An evaluation of three methods of saying“no” to avoid an escalating response class hierarchy

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2011

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis


We evaluated the effects of three different methods of denying access to requested high-preference activities on escalating problem behavior. Functional analysis and response class hierarchy (RCH) assessment results indicated that 4 topographies of problem behaviors displayed by a 13-year-old boy with high-functioning autism constituted an RCH maintained by positive (tangible) reinforcement. Identification of the RCH comprised the baseline phase, during which computer access was denied by saying "no" and providing an explanation for the restriction. Two alternative methods of saying "no" were then evaluated. These methods included (a) denying computer access while providing an opportunity to engage in an alternative preferred activity and (b) denying immediate computer access by arranging a contingency between completion of a low-preference task and subsequent computer access. Results indicated that a hierarchy of problem behavior may be identified in the context of denying access to a preferred activity and that it may be possible to prevent occurrences of escalating problem behavior by either presenting alternative options or arranging contingencies when saying "no" to a child's requests.


Copyright Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Spring 2011 Blackwell publishing