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Behavior Analysis Research Lab

Our research focuses on developing more effective behavioral assessments, interventions and training methods, as well as understanding basic behavioral processes

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.

Associated studies

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.

Recent publications

  1. Clark, S.B., Call, N.A., Simmons, C.A., Scheithauer, M.C., Muething, C.S., & Parks, N. (2019). Effects of Magnitude on the Displacement of Leisure Items by Edible Items During Preference Assessments. Behavior Modification, 0145445519843937.
  2. Cariveau, T., Miller, S.J., Call, N.A., & Alvarez, J. (2019). Assessment and Treatment of Problem Behavior Maintained by Termination of Interruptions. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 22(3), 203-208.
  3. Scheithauer, M., Schebell, S.M., Mevers, J.L., Martin, C.P., Noell, G., Suiter, K.C., & Call, N.A. (2019). A comparison of sources of baseline data for treatments of problem behavior following a functional analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.
  4. Hine, J.F., Ardoin, S.P., & Call, N.A. (2018). Token Economies: Using Basic Experimental Research to Guide Practical Applications. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 48(3), 145-154.
  5. Scheithauer, M., Muething, C.S., Silva, M.R., Gerencser, K.R., Krantz, J., & Call, N.A. (2018). Using caregiver report on the impact of challenging behavior exhibited by children with autism spectrum disorder to guide treatment development and outcomes. International Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 1-12.
  6. Hodnett, J., Scheithauer, M.A., Call, N.A., Lomas Mevers, J., & Miller, S.J. (2018). Using a Functional Analysis Followed by Differential Reinforcement and Extinction to Reduce Challenging Behaviors in Children with Smith-Magenis Syndrome. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 123, 6, 558-573.
  7. Lomas Mevers, J., Muething, C., Call, N.A., Scheithauer, M., & Hewett, S. (2018). A consecutive case series analysis of a behavioral intervention for enuresis in children with developmental disabilities. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 21(5), 336-344.
  8. Lomas Mevers, J.E., Noell, G.H., Scheithauer, M., Miller, S., Alvarez, J.P., & Fischer, A. (2018). The impact of stimulus preference, order-effects, and treatment component omission in evaluating treatment integrity. Journal of School Psychology, 69, 45-55, doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2018.05.005.
  9. Call, N.A., Clark, S.B., Lomas Mevers, J. Parks, N.A., Volkert, V.M., Scheithauer, M.S. (2018). An Individualized Method for Establishing and Thinning Multiple Schedules of Reinforcement Following Functional Communication Training. Learning and Motivation, 62, 91-102.
  10. Scheithauer, M., Call, N.A., Lomas Mevers, J., Scahill. L. (2018). A Feasibility randomized clinical trial (RCT) of a manualized intervention targeting elopement (running away) in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 31(4), 564-564.
  11. Toussaint, K.A., Scheithauer, M., Tiger, J.H., & Saunders, K.J. (2017). Teaching identity matching of braille characters to beginning braille readers. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 50, 278-289, doi: 10.1002/jaba.382.
  12. Mevers, J.E. L., Call, N.A., & Miller, S.J. (2017). Practice recommendations for addressing problem behaviors in siblings with autism spectrum disorder. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 10(4), 363-374.
  13. Call, N.A., Lomas Mevers, J.E., McElhanon, B. (2017) “A Multidisciplinary Treatment for Encopresis in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.
  14. Scheithauer, M., Lomas Mevers, J., Call, N.A., & Shrewsbury, A. (2017). Using a test for multiply-maintained self-injury to develop function-based treatments. Journal of Physical and Developmental Disabilities, doi: 10.1007/s10882-017-9535-3.
  15. Call, N.A., Reavis, A.R., Clark, S.B., Parks, N.A., Cariveau, T., & Muething, C.S. (2017). The Effects of Conducting a Functional Analysis on Problem Behavior in Other Settings: A Descriptive Study on Potential Interaction Effects. Behavior Modification, 41(5), 609-625.
  16. Muething, C.S., Call, N.A., Lomas Mevers, J., Zangrillo, A.N., Clark, S.B., Reavis, A.R., & Parks, N.A. (2017). Correspondence between the results of functional analyses and brief functional analyses. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 549-559.

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.

 

Contact information

Nathan Call, PhD, BCBA-D
Pyschologist
Clinical Director,
Marcus Autism Center
Associate Professor,
Emory University School of Medicine
Email: nathan.call@choa.org

Faculty members

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