Elopement summary 1 page summary on Article attached. 653 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS 1997, 30, 653–672 NUMBER 4 (WINTER 1997) FUNCTIONAL ANALYS

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653

JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS 1997, 30, 653–672 NUMBER 4 (WINTER 1997)

FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS AND TREATMENT
OF ELOPEMENT

CATHLEEN C. PIAZZA, GREGORY P. HANLEY, LYNN G. BOWMAN,
JOHN M. RUYTER, STEVEN E. LINDAUER, AND DEBORAH M. SAIONTZ

KENNEDY KRIEGER INSTITUTE AND

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Elopement is a dangerous behavior because children who run away may encounter life-
threatening situations (e.g., traffic). We conducted functional analyses of the elopement
of 3 children who had been diagnosed with developmental disabilities. The results iden-
tified a maintaining reinforcer for the elopement of 1 child, but the data were difficult
to interpret for 2 of the children. Subsequent reinforcer assessments were used to help
to clarify the reinforcers for elopement for these 2 children. Results of the functional
analyses and reinforcer assessments then were used to develop successful treatments to
reduce elopement. The findings are discussed in terms of (a) the application of functional
analysis methodology to elopement, (b) the use of reinforcer assessments to identify
potential reinforcers when standard functional analyses are undifferentiated, and (c) the
utility of assessment-based treatments for elopement.

DESCRIPTORS: elopement, developmental disabilities, functional analysis, rein-
forcer assessments, concurrent operants

Elopement is typically defined as repeated
attempts to leave designated areas without
permission or supervision (Bodfish, 1992).
Elopement may interfere with instructional
activities and hinder skill acquisition in
classroom settings (Chambers, Sanok, &
Striefel, 1980), as well as expose an individ-
ual to dangerous situations (e.g., traffic). Ac-
cording to Garner (1991), individuals who
elope often are placed in more restrictive set-
tings to maintain their safety.

Jacobson (1982) estimated the prevalence
of elopement to be 4.9% in a population of
over 30,000 individuals receiving develop-
mental disabilities services. Despite this rel-
atively high prevalence of elopement among
persons with developmental disabilities,
there is a paucity of research on the assess-

This investigation was supported in part by Grant
MCJ249149-02 from the Maternal and Child Health
Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. We thank Rachel Thompson for her helpful
comments on this manuscript.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Cathleen C.
Piazza, Neurobehavioral Unit, The Kennedy Krieger
Institute, 707 N. Broadway, Baltimore, Maryland
21205.

ment and treatment of this behavior prob-
lem. In most studies on elopement, individ-
uals were treated with multiple interventions
such as reinforcement for the absence of
elopement, time-out for elopement, and
graduated levels systems in which the indi-
vidual gained access to less restrictive envi-
ronments and greater access to reinforcers
contingent upon the absence of elopement
(Chambers et al., 1980; Garner, 1991).

Garner (1991) treated the elopement of 1
child with profound mental retardation who
resided in a group home. The treatment pro-
gram involved increased amounts of freedom
of movement within the group home (i.e.,
from restricting him to rooms without exits
in the home to allowing him unrestricted
access to all areas in the home) contingent
on the absence of elopement, and included
response interruption (teaching the partici-
pant to respond to the command ‘‘stop’’
when he began to run away), time-out fol-
lowing episodes of elopement, and reinforce-
ment for appropriate communication to
leave the group home. A similar program

654 CATHLEEN C. PIAZZA et al.

was described by Chambers et al. (1980) for
an individual who was described as ‘‘ungov-
ernable.’’ Treatment was implemented with-
in a self-contained classroom and consisted
of time-out contingent upon elopement and
a levels program in which the participant
gained increasing access to classroom activi-
ties and movement within the classroom
contingent upon the absence of elopement.
These studies are limited in that functional
control of the treatment was not demon-
strated, and each study involved only 1 par-
ticipant.

The standard of practice for reducing de-
structive behavior is to prescribe treatments
based on the results of behavioral assess-
ments. For example, Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer,
Bauman, and Richman (1982/1994) showed
that the consequences that maintain self-in-
jurious behavior (SIB) could be identified
using functional analysis. Vollmer, Iwata,
Zarcone, Smith, and Mazaleski (1993)
showed that the results of functional analyses
could be used to prescribe treatments to re-
duce SIB. The functional analysis method-
ology was developed originally for the as-
sessment of SIB but has been modified to
assess and treat a variety of behavior prob-
lems such as aggression (Fisher et al., 1993;
Piazza et al., 1997), pica (Piazza, Hanley, &
Fisher, 1996), tantrums (Carr & Newsom,
1985), and psychotic speech (Fisher, Piazza,
& Page, 1989; Mace & Lalli, 1991). In cases
in which results of a functional analysis are
equivocal or suggest that behavior is main-
tained independent of the social environ-
ment (i.e., maintained by automatic rein-
forcement), results of reinforcer assessments
have been used to prescribe treatments (Fish-
er et al., 1994; Steege, Wacker, Berg, Cig-
rand, & Cooper, 1989). These same strate-
gies could be applied to the assessment and
treatment of elopement.

In the current investigation, we modified
the functional analysis method to assess the
elopement of 3 children with developmental

disabilities. Subsequent reinforcer assess-
ments were used to identify reinforcers for 2
of the children. The results of the functional
analyses and reinforcer assessments then
were used to develop treatments to reduce
elopement. The treatments were altered
(e.g., schedules of reinforcement were
thinned) to make them more practical for
caregivers and were extended from analogue
conditions to more natural settings (e.g., the
community).

GENERAL METHOD

This is a three-experiment study with data
for each participant presented individually in
each experiment. First, a functional analysis
of elopement was conducted with each par-
ticipant. If the results of the functional anal-
ysis were unclear, reinforcer assessments were
conducted. The results of these behavioral
assessments then were integrated into treat-
ment packages.

Participants

Three individuals were admitted to an in-
patient unit specializing in the assessment
and treatment of destructive behavior. All 3
participants were admitted primarily for the
assessment and treatment of elopement, and
they also engaged in aggressive and disrup-
tive behaviors. Owen was a 10-year-old boy
who had been diagnosed with moderate
mental retardation, autism, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and a sei-
zure disorder. Owen could follow one-step
instructions and communicated through ges-
tures. Owen’s caregivers reported that he
would commonly elope from rooms and
then engage in dangerous behaviors such as
touching electrical cords and climbing on
furniture and windowsills.

Ray was an 11-year-old boy who had been
diagnosed with severe mental retardation,
autism, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. Ray
was independent with his daily living skills,

655ELOPEMENT

and had good receptive language skills (e.g.,
he could follow two-step instructions) but
limited expressive language skills (e.g., he
used a few rote expressions in a variety of
contexts). Ray’s caregiver reported that he
frequently ran away when out in the com-
munity.

Ty was a 4-year-old boy who had been
diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a seizure dis-
order, and learning and speech delays (his
cognitive level had not been evaluated suc-
cessfully in the past because of his destruc-
tive behavior). Ty followed complex instruc-
tions (e.g., ‘‘Go to your room and get your
football’’), initiated conversation, and spoke
in complete sentences. All 3 participants re-
quired constant supervision because of the
severity and dangerous nature of their elope-
ment.

The functional analyses for elopement
were based on procedures described by Iwata
et al. (1982/1994). Sessions were 10 min in
length and were modified as follows. First,
we attempted to simulate the setting in
which the participant typically engaged in
elopement in the natural environment. Sec-
ond, because elopement is a dangerous be-
havior, the participants could not be allowed
to run away without eventually retrieving
them (i.e., the behavior could not be ig-
nored), and all families reported going after
their children when they ran away. Retriev-
ing the child also permitted multiple oppor-
tunities to observe the behavior and for the
child to experience the consequences of
elopement that were prescribed in the func-
tional analysis. Therefore, across all condi-
tions, when the participant eloped, he was
retrieved by the therapist on a fixed-time
schedule as described below. No differential
consequence occurred for the participants’
other destructive behavior (e.g., aggression)
across all conditions. The inclusion or exclu-
sion of some functional analysis conditions
was based on caregiver report regarding the

situations in which the participants ran
away.

Demand sessions were conducted to de-
termine whether the participants engaged in
elopement to escape tasks. Attention sessions
were conducted to determine whether the
participants engaged in elopement to gain
access to adult attention. Tangible sessions
were conducted to evaluate whether the par-
ticipants engaged in elopement to gain ac-
cess to tangible items. Ignore sessions were
conducted to determine whether the partic-
ipants engaged in elopement in the absence
of social consequences. Toy play or control
sessions were conducted to evaluate the rates
of elopement in a condition in which the
absence of elopement resulted in differential
reinforcement.

Target Behaviors, Data Collection, and
Interrater Agreement

Elopement was defined as any part of the
participant’s body passing through the door-
way (Owen and Ray) and moving or at-
tempting to move 3 m (or more) away from
the therapist (for Ty during all assessments
and for Ray during treatment extension
only) during the functional analyses and
treatment assessments. During the treatment
analyses for Ty, attempts to elope were
scored as elopement. During the reinforcer
assessments, card touches were defined as any
part of the participant’s hand touching a
card. For Owen, the cards were a green rect-
angle (7 cm by 18 cm), a yellow triangle (13
cm by 13 cm by 13 cm), and a red square
(13 cm by 13 cm). For Ty, blue, orange, and
white index cards (7 cm by 13 cm) were
used. The duration of appropriate walking,
defined as the participant remaining within
3 m (or less) of the therapist, was recorded
during Ty’s treatment analyses. Trained ob-
servers used laptop computers to record each
occurrence of elopement and card touches
and duration of appropriate walking (Ty
only). The percentage of the session with ap-

656 CATHLEEN C. PIAZZA et al.

propriate walking then was calculated by di-
viding the total duration of appropriate
walking by the total session time.

Two observers simultaneously but inde-
pendently scored target responses during
44%, 40%, and 42% of the functional anal-
ysis sessions and 40%, 59%, and 38% of the
elopement treatment sessions for Owen,
Ray, and Ty, respectively. Interrater agree-
ment was assessed during 35% and 56% of
the reinforcer assessment sessions for Owen
and Ty, respectively. Interrater agreement
was assessed during the schedule thinning
for Ray and Ty and during the extension of
treatment to different settings and caregivers
for Owen and Ray during 60%, 36%, and
50% of sessions for Owen, Ray, and Ty, re-
spectively. Agreement coefficients for elope-
ment, card touches, and appropriate walking
were calculated by partitioning each session
into 10-s intervals and dividing the number
of exact agreements by the sum of agree-
ments plus disagreements and multiplying
by 100%.

During the functional analyses, mean
agreement for elopement was 99% (range,
97% to 100%), 99% (range, 93% to 100%),
and 89% (range, 82% to 98%) for Owen,
Ray, and Ty, respectively. Mean agreement for
card touches was 97% (range, 84% to 100%)
and 99% (range, 85% to 100%) for Owen
and Ty, respectively. During the treatment as-
sessments, mean agreement for elopement
was 99% (range, 97% to 100%), 100%, and
95% (range, 67% to 100%) for Owen, Ray,
and Ty, respectively. During the treatment
analyses for Ty, mean agreement for appro-
priate walking was 85% (range, 41% to
100%). During the schedule thinning and
treatment extension, mean agreement for
elopement was 100%, 99% (range, 96% to
99%), and 98% (range, 93% to 100%), for
Owen, Ray, and Ty, respectively, and mean
agreement for appropriate walking was 96%
(range, 93% to 100%) for Ty.

EXPERIMENT 1:
RAY

METHOD

Functional Analysis

The initial functional analysis was con-
ducted within a multielement design in
which four conditions (tangible, ignore, at-
tention, and toy play) were alternated ac-
cording to a random schedule. Because the
rates of elopement were variable during the
ignore and attention sessions of the multiel-
ement analysis for Ray, a sequential pairwise
analysis was conducted in which the atten-
tion and ignore conditions were each com-
pared to the toy play condition in separate
phases (Iwata, Duncan, Zarcone, Lerman, &
Shore, 1994) to further evaluate the effects
of attention and low stimulation.

Ray’s mother reported that he typically
ran away to obtain food (e.g., chips) and
that she often gave him food following
elopement to ‘‘calm him down.’’ She also re-
ported that Ray did not run away during
instructional activities (i.e., school work or
tasks). Therefore, attention, tangible, ignore,
and toy play conditions were assessed with
Ray, but no demand sessions were conduct-
ed.

Ray’s sessions were conducted in an ex-
perimental area consisting of two rooms (4
m by 5 m) connected by a single doorway.
Each session began with Ray situated in
Room A. Room A contained two chairs and
a table, and Room B contained a table.

A tone was sounded every 40 s in all con-
ditions as a signal to the therapist to physi-
cally guide Ray to sit in a chair in Room A.
If he then eloped to Room B, he was guided
back to Room A to sit in a chair. If Ray was
already seated in a chair in Room A or had
returned to Room A independently, he was
physically guided to sit in a different chair
in Room A. Ray was guided to sit in a chair
so that physical interaction would occur in-
dependent of elopement in an attempt to

657ELOPEMENT

control for physical interaction as a differ-
ential consequence. That is, we wanted to
isolate escape, attention, and access to tan-
gible items that were the programmed con-
sequences for elopement during the func-
tional analysis. The tone was also used as a
prompt to the therapist to initiate or discon-
tinue contingencies specific to each func-
tional analysis condition, as described below.

During attention sessions, Ray was given
toys and was asked to play quietly. If he en-
gaged in elopement, the therapist followed
him into Room B and provided mild verbal
reprimands (e.g., ‘‘don’t run away’’) until the
40-s interval elapsed (i.e., when the tone
sounded) or until the child returned to
Room A. All other responses were ignored.

During toy play sessions, the therapist
and child were in Room A, and preferred
toys and food were available. The therapist
interacted with Ray (e.g., threw a ball back
and forth) and provided praise or food every
40 s contingent upon the first 5-s period in
which elopement did not occur. Otherwise,
no differential consequence was provided for
elopement or other destructive behavior.

During tangible sessions, a bag of chips
was placed in Room B. Ray was allowed to
eat chips in Room B for 1 min prior to the
start of the session. When the session began,
the therapist guided Ray into Room A. Con-
tingent on elopement, Ray was allowed to
eat chips in Room B for the remainder of
the 40-s interval. Small amounts of chips
were given to Ray by the therapist to prevent
him from consuming large quantities of
chips in a short period of time and to pre-
vent him from bringing chips back into
Room A.

During the ignore condition, the therapist
and Ray were in Room A. No other mate-
rials were present. No differential conse-
quence occurred for elopement. The thera-
pist observed Ray from the doorway of
Room A when he eloped.

Treatment Assessment

The effects of treatment were evaluated
using an ABAB design. The baseline (A
phase) was followed by implementation of
treatment (B phase) followed by a return to
baseline (A) and a return to treatment (B).

Sessions were 10 min in length and were
conducted in the same rooms (A and B)
used in the functional analysis. Across all
conditions, a tone signaled the therapist to
physically guide Ray to sit in a chair in
Room A every 40 s. If Ray was already seat-
ed in a chair in Room A or had returned to
Room A independently, he was physically
guided to sit in a different chair in Room A.
Prior to each session, Ray was given access
to attention and chips for 1 min.

The baseline condition was similar to the
tangible and attention conditions of the
functional analysis (i.e., contingent on
elopement, he was given access to chips and
attention in Room B). We combined the
contingencies of tangible and attention dur-
ing baseline because the results of the func-
tional analysis indicated that Ray’s elope-
ment was maintained by both sources of re-
inforcement. The treatment condition was
similar to the baseline condition in that the
tangible items were located in Room B.
During treatment, access to 20 s of attention
or to 5 s of chips was delivered every 50 s
contingent on the nonoccurrence of elope-
ment (i.e., a differential-reinforcement-of-
other-behavior [DRO] schedule). Attention
consisted of verbal and physical interaction
(e.g., saying, ‘‘You’re doing a great job,’’
while patting him on the back). Small pieces
of chips were given to Ray by the therapist
each time he consumed the previous chip.
Ray was allowed to choose between the two
reinforcers by touching one of two colored
index cards (12 cm by 7 cm) that corre-
sponded to attention (green card) or chips
(blue card). If Ray touched a card, the cor-
responding reinforcer was delivered. At-

658 CATHLEEN C. PIAZZA et al.

Figure 1. Number of elopements per minute during the functional analysis (top panel) and during the
treatment assessment for Ray (bottom panel).

tempts to touch both cards were blocked.
Elopement (leaving Room A) resulted in the
resetting of the DRO timer, and no atten-
tion or chips were delivered (the therapist
blocked his attempts to eat the chips in
Room B). The DRO interval resumed when
Ray reentered Room A. These consequences
were implemented because Ray’s mother
could not block or prevent Ray from run-
ning away because of his size, but she agreed
not to give him food items (e.g., chips) when
he ran away.

Following the treatment analysis, the
schedule of reinforcement was thinned and
the treatment was extended across different
settings. The thinning of the schedule oc-
curred over eight sessions, and the final
schedule arrangement consisted of access to
55 s of attention or 25 s of chips delivered
contingent on remaining in Room A for 5
min. Eight additional sessions were con-

ducted under this arrangement. Subsequent-
ly, treatment was extended to various places,
including hospital vending areas, the hospi-
tal cafeteria, and restaurants in the com-
munity.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

During Ray’s functional analysis (top pan-
el of Figure 1), high levels of elopement were
consistently observed in the tangible condi-
tion relative to the toy play condition. Ray
engaged in more variable levels of elopement
in the ignore and attention conditions rela-
tive to the toy play condition. Pairwise com-
parisons (attention and ignore) and control
(toy play) conditions were conducted be-
cause rates of elopement were similar across
these two test conditions. When attention
was compared to toy play, Ray engaged in
high levels of elopement in the attention
condition, suggesting that attention served

659ELOPEMENT

as reinforcement for elopement. When ig-
nore was compared to toy play, Ray engaged
in near-zero levels of elopement in both con-
ditions, suggesting that Ray’s elopement was
not maintained independent of social rein-
forcement. The reason for the similar rates
of elopement during attention and ignore
conditions of the multielement analysis was
not clear. As Vollmer, Marcus, Ringdahl, and
Roane (1995) suggested, it is possible that
some individuals may have difficulty dis-
criminating between the rapidly alternating
contingencies during the multielement func-
tional analysis. It appears that this may have
been the case with Ray, who may not have
discriminated between the attention and ig-
nore conditions when they were rapidly al-
ternated during the multielement analysis
because of the similarity of the two condi-
tions (i.e., the only difference was the verbal
reprimand in the attention condition). In
addition, behavior may not have been extin-
guished in the ignore condition because, at
times, the same therapist conducted both
conditions. The differences between condi-
tions may have been easier to discriminate
when only two conditions (test and control)
were compared during the pairwise analysis.
However, this hypothesis is speculative.

The results for the treatment assessment
are depicted in the bottom panel of Figure
1. In the baseline condition (first and third
phases) during the treatment assessment in
which elopement produced access to adult
attention and chips, Ray engaged in high
levels of elopement. During the treatment
condition (second and fourth phases) in
which the DRO schedule was implemented,
Ray engaged in near-zero levels of elope-
ment. In addition, near-zero levels of elope-
ment were maintained during schedule thin-
ning. Although elopement was somewhat
variable when treatment was extended to
other settings, it remained substantially low-
er than baseline.

EXPERIMENT 2:
OWEN

METHOD

Functional Analysis

Owen’s mother reported that he ran away
in all situations (e.g., in the community, at
school) and noted that he often attempted
to obtain stringy items (e.g., pieces of a
mop) when he eloped. She typically allowed
him to play with these objects following
elopement. Five functional analysis condi-
tions (attention, demand, ignore, tangible,
and toy play) were assessed using a multiel-
ement design.

The setting and descriptions of conditions
for Owen’s functional analysis were similar
to those described for Ray, with the follow-
ing exceptions. During demand sessions, the
therapist issued instructions using sequential
verbal, gestural, and physical prompts on a
fixed-time (FT) 40-s schedule. If Owen
completed the task following the verbal or
gestural prompt, he received praise from the
therapist and a break until the beginning of
the next 40-s interval. If Owen eloped, the
therapist removed the materials and turned
away from him until the start of the next
40-s interval (i.e., he was permitted to escape
from the task). If Owen eloped between in-
structions, he was guided back to the chair
at the next 40-s interval and given a new
instruction.

During tangible sessions, a string (56 cm
in length and 2 cm in diameter) was placed
in Room B. Owen was allowed to play with
the string in Room B for 2 min prior to the
start of the session. When the session began,
the therapist guided Owen into Room A.
Contingent on elopement, Owen was al-
lowed to play with the string in Room B
until the 40-s interval elapsed. The string
was tied to a table in Room B to prevent it
from being brought back into Room A.

660 CATHLEEN C. PIAZZA et al.

Reinforcer Assessment

During reinforcer assessment, a concur-
rent-operants design (Catania, 1963; Herrn-
stein, 1970) was used to evaluate the rein-
forcing effects of attention and access to a
tangible item in three phases. The order in
which the two variables were assessed was
randomly determined and occurred as fol-
lows: attention versus control in the first
phase; access to the tangible item versus con-
trol in the second phase; access to the tan-
gible item versus access to adult attention
versus control in the final phase.

During the functional analysis, the high-
est rates of elopement occurred in the tan-
gible condition, followed by the attention
condition. Therefore, we began our assess-
ment by evaluating the reinforcing effects of
these two stimuli (tangible item and atten-
tion). Laminated cardboard shapes corre-
sponded to the different consequences avail-
able for card touching throughout each as-
sessment. After Owen touched a card, all
cards were removed and the consequence as-
sociated with that card was available for 30
s. Touching a green rectangle resulted in ac-
cess to the tangible item (string), touching a
yellow triangle resulted in access to attention
(e.g., saying, ‘‘You’re doing a great job,’’
while patting him on the back), and touch-
ing a red square resulted in no differential
consequence (control).

Prior to the start of the reinforcer assess-
ment, training trials were conducted in
which Owen was allowed approximately 5 s
to independently touch a card placed on a
table in front of him. After 5 s, if Owen did
not touch a card, sequential verbal, gestural,
and physical prompts were used to prompt
him to touch one of the cards (randomly
determined) to allow him to contact the cor-
responding consequence. Attempts to touch
more than one card simultaneously were
blocked. Access to the chosen consequence
was delivered immediately following a card

touch. Training trials were discontinued
when Owen independently engaged in card
touching for 80% of three consecutive
blocks of 10 trials. Before each individual
session of the reinforcer assessment, training
trials were conducted to expose Owen to the
consequences for touching each card in the
session (descriptions of the phases and the
stimuli assessed are presented below). Trials
ended for each individual session when he
independently chose any card except the
control card for three consecutive trials.

Sessions were 10 min in length and were
conducted in a room (3 m by 5 m). Owen
was seated in a chair at a table and was ver-
bally prompted to touch a card at the start
of the session. Touching a card resulted in
the contingencies described above for 30 s
on a fixed-ratio (FR) 1 schedule (e.g., if
Owen touched the yellow triangle, he re-
ceived 30 s of adult attention). When Owen
touched a card, the cards were removed. The
location of the cards was randomly rear-
ranged during the reinforcement interval.
Following the reinforcement interval, Owen
was repositioned in front of the cards and
was verbally prompted to touch a card. He
was blocked from leaving the chair until he
touched a card. Otherwise, if Owen did not
touch a card, no differential consequence oc-
curred.

Treatment Assessment

The treatment assessment was conducted
using an ABAB design. The baseline phase
(A) was followed by the introduction of
treatment (B), a return to the baseline phase
(A), and a reintroduction of treatment (B).

Sessions were 10 min in length and were
conducted in the same rooms (A and B)
used in the functional analysis and reinforcer
assessment. Treatment was evaluated in the
tangible condition of the functional analysis
because (a) rates of elopement were highest
in the tangible condition during the func-
tional analysis, (b) the reinforcer assessment

661ELOPEMENT

demonstrated that the tangible items were
more effective reinforcers than attention was,
and (c) the antecedent conditions for the
tangible sessions (i.e., the absence of mate-
rials, adult attention, and tasks) were iden-
tical to those of the attention, ignore, and
toy play conditions.

In all sessions, the tangible item (string)
was located in Room B, and, prior to each
session, Owen was given access to string for
2 min. The baseline and treatment condi-
tions were similar to the tangible condition
in the functional analysis (i.e., contingent on
elopement, Owen gained access to the string
in Room B). In addition, Owen was given
continuous noncontingent (NCR) access to
string-like items in Room A during treat-
ment. The string-like items included ropes,
bungee cords, and shoelaces and were placed
on the table in Room A. Owen was pre-
vented from taking the strings from Room
A to Room B. Elopements were ignored by
the therapist (i.e., the therapist provided no
differential consequence); however, Owen
was able to obtain the string in Room B
when he eloped.

Following the treatment analysis, the
treatment was extended across different set-
tings and caregivers. Owen’s mother and
teacher were trained to implement the treat-
ment contingencies (i.e., to provide Owen
with noncontingent access to string and no
differential consequence for elopement).
Training was conducted first by the therapist
modeling the treatment contingencies for
the mother or teacher. Next, the mother or
teacher role played implementation of the
treatment with a confederate (a therapist).
Finally, the mother or teacher implemented
the treatment with Owen while the therapist
observed and provided feedback. Nine ses-
sions were conducted in the rooms described
above with Owen’s mother as therapist.
Three additional sessions were conducted in
Owen’s home by his mother, and three ses-
sions were conducted in Owen’s school by

his teacher. During all sessions, the mother
and teacher implemented the treatment con-
tingencies described above.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

During Owen’s functional analysis (top
panel of Figure 2), the highest rates of elope-
ment occurred in the tangible condition fol-
lowed by the attention condition suggesting
that his elopement may have been main-
tained by access to tangible items (i.e., access
to stringy items). However, we could not
rule out the possibility that Owen’s elope-
ment was sensitive to multiple sources of re-
inforcement, because rates of elopement
were relatively similar across three (attention,
demand, ignore) of the four test conditions
relative to the toy play condition. It was pos-
sible that the lack of differentiated results for
Owen were due to his failure to discriminate
between conditions, as suggested for Ray.
However, with Owen, rates of elopement
were equivalent across conditions that were
highly dissimilar (i.e., demand vs. ignore);
therefore, it seemed less likely that failure to
discriminate between session contingencies
contributed to the lack of differentiation be-
tween conditions. Therefore, rather than
conduct additional functional analysis ses-
sions, we decided to evaluate whether a re-
inforcer assessment could be used as an in-
direct method for identifying p

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