnosis, direct measures have the potential to improve other research into the etiology and treatment of this disorder.
Nathan Call, PhD, BCBA-D
Marcus Autism Center
Emory University School of Medicine
Joanna Lomas Mevers, PhD, BCBA
Mindy Scheithauer, PhD, BCBA-D
Colin Muething, PhD, BCBA
Nina Gerencser, PhD, BCBA-D
Sarah Slocum Freeman, PhD, BCBA-D
Stephanie Trauske, PsyD, BCBA-D