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4 Phases of Intervention 


  1. Assessment
  2. Planning
  3. Implementation 
  4. Evaluation 


Assessment and Components

(Functional Behavior Assessment; FBA) 

  • A systematic method for obtaining information about the FUNCTION challenging behaviors serve
  • allows you to make empirically based hypotheses for WHY behaviors occur 
  • Involves a variety of methods 
  • discovers resources, assets, significant others, competing contingencies, maintenance and generlization factors, potential reinforcers and/or punishers that may be included in intervention plans 

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Purpose of Assessment

  • identifies and defines targets for behavior change
  • guides us to create effective and positive interventions 


Being Ethically Prepared for an Assessment

  • Must choose socially significant behaviors 
  • Must be skilled at conducting assessments 
  • Only accept clients whose behavior problems are commensurate with your education, training, and experience 


The Shape of An Assessment 

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5 Phases of Assessment


  1. Screening and general disposition 
  2. Defining and Quanitfying problems or desire acheivement criteria 
  3. Pinpointing target beahviors to be treated 
  4. Monitoring Progress
  5. Follow Up 


Ethical Pre-Assessment Considerations

  • you must ask this question: Who has the authority, permission, resources, and skills to coplete an assessment and intervene with the behavior 
    • if you do not have one of these components, you should not do the assessment 
    • You must obtain the client's approval in writing 


Indirect vs. Direct Measures of Assessment

  • Indirect 
    • data obtained from recollections or subjective ratings of events 
      • Interviews
      • Checklists 
    • not as reliable as direct descriptive methods 
    • should only be used to supplement other FBA methods 
    • starts the hypotheses development process 
  • Direct
    • Provides information about a behavior as it occurs
      • Tests
      • Direct Observations 


4 Methods to Aquire Information for Assessment


  1. Checklists 
  2. Observation (Direct Observation) 
    1. Anecdotal Observation (ABC Recording) 
    • must conduct at least 20 to 30 minutes and for several days to decrease reactivity effects 
  3. Interviews (Structured Behavioral Interview) 
  4. Tests (Standardized Tests)


Ethical Guidelines in Conducting Assessments

  • Review records and data at the outset of the case
  • Rule out medical causes for proboem behavior 
  • Conduct a preliminary assesment of the client in order to identify the problem behavior 
    • indirect assessment to determine if the behavior:
      • dangerous?
      • affects well being?
      • prevents the child from accessing less restricting environments?
      • compares to same aged typically developing peers?
  • Explain behavioral concepts using non-technical language 
  • Describe and explain behavior including private events in behavior analytic terms (not mentalistic) 
  • Provide ABA services in collaboration with others who support and/or rovide services to the client 
  • Select intervention strategies based on enviornmental resource constraints 
  • Identify and make enviornmental changes that reduce the need for ABA services 
  • Assess the social significance of the potential target behaviors 
  • Ask whose behavior is being assessed and why--not ok to change a behavior just to benefit others 


Ecological Assessment

  • gather a great deal of information about the individual and the various settings in which they live and work 
  • Include info about phsyilogical conditions, physical settings, interactions with others, home environment, etc. 
  • creates a lot of descriptive data 
  • costly in terms of time and money so know when it is appropriate to use 



  • the effects of the assessment process on the behavior of the individual being assessed 
  • most likely to occur when observation methods are obtrusive (self-monitoring is most obtrusive) 
  • repeat observations to reduce reactivity and take it into account when interpreting your data 




  • Habilitation occurs when a person's repertoire has been changed such that short and long term reinforcers are maximixed and punishers are minimized 
  • Assesses meaningfulness of change 
  • 10 questions to ask to assess if the target behavior you chose to change will be habilitative for your client 


10 questions to ask when evnaluating the Habilitation/Social Significance of Target Behaviors

  1. Is this behavior likely to produce reinforcement in the client's natural enviornment after intervention ends? (Relevance of Behavior Rule)
  2. Is this bheavior a prerequisite (component) for a more complex functional skill? 
  3. Will this behavior increase the client's acces to environments? (Access Behaviors) 
  4. Will changing this behavior predispose others to interact with the client in a more supportive manner? 
  5. Is this behavior a pivotal behavior or a behavioral cusp
  6. Is this an age appropriate behavior? 
  7. If this behavior is to be reducted/elimiated from the client's repertoire, has an adaptive and functional behavior been selected to replace it? (Constructional Approach vs. Eliminative Approach) 
  8. Does this behavior represent the actual goal, or is it only indirectly related? 
  9. Is this just talk, or is it the real behavior of interest? 
  10. If the goal is not a specific behavior, will this behavior help acheive it? 




  • The belief that people with disabilities should to the maximum extent possible be phyiscally and socially integrated into mainstream society regardless of the degree or type of disability 


Behavioral Cusps

  • behaviors that open the client's world to new contingencies -- gateway behaviors 
  • has sudden and dramatic consequences that extend well beyond the idisyncratic change itself 
  • Exposes the client's repertoire to new environments, especially new reinforcers and punishers, contingecities, responses, stimulus controls, and communities of maintaining or destructive contingencies. When some or all of these happen, the client's repertoire expands; it encounters a differentially slective mainteance of the new as well as some old repertoires and that may lead to furthur cusps 
  • Ex: crawling, reading, generalized imitation 

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Pivotal Behaviors

  • Relates to treatment of people with autism and developmental disabilities 
  • A behavior that once learned produces corresponding modifications or covariations in other adaptive UNTRAINED behaviors 
  • teaching pivotal behaviors reduces intervention time 
  • strategy = pivotal response training (PRT) 
  • Ex: teaching a child to self-initiate/approach others. May be PIVOTAL to increased language production, diversity of what they talk about, and asking questions--all UNTRAINED response classes 
  • Ex: Joint Attention 

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Similarities and Differences between Behavioral Cusps and Pivotal Behaviors

  • Similarities
    • both are behaviors you want to teach first because they are behaviors upon which other behaviors can be built 
  • Differences:
    • Behavioral cusps = accessing new contingencies and enviornments (not behaviors) 
    • Pivotal behaviors = experiencing increases in corresponding untrained behaviors
  • ​​​However, meeting with new contingencies and environments will often lead to do new behaviors so these terms are sometimes AKAs 


Generative Learning

(Derived Relations) 

Enhancing comprehension of new material due to previous learning by teaching material to the client to FLUENCY and through teaching behavioral cusps and pivotal behaviors


Prioritizing Target Behaviors 

  1. Threat to health or safety of client or others
  2. Frequency
    1. opportunities to use the new behavior 
    2. occurence of the problem behavior 
  3. longevity of the problem--chronic problems targeted before new ones 
  4. potential for higher rates of reinforcement
  5. relative importance of this target behavior to future skill development and independent functioning 
  6. reduction of negative attention from others
  7. reinforcement for significant others 
  8. likelihood of success--some bx are hard to change than others
  9. cost-benefit ratio 


Direct Descriptive FBA

(Descriptive Assessment; Direct Assessment) 

  • Direct Observation of the problem behavior under natural conditions
  • events are not arranged in a systematic manner
  • provides data on the occurrence of the behavior within the context of the natural environment 
  • involves baseline data collection 


3 Data Collection Methods for Descriptive FBAs

  1. ABC Continuous Recording
  2. ABC Narrative Recording
  3. Scatter Plot 

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ABC Continuous Recording

(one of the 3 Data Collection Methods for Descriptive FBAs)

  • Record occurrences of targeted problem behaviors and selected environmental events within the natural routine during a specified period of time
  • minimum of 20 to 30 minutes 
  • Advantages
    • uses precise measures
    • provides useful into and correlations that can be useful to funtional analyses 
    • can calculate conditional probablity- proportions of target behavior preceded by a specific antecedent OR followed by a specfici consequence
  • Disadvantages 
    • oftehn antecedents do not reliably preced and follow problem behavior making correlations difficult to detect 

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Conditional Probability 

  • The probability that a target behavior will occur in a specific circumstance (antecedent or consequence) which helps us hypothesize the function of behavior 
  • taken from ABC data
  • The closer the conditional probablity is to 1.0, the more convincing your hypothesis is 
  • Always reported in decimals
  • Formula:
    • # of behaviors preceeded by a specific antecedent / total # of behaviors
    • # of behaviors followed by a specific consequence / total # of behaviors


ABC Narrative Recording

(Sequence Analysis; ABC Descriptive Narrative Data) 

(one of the 3 Data Collection Methods for Descriptive FBAs)

  • recording is NOT continuous--only collected when behaviors of interest are observed
  • recording is narrative/story like/open ended 
  • Advantages
    • less time onsuming than continuous recording
    • can calculate conditional probabilities 
  • Disadvantages 
    • utility in identifying behavioral function NOT established
    • may yield false positives because you only collect data when the behavior occurs 
    • same antecedents and consequences may be present when problem behavior is absent 
    • low reliability 


Scatter Plot 

(Pattern Analysis) 

(one of the 3 Data Collection Methods for Descriptive FBAs)

  • Procedure for recording the extent to which a target behavior occurs more often at a particular time than others 
  • Divide the day into blocks of time
  • For each time period, enter a symbol to indicate whether problem behavior occured a lot, sometimes, or not at all 
  • analyze the patterns to identify temporal distrubitions of behavior and events that occur at that time 
  • Advantages 
    • can be used to poinpoint period of the day to fucs ABC assesments on
  • Disadvantages
    • subjective
    • does not determine function
    • does not offer replacement bx 

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Indirect FBA

  • gathering information using interviews, rating scales, checklists 
  • Advantages: 
    • contributes to hypothesis development 
    • simple to use 
    • does not require observation 
  • Disadvantages
    • informants may not be accurate 
    • low reliability of information obtained 


Functional Equivalence 

(Functionally Equivalent Behaviors) 

  • When you decrease a behavior, you must select an acceptable alternative behavior that is functionally equivalent to be established or increased 
  • your intervention must match the function of the behavior 
  • teaching a functionally equivalent skills is one of the 6 BASIC CLIENT RIGHTS in The Right to Effective Behavioral Treatment 


Making a Recommendation 

Your FBA indicates that the client is in need of the behvior being:

  • Established 
  • Maintained 
  • Increased
  • Decreased or Eliminated -- use a discrepancy analysis to determine if the behavior is at problematic levels 


6 Basic Client Rights

(Van Houten et al., 1988)
1. Therapeutic environment
2. Services that focus on the welfare of the client
3. Treatment by a competent behavior analyst
4. Ongoing evaluation and behavioral assessment
5. The most effective interventions available
6. Teaching functional skills


Importance of Defining Target Behaviors 

For researchers, it is required for replication. 

For practitioners, it is required to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention


3 Characteristics of Good Operational Definitions


  1. Objective - refers only to the observable 
  2. Clear - readable and unambiguous 
  3. Complete - delineates boundaries of a defintion--what is included and excluded 

Environmental variables should also be defined using OCC


Social Validity

3 Factors:

  1. Social significance of the goals 
  2. Social appropriateness of the procedures
    • If the mediators are not satisfied with the procedures they are not going to maintain the intervention in the future 
  3. Social importance of the effects (changes in target behavior and collateral behavior)
    • are consumers satisfied with the results? 


4 Functions of Problem Behavior


  1. Sensory
  2. Escape
  3. Attention
  4. Tangible 


Default Technologies

Coercive, punishment based interventions often selected arbitrarily 


Functional Analysis

(FA; Experimental Analysis; Analog Assessment)

  • The only FBA method that allows us to confirm hypotheses regarding functional relations between behaviors and environmental events 
  • Antecedents and consequences are arranged/manipulated to seperate effects on behavior 
  • Analogs- the arrangement of variables 
  • FAs done in natural settings yield same result as simulated settings 
  • 2 Types:
    • Extended FA (standard) 
    • Brief FA


4 Oringinal FA Conditions

Three Test Conditions and One Control Condition:

  1. Contingent Attention (Social Disapproval) 
  2. Contingent Escape (Academic Demand) 
  3. Alone
  4. Control (Play Condition) 
  • Control condition should have low levels of problem bx because reinforcement (tangibles and NCR) are avaialble and no demands are placed
  • Each condition contains an MO and potential source of reinforcement 
  • Conditions systematically presented one at a time in alternating sequence until a pattern emerges 
  • Sessions are repeated 
  • TANGIBLE condition was later added only if necessary

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FA- Attention Function

Contingent Attention Condition = Positive Reinforcement

  • Client is given attention and then attention is withdrawn to establish the MO (EO for attention) 
  • Problem bx occurs → Reprimand → with draw attention (and repeat) 

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FA- Escape Function

Contingent Escape Condition = Negative Reinforcement

  • The child is given non-preferred demands repeatedly to establish the MO (EO for negative reinforcement/escape)
  • No response to demand/incorrect response → Prompt
  • Problem behavior → demands removed → demand represented after some time has passed (repeat)

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FA Automatic Reinforcement Function

Alone Condition = Automatic Reinforcement

  • Child is in room without demands and without social interaction 
  • Problem behavior → No consequence 
  • If behavior is highest in alone condition, automatic reinforcement is the function OR if there is an undifferentiated (spider web graph) the function may be automatic 

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FA Undifferentiated Function 

  • Problem behavior is occuring across all conditions including control/play 
  • 2 Conclusions
    • problem behavior is maintained by automatic reinforcement 

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FA Inconclusive Result Example 

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FA Control/Play Condition

  • Tests for automatic reinforcement OR the need for another functional analysis 
  • Leisure materials are freely available and attention is given every 30 seconds 
  • Problem behavior → No consequence with the exception of withholding attention if it occured at the 30 second mark 


FA Tangible Condition 

  • Client is given access to highly preferred items for a set amount of time and then they are removed creating the MO (estabilishing operation for access to tangibles) 
  • Problem behavior → tangible is returned for a set amount of time and then is removed again (repeat) 


Brief Functional Analysis

  • Systematically manipulate environmental variables to TRIGGER PROBLEM BEHAVIOR and reinforce it when it happens 
  • Uses the same conditions but only for 10 MINUTES
  • Each condition, except control/play, must include an MO and SD that singlas reinforcement is available 
  • If the consequence delivered (attention, escape, access to tangible) increases behavior, that consequence is the function 
    • If behavior does not increase or does not occur, that consequence is not the function 


Advantages and Disadvantages of FAs

  • Advantages: 
    • clear demonstration of variables that relate to problem behavior 
    • gold standard to which all other forms of FBA methods are evaluated 
    • Enables development of effective reinforcement based/function based treatments 
  • Disadvantages: 
    • ETHICS WARNING: may temporarily strengthen the problem behavior 
    • May result in the behavior acquiring new functions 
    • Acceptability is low 
    • Difficult to use for dangerous behaviors
    • Difficult to use for low frequency behaviors 
    • If conducted in contrived settings, may not identify idosyncratic variables 
    • requires a lot of time, effort, and professional expertise 


Designing and Conducting Procedures for Identifying Putative Reinforcers

Putative = Potential 

  • What is reinforcing for one person may not be reinforcing for another
  • Preferences are TRANSITORY 
    • change with age, interest level, time of day, presence of MOs, etc. 
  • 2 Procedures 
    • Stimulus Preference Assesment 
    • Reinforcer Assessment 


Stimulus Preference Assessments and Reinforcer Assessments Chart

Stimulus Preference Assessments: ATF

  1. Ask
  2. Trial Based Methods: PMS
    1. Single Stimulus (Successive Choice) 
    2. Paired Stimuli (Forced Choice) 
    3. Multiple Stimuli 
      1. Multiple Stimuli With Replacement (MSW)
      2. Multiple Stimuli Without Replacement (MSWO)
  3. Free Operant Observations
    1. Contrived Observation 
    2. Naturalistic Observation 

Reinforcer Assessments: CMP

  1. Concurrent Schedules
  2. Multiple Schedules
  3. Progressive Ratio Schedules 

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Stimulus Preference Assessment

  • identifies stimuli that are likely to function as reinforcers 
  • The relative preferance value of stimuli (high preference or low preference) is established 
  • The conditions under which those preference values change when task demands, deprivation states, or schedules of reinforcement change are identified 


Stimulus Preference Assessment: Asking

  • Ask the client
    • open ended questions
    • choice format 
    • ranking objects on a list 
  • Ask significant others 
  • Offer a Pre Task Choice: "Which one do you want to earn?" 


Free Operant Observation 

(one of the 3 Stimulus Preference Assessments) 

  • Recording what activities a person engages in when they can choose during a period of unrestricted access to numerous activities 
  • 2 Types 
    • Contrived Free Operant Observation (practitioner fills the enviornment with things client may like) 
    • Naturalistic Free Operant Observation (conducted in natural environment) 


3 Ways to Measure Clients Behavior during Stimulus Preference Assessments 

(for free operant observations and trial based methods) 


  1. Approach- any detectable movement towards the stimulus
  2. Contact
  3. Engagement- total time or percentage of intervals in which the person interacts with the stimuus 


  • High Preference (HP) 
  • Medium Preference (MP) 
  • Low Preference (LP) 


Trial Based Methods

(one of the 3 Stimulus Preference Assessments) 


  1. Paired Stimuli (Forced Choice) 
  2. Multiple Stimuli 
    1. Multiple Stimuli With Replacement (MSW)
    2. Multiple Stimuli Without Replacement (MSWO)
  3. ​Single Stimulus (Successive Choice) 


Paired Stimulus 

(one of the 3 Trial Based Methods in Stimuls Preference Assessments) 

  • simultaneous presentation of two stiumuli 
  • record which the learner chooses 
  • data reflects how many times each stimulus is chosen and then is ranked HP, MP, LP 
  • Time consuming because you must present every pair possible 


Multiple Stimulus Preference Assessment

(one of the 3 Trial Based Methods in Stimuls Preference Assessments) 

  • stimultaneous presentation of 3 or more stimuli 
  • Two Types
    • Multiple Stimuli With Replacement (MSW)
    • Multiple Stimuli Without Replacement (MSWO)


Single Stimulus Preference Assessment

(one of the 3 Trial Based Methods in Stimuls Preference Assessments) 

(Successive Choice) 

  • most basic method
  • good for those who have a hard time slecting among two or more choices 
  • Present one stimulus at a time and measure ACE (approach, contact, and engagement) 
  • items are presented multiple times in a varying order 


Guidelines for Selecting and Using Stimuls Preference Assessments 

  • Monitor client's activities during the time period before the stimulus preference assessment to be aware of MOs 
  • Use methods that balance cost benefit of brief vs prolonged assessments 
  • combine data from multiple assessment methods and sources of stimulus preference (ATF- ask, trial based, free operant) 


Reinforcer Assessment 

  • direct, data based methods used to present one or more stimuli contingent on a target respose and then measuring the future effects on the rate of responding 
  • used to determine the relative effects of a given stimulus as reinforcement under different and changing conditions and to assess the comparative effectiveness of multiple stimuli as reifnorcers for a given behavior under certain conditions 
  • puts potential reinforcers to a direct test 
  • measure effect on responding 
  • 3 Types- CMR 
    • Concurrent Schedule Reinforcer Assessment 
    • Multiple Schedule Reinforcer Assessment 
    • Progressive Ratio Schedule Reinforcer Assessment 


Concurrent Schedule 

(one of the 3 types of Reinforcer Assessments) 

  • two or more contingencies of reinforcement operate INDEPENDENTLY and SIMULTANEOUSLY for two or more behaviors 
  • pits two stimuli against each other to see which will produce the larger increase in responding 
  • shows the relative effectiveness of high preference and low preference stimuli as reinforcers 
  • may be used to determine differences between relative and absolute reinforcment effects:
    • will a low probability stimulus now presented contingently in the absence of the high probability stimulus serve as a reinforcer? 


Multiple Schedule

(one of the 3 types of Reinforcer Assessments) 

  • consists of presenting two or more component schedules of reinforcement for a single response with only one component schedule given at time (FI, FR, VI, VR)
  • An SD signals the presence of each component schedule and that stimulus is present as long as the schedule is in effect 
  • Ex: math facts during class on a variable reinforcement schedule VS. math facts with a tutor on FR1 


Identifying Potential Punishers/Punisher Assessment

  • Punishers are also transitory 
  • Punisher assessments use the same methods as reinforcer assessments 
  • Informs us of the INTENSITY of the punisher needed to effectively decrease or eliminate problem behavior 
  • you want to identify the smallest intensity of the punisher that is effective 
  • Measure 
    • negative verbalizations 
    • avoidance movements 
    • escape attempts