Idiosyncratic functions: Severe problem behavior maintained by access to ritualistic behaviors

Nicole Hausman, Sung Woo Kahng, Ellen Farrell, Camille Mongeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The development of functional analysis technology has been an important tool in the assessment and treatment of aberrant behaviors among individuals with developmental disabilities. In some cases, the function of problem behavior may be idiosyncratic in nature, making modifications to functional analyses necessary. In the current study, a functional analysis (Iwata et al., 1982/1994) was inconclusive due to low rates of problem behaviors across all conditions. In a subsequent ritualistic behavior assessment, problem behavior was found to be maintained by gaining access to ritualistic behaviors (i.e., changing the position of doors in close proximity). From this assessment, a treatment consisting of functional communication and extinction was introduced. A clinically significant reduction in the rate of problem behavior was observed with the introduction of treatment. These results suggest that in cases where an initial functional analysis is inconclusive, it may be necessary to evaluate more idiosyncratic functions of problem behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
JournalEducation and Treatment of Children
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 31 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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