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


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.


Pica Functional analysis Autism Skill acquisition 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


There was no funding for this study.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declarations and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from the legal guardians of all individual participants in the study.

Conflict of Interest

All of the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan D. Schmidt
    • 1
    • 2
  • Abigail Long
    • 1
    • 3
  • Amanda L. Goetzel
    • 1
  • Christopher Tung
    • 1
    • 4
  • Eliana Pizarro
    • 1
    • 5
  • Cara Phillips
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nicole Hausman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Behavioral PsychologyKennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.RockvilleUSA
  4. 4.AtlantaUSA
  5. 5.GainsevilleUSA

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