A Functional Analysis of Three Treatments for Pica in a Naturalistic Play Environment

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Darrah, Jennifer
Autism spectrum disorder; functional analysis; functional communication training; noncontingent reinforcement; pica; treatment; verbal reprimand
artifact description
Pica is an eating disorder involving the ingestion of non-food items. In the current study, a functional analysis (FA) screening was conducted to confirm the pica of two subjects diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was maintained by automatic reinforcement. Subsequently, three behavior-analytic treatments (i.e., verbal reprimand, noncontingent reinforcement [NCR], and functional communication training [FCT]) were systematically evaluated in an unstructured play environment using a multi-element design. Findings showed all three treatments decreased pica compared to pre-treatment levels; however, FCT was observed to consistently reduce the rate of pica for both subjects to near-zero levels. Results of this study support the assertion that behavior-analytic treatments for pica might be effective when applied during unstructured play for some subjects.