Behavioral assessment and treatment of pica in a typically developing 3-year-old.

Emily Ness, Craig W. Strohmeier, Nicholas Ramazon, Julia T. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pica involves the persistent ingestion of nonfood and nonnutritive substances and may result in harmful consequences such as choking, poisoning, and even death. Most commonly, pica is observed in individuals diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) where the cause is oftentimes reported as related to automatic reinforcement or the sensory consequences of ingesting substances. Objectives: In the IDD population, several well-established behavioral treatments are available for pica. Less often reported in the literature are cases of pica in typically developing individuals, in which case, medical interventions are more prevalent despite mixed reports of their success. The current study describes the behavioral treatment of pica for a typically developing 3-year-old female. Method: After a pretreatment functional assessment indicated that pica was maintained by attention from caregivers, a multiple baseline across settings single-case experimental design was used to demonstrate the effects of differential reinforcement, extinction, and a token economy treatment package to decrease rates of pica. Results: Reductions in pica were observed across all settings. Caregivers implemented the final treatment package, with high integrity, which continued to produce low rates of pica. Conclusions: This case report demonstrated that behavioral treatments may lead to reductions in pica in typically developing children when medical interventions are not effective. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral interventions
  • functional assessment
  • pica
  • token economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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