Timothy R. Vollmer


Impediments to effective behavioral intervention


The functional analysis of severe behavior disorders has led to effective behavioral intervention for many individuals with autism and/or intellectual disabilities. The research literature is filled with examples of effective treatment when the severe behavior is very clearly maintained by particular sources of socially mediated reinforcement. However, many challenges remain. The presenter will describe four potential impediments to effective treatment, and will propose potential solutions. One impediment is when problem behavior cannot or will not be placed on extinction. A second impediment is when problem behavior is maintained by automatic (non-socially mediated) reinforcement.  A third impediment is when problem behavior is influenced by health-related or other physiological factors (such as sleep, illness, etc.). A fourth impediment is when the behavior occurs for reasons that are not well-understood (such as biting self or others in the presence of aversive stimulation).


Timothy R. Vollmer received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1992. From 1992 until 1996 he was on the psychology faculty at Louisiana State University. From 1996 to 1998 he was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He returned to the University of Florida in 1998 and is now a Professor and Associate Chair of Psychology. His primary area of research is applied behavior analysis, with emphases in autism, developmental disabilities, reinforcement schedules, and parenting. He has published over 150 articles and book chapters related to behavior analysis. He was the recipient of the 1996 B.F. Skinner New Researcher award from the American Psychological Association (APA). He received another APA award in August, 2004, for significant contributions to applied behavior analysis. He served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis from 2014-2016. He is a fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABAI), and he received the ABAI mentoring award in 2017.