The Effects of Whole Interval DRO and Delayed Permanent Product Reinforcement on Covert Scripting Behaviors

Lisa Feezle, M.S., BCBA / Dr. Bridget Shore, Ph.D, BCBA


The results of the intervention of differentially reinforcing other behaviors than covert scripting in a regular education classroom setting were that the intervention was effective at decreasing scripting behaviors and was anecdotally noted to have increased socially acceptable peer interaction and on-task behaviors. The classroom teacher noted anecdotally that the student engaged in more functional communication with her, and his peers after intervention. The RBT noted as well that the client’s scripting at recess, where there was no intervention in place, also decreased and appropriate interactions with peers increased.


Differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO) delivers a reinforcer whenever a target behavior does not occur during a predetermined interval (Reynold, 1961). The use of DROs in treatment packages for decreasing behaviors has been demonstrated by Conyers et. al, who determined that a whole interval DRO was more effective at decreasing (66-81%) disruptive behaviors in a preschool classroom than a momentary DRO (36-44%) (2003). Cowdery, Iwata, and Pace successfully treated self-injurious behavior, maintained by automatic reinforcement, via a treatment package that included DRO procedure along with a token economy (1990).


The independent variable was outlined as “Movie Talking” defined as any actual or attempted instance of repeating lines from movies, either in discussion with others or when speaking to self. As well as, “Movie Thinking”: Any instance of laughing to self out of context or engaging in facial expression or body movements out of context and without being instructed to do so.

The dependent variable was outlined as a differential reinforcement procedure with the use of edible and social reinforcement. Delayed reinforcement was also used based permanent product of 5-minute partial interval data collection of intervals without behaviors present, in which the client received a treat at home.

The design was outlined as an ABAB reversal.

 The DRO reinforcement was either a gummy or social reinforcement (high five, hug) chosen by the student each interval. The delayed reinforcement of the permanent product data collection sheet at home decreased the value of scripting in comparison to the student receiving a sweet treat (ice cream) at a delayed time contingent on the number of intervals recorded without scripting. Criteria for receiving the sweet treat first was set at having a total of 5 intervals (baseline data) in which there were 0 rates of scripting in the classroom setting. The criteria were incrementally increased weekly, contingent on the student’s success. The BCBA, after retuning to baseline, made the criteria contingent on a roll of dice that the student could access if they had 10 intervals with 0 rates of scripting for the day. The student needed to have more intervals with 0 rates of scripting than number rolled on the dice to access their sweet treat.


 The participant was a 12-year-old boy with Autism who engaged in scripting behaviors hypothesized to be automatically maintained via ABC data assessment. He attended a Private School and participated in a regular education classroom for 2 hours, 5 days per week.

Results and Discussion

The intervention was determined to be effective at decreasing scripting behaviors from a baseline of 68% of the day, based on 5-minute partial interval recording, to 24%. The delivery of reinforcement via the DRO in school was effective for decreasing scripting behaviors during the client’s regular education math and science classes. During the second baseline phase, the data did overlap with 2 intervention points. The two data points were outliers, both on days when the client returned from their grandparent’s house from the weekend where there is much less structure than his own. IOA was at an average of 82%, collected 10% of sessions. The BCBA determined that the discrepancy in data could be attributed to observer drift of the RBT, who began counting behaviors not included in the “movie thinking” definition. Social validity was not officially collected, but the client’s mom requested at the end of the intervention for the specific procedures so she could use the intervention at church, where the client’s behaviors were increasing. During the short return to baseline, the client expressed that they were upset about not receiving the reinforcement from the RBT and requested that it return. Overall, the intervention was very effective at decreasing covert scripting behaviors in the client.