Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Peterson

Second Advisor

Dr. Anthony DeFulio

Third Advisor

Dr. Amanda Karsten

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sarah Bloom


Elopement is a dangerous behavior in children with developmental disabilities because it greatly increases the risk of accidents that lead to serious injury or death. The dangers of elopement are especially high during transitions because these situations increase the chance that a child will gain unsupervised access outside, where the most serious accidents typically occur. Despite its severity, assessment methodologies that specifically evaluate the contextual variables found during transitions are not available. Additionally, treatment for elopement during transitions typically involves antecedent interventions which do not address function. Continued research on effective and efficient means for the assessment and treatment of elopement during transitions is needed. The current study consisted of three phases. In Phase 1, we conducted a trial-based transition functional analysis (TBTFA) to identify the function of elopement during transitions. This analysis informed the development of a function-based intervention. In Phase 2, we used an ABAB reversal design to evaluate the effects of the intervention on elopement and appropriate transitions and evaluated the generality of effects in outside settings. Finally, in Phase 3, we evaluated whether a stimulus used during treatment set the occasion for appropriate transitions when treatment was terminated. The TBTFA successfully identified a function of elopement during transitions for one out of three participants. Additionally, elopement during transitions decreased and appropriate transitions increased for all three participants. Results of the stimulus control assessment indicated that we did not successfully establish a discriminative stimulus to occasion appropriate transitions.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access