Decreasing Pica Attempts by Manipulating the Environment to Support Prosocial Behavior

Jonathan D. Schmidt, Abigail Long, Amanda L. Goetzel, Christopher Tung, Eliana Pizarro, Cara Phillips, Nicole Hausman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


It is well established in the literature that pica displayed by individuals with developmental disabilities is most likely to be maintained by automatic reinforcement. However, there is a need for additional research regarding interventions that emphasize skill acquisition by teaching individuals with automatically maintained pica, multiple alternative behaviors to reduce the occurrence of this behavior. For the current study, pica emitted by three participants with developmental disabilities was targeted for assessment and treatment. Results of a functional behavioral assessment, which included a functional analysis, showed each participant’s pica was maintained by automatic reinforcement. Treatment was individualized for each participant, but primarily focused on response interruption and redirection, as well as differentially reinforcing alternative behaviors such as discarding and vacuuming potential pica items. After thinning the schedule of reinforcement for each participant, treatment was generalized across settings and people. Overall, low rates of pica were maintained over time for all participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-697
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Autism
  • Functional analysis
  • Pica
  • Skill acquisition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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