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Reducing Problem Behaviours

Reducing Problem Behaviours

Project Title: Relative Effects of Reinforcement Schedules and Stimulation Quality on Stereotypies
Investigators: Javier Virués-Ortega and Flávia Julio
: St.Amant Research Centre, University of Manitoba Department of Psychology
Research Sponsor
: University of Manitoba


Stereotypy (repetitive motor behaviours) is a common behaviour problem in individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. Research has shown that some individuals with developmental disabilities engage in inappropriate activities because these activities allow them to experience pleasurable feelings. For example, a child with autism may persistently repeat a particular arm movement, may switch on and off a light, or rock the upper part of his body. It is important to eliminate or suppress these behaviours because they may have a negative effect on learning during teaching sessions, and may compete with the acquisition of social and communicative skills.

Stereotypies are sometimes associated with the sensory stimulation that they produce. Based on this assumption, this study will attempt to reduce stereotypy by presenting sensory stimulation that the participant may perceive as similar to the one generated by stereotypy, which may reduce the motivation to engage in stereotypy. We will present two distinctive set of stimuli, one producing sensory stimulation similar to stereotypy (matched stimuli), and another producing different sensory effects (unmatched stimuli) in order to establish what interventions may be more appropriate for an individual participant.


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects of two different strategies to reduce stereotypies in persons with intellectual disabilities.

Significance of Study

The study will help us identify what is motivating problem behaviour (e.g., tantruming, inappropriate repetitive behaviours) and provide valuable information about the best way to teach a more appropriate behaviour, which may inform practice in general on dealing with difficult behaviours in individuals with intellectual disabilities.

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