Cortisol levels of Children with Disabilities during Functional Analyses of Problem Behavior

HPA axis activation and physiological stress/anxiety response, resulting in increased release of stress hormones, shows positive correlation with environmental conditions in which problem behavior is present/increases in autistic individuals.

Therefore, our research questions are:

  • Is HPA axis activation involved in problem behavior in autistic individuals during functional analysis, and if so, how (what is the correlation/relationship)?
  • Do autistic individuals differ from typically-developing (or non-autistic individuals?) individuals on measures of stress/anxiety response under conditions of a functional analysis?

Therefore, we predict that HPA axis activation and physiological stress/anxiety response, resulting in increased release of stress hormones, will show a positive correlation with environmental conditions in which problem behavior is present/increases in autistic individuals.

We predict that the conditions included in a functional analysis of problem behavior will allow us to identify under which context these correlations occur for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

This project is under the supervision of Andrew Gardner, PhD. and in collaboration with Melissa Birkett, PhD from the Department of Psychology. Undergraduate and graduate students from Northern Arizona University will also participate.