User-Friendly Data Collection for Natural Environment ABA Interventions

When implementing ABA interventions in natural contexts, data collection can be challenging if you do not have a variety of user-friendly data collection tools at your fingertips.  In traditional 1:1 ABA therapy, percentage data is the most widely used data collection procedure.  This entails taking data after every learning trial to indicate if the child responded correctly, incorrectly, or needed prompting.  After all individual trials are recorded a percentage is obtained by dividing the number of correct responses by the total number of trials.  While this is the most objective data collection method, it may not be the most appropriate for every goal when implementing ABA in natural contexts for two reasons:

1.  It may not be feasible for caregivers or teachers to take trial-by-trial data during everyday routines.  This could be because taking trial-by-trial data can negatively impact the engagement between the child and the adult if the act of recording data causes the interaction to be stopped repeatedly.  Also, realistically, caregivers and teachers may not even be able or willing to take trial-by-trial data while also working to increase the child’s participation in the ongoing routine.

2.  Many social communication goals cannot be measured using percentage data because of the nature of the goals themselves.  For example, if a child has a goal such as “The child will engage in reciprocal interactions with peers for at least five minutes during recess independently,” percentage data would not be appropriate.

In Chapter 6 of my book, Bringing ABA into Your Inclusive Classroom, I share several different data collection tools that are user friendly for natural environment ABA interventions including:

Level of Independence Data:  Caregivers and teachers give an overall rating of the level of prompting the child needed to demonstrate the skill stated in the goal throughout the day using the following rankings:  maximum prompting, moderate prompting, minimum prompting, and independent.  Each ranking is specifically defined for each goal to ensure accuracy of data collection.

Individualized Rating Scales:  This is similar to level of independence data, but instead of using the prompting levels, specific ratings related to the goal are provided.  If you consider the reciprocal interactions goal stated earlier, individualized ratings may include:  1) The child did not engage in reciprocal interactions, 2) The child engaged in reciprocal interactions for 1-2 minutes, 3) The child engaged in reciprocal interaction for 3-4 minutes, 4) The child engaged in reciprocal interactions for at least 5 minutes.

Yes/No Data:  Caregivers and teachers simply indicate ‘yes’ if the child displayed the skill indicated in the goal independently or ‘no’ if the child did not do so or needed prompting to do so.

Frequency Data:  Caregivers and teachers indicate how many times a certain desirable behavior indicated in a goal was displayed throughout the day.  For example, if a goal states, “The child will raise her hand to answer questions during group instruction at least three times each day,” the teacher would simply record a tally mark each time the child raises her hand to answer a question.  At the end of the day the teacher would indicate the total number of hand raises.

Actual data collection sheets are included in the book to allow caregivers and teachers to take data and create graphs at the same time (as opposed to having to graph data at a later time).  If a child has five-ten goals, data can be collected and graphed each day in less than a minute if these sheets are used.  The book also includes percentage data sheets for instances in which it is feasible for this type of data collection to be used.  If you are interested in having copies of the data sheets, the book can be purchased at http://products.brookespublishing.com/Search.aspx?k=bringing%20aba.

Written by Deb Leach, Ed.D., BCBA

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