Assessment and Intervention for the Problem Behaviors of an Adult at Home

John Umbreit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Damon, a 37-year-old man with severe retardation (IQ = 39), lived at home with his mother and, for the past 15 years, had worked in a sheltered workshop. Incidents of problem behavior had been rare both at home and at work. Two weeks before this study started, Damon's behavior changed suddenly. When asked to get up in the morning to get ready for work, he yelled, “No” and threw things at his mother. If she persisted, his behavior escalated into hitting, kicking, and swearing. This study was conducted in two phases. The first phase, which combined descriptive and experimental (analogue) methods, indicated that Damon's problem behaviors were escape motivated, but did not indicate the specific activities or conditions from which Damon wanted to escape. The second phase included additional descriptive assessment with the workshop staff, and hypothesis development and hypothesis testing and intervention within naturally occurring routines at home. These procedures identified that Damon's problem behaviors did not occur when he was able to participate in a more preferred activity (a day activity program), whether or not he was allowed to choose the preferred activity. The resultant intervention immediately eliminated all problem behavior and received very high treatment acceptability ratings from Damon's mother, the person who was directly responsible for its implementation in the home.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalResearch and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • applied behavior analysis
  • challenging behavior
  • functional analysis
  • functional assessment
  • mental retardation
  • natural environment
  • positive behavioral support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Health Professions
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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