In applied behavior analysis, data drives each decision we make. Without data, we are simply making our best guess with the information we have at hand. Often these guesses are based on our own opinion and contain subjective information derived from how we “feel” things are going. Data allows us to make objective decisions based on quantifiable information. When data is objective, it removes one’s opinion and makes the data more accurate. It is important that we make changes based on accurate information in order to support effective behavioral change.
Data isn’t something that’s only meant for scientists. Many fields and professionals use data including doctors, pharmacists, mechanics, teachers, and business owners. In reality, most of us analyze, search, find patterns, and make predictions with information in our everyday lives. Data is everywhere and it often drives the decisions we make without us even knowing it.
Let’s look at some examples of how we use data everyday:
- Checking the weather to determine what to wear for the day
- Making a grocery list to determine what you need from the store
- Following a recipe
- Keeping a food log
- Using a device to track exercise, sleep, and mood
In applied behavior analysis, we use data to measure behavior change. The goal of any behavior analysis program is to change behavior. Behavior analysts measure the effect of interventions on behavior. Once an intervention is put in place, behavior analysts watch for a decrease in problem behavior and an increase in positive behavior. The only way we know this change is occurring is with data collection. Chances are, you have been asked to complete this very important task of data collection.
Data collection is a core part of your child’s therapy program. Data is collected each time your child has a therapy session. You might even be asked to collect data outside of therapy sessions depending on your child’s goals. Data may be collected on your child’s behaviors, new skills, treatment goals, potty, social skills, sleep, or eating patterns. What behaviors and skills are tracked and the type of data collection used is specific to your child’s plan.
There are numerous types of data collection some of which you might be familiar with and some that might be new to you. Anytime you are asked to collect data or when data is shared with you, your child’s consultant will train you on collection and interpretation. Below are different types of data collection that may be used by your child’s team or that you might be asked to collect.
- Frequency: the number of times a behavior or response occurs.
- Duration: the length of time from start to stop that a behavior or response occurs.
- Latency: the length of time from the instruction to the start of the behavior.
- Intensity/Magnitude: the degree to which the behavior is happening. What is the impact of the behavior?
- ABC Recording: Descriptive information about the antecedent, behavior, and consequence when observing a behavior. The antecedent occurs before the behavior and triggers it. The consequence is what happened after the behavior including how others responded.
- Per Opportunity: When the opportunity arises for your child to engage in a particular behavior, skill, or response does your child complete it or not.
In conclusion, data collection is a very important piece to your child’s therapy program. Data collection is not only used to track problem behavior, but also data is collected on your child’s new skills, goals, and other adaptive behaviors. Data collection helps us to know if treatment is working. With data collection, it becomes easier for professionals to understand behavior patterns and the progress of the individual. In the end, data collection can be viewed as the most important part of your child’s treatment program because without it, effective treatment would not be able to take place. Data collection is the foundation for decision making with one’s treatment and supports your child’s success. Now let’s take some data!
- Bears, K. Johnson, C., Handen, B., Butter, E., Lecavalier, L., Smith, T., Seahill, L. (2018). Parent training for disruptive behavior; the RUBI autism network, parent workbook. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Cooper, J. Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed). New Jersey: Pearson Education.
- Kansas Institute for Positive Behavior Support, University of Kansas.