Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #337
CE Offered: BACB
Going Beyond the Gold Standard: Alternatives and Adaptations of Functional Analysis Methodology
Monday, May 26, 2014
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
W185a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: PRA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Joanna Lomas Mevers (Marcus Autism Center)
Discussant: Pamela L. Neidert (The University of Kansas)
CE Instructor: Joanna Lomas Mevers, Ph.D.

Functional analysis (FA) is the gold standard for identifying the function of problem behavior, but it is sometimes impractical or not feasible to implement. Therefore, it is important to develop alternative and adapted methods that can be implemented in settings where FAs are not possible. The current symposium will present recent research evaluating alternative methods such as indirect assessments, use of mand and preference assessments, and trial-based FAs. Data presented will compare alternative methods to FAs to determine the correspondence and validity of these alternative methods. Finding show improved correspondence when indirect assessments were completed by experts when compared to those completed by caregivers, good correspondence between concurrent operant preference assessment using the same reinforcers provided during the FA and positive treatment outcomes for interventions developed based on trial-based FAs. Taken together these results provide preliminary support for these alternative methods. Data will also be presented on the use of mand assessments as an alternative method for identifying the function of problem behavior. Results of the mand assessment were compared to those of FAs, showing low correspondence between mand assessments and FAs. Results from this study indicate mands may not be a viable alternative to FAs.

Keyword(s): Functional Analysis, Problem Behavior
An Evaluation of Trial-Based Functional Analyses in Classroom Settings
BLAIR LLOYD (Vanderbilt University), Joseph H. Wehby (Vanderbilt University), Emily Weaver (Vanderbilt University), Michelle Harvey (Vanderbilt University), Daniel Sherlock (Vanderbilt University)
Abstract: Although the functional analysis (FA) remains the gold standard for identifying the function of problem behavior for students with disabilities, traditional FA procedures are typically costly in terms of time, resources, and perceived risks. The purpose of the present study was to replicate and extend a trial-based FA methodology that shows promise in classroom settings. Participants were 4 paraprofessionals and 4 students with developmental disabilities and histories of high-frequency problem behavior who attended public elementary schools. Descriptive data on student problem behavior (i.e., direct observation and paraprofessional report) were collected to identify hypotheses and design experimental trials. Paraprofessionals conducted trial-based FAs in students’ usual instructional settings. To validate the outcomes of the trial-based FAs, paraprofessionals conducted subsequent intervention trials in the same setting. Results of the present study add to the growing evidence validating the trial-based FA as a practical alternative to traditional methodologies that are difficult to implement in classroom settings.

Experts Versus Caregivers: A Comparison of Indirect Assessments and Functional Analysis Outcomes

ERICA JOWETT (The University of Kansas), Joseph D. Dracobly (The University of Kansas), Claudia L. Dozier (The University of Kansas), Adam M. Briggs (The University of Kansas), Jessica Foster (The University of Kansas)

Functional analysis (e.g., Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982/1994) is the most effective methodology for identifying the function of problem behavior. However, skills and resources needed to conduct functional analyses are often not available in many settings, which has resulted in the use of indirect assessments to predict the function of problem behavior. To date, researchers have found that caregiver-completed indirect assessments are not valid (i.e., they do not correspond with functional analysis outcomes; Smith et al., 2012), but it is possible that "experts" may be better at accurately completing indirect assessments. The purpose of the current study was to compare the outcomes of an indirect assessment (Functional Analysis Screening Tool; Iwata, DeLeon, & Roscoe, 2012) completed by two caregivers and two experts in functional behavioral assessment and the outcome of a functional analysis. Five children with autism who engaged in problem behavior, their caregivers, and several experts participated. Comparison of the outcomes of the indirect assessments and functional analysis outcomes suggested that experts were more likely than caregivers to identify all functions of problem behavior via indirect assessments, but sometimes identified additional functions. The use of experts for completing indirect assessments could have significant impact on their utility.

Use of a Brief Concurrent Operant Preference Assessment as a Predictor of Function of Problem Behavior
JOANNA LOMAS MEVERS (Marcus Autism Center), Nathan Call (Marcus Autism Center), Ally Coleman (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: Functional analysis (FA) technology, as developed by Iwata and colleagues, (1982/1994) is considered the gold standard for identifying the function of problem behavior. Information gained via a FA can be used to develop function based interventions leading to better treatment outcomes than non-function based interventions (Campbell, 2003). Despite the utility of FAs, there are times in which they are not practical to implement in the natural environment. Common concerns include the inability to properly control extraneous variables, the need to have highly trained personnel oversee and conduct the assessment (Tarbox et al., 2009), as well as the necessity to observe problem behavior during the assessment. Thus, exploring alternative methods of functional assessment for those situations in which an FA is not feasible seems warranted. The current study replicates and extends the use of a concurrent operants preference assessment (St. Peter-Pipkin et al., 2010) to determine preferences for escape, attention and tangible items. For each participant the results of the preference assessment were compared to the results of an FA. Preliminary findings indicate good correspondence between the preference assessment and identified function found via FA providing some evidence for the use of this preference assessment to predict function of problem behavior.

Correspondence Between Functional Analyses of Mands (With and Without Prompting) and Functional Analyses of Problem Behavior: A New Perspective

Joseph Michael Lambert (Vanderbilt University), Sarah E. Bloom (University of South Florida), S. SHANUN KUNNAVATANA (Utah State University), Megan A. Boyle (Utah State University), Andrew Samaha (University of South Florida)

Although functional analyses (FAs) are the gold standard in identifying the function of problem behavior, they may not always be feasible. One alternative may be to assess the function of appropriate requesting (i.e., mands) under the same circumstances that problem behavior is assessed during traditional FAs. The assumption behind this type of assessment is that the motivating variables that evoke target problem behavior would also evoke functionally equivalent mands. Two recent studies have evaluated correspondence between FAs of problem behavior and mand assessments, however, results conflicted: Scheiltz et al. (2010) found correspondence for 20% of participants, whereas LaRue et al. (2011) found correspondence for 75%. The studies differed in whether or not they incorporated mand prompting. This study sought to determine whether procedural variations accounted for the difference in correspondence. Thus, we conducted three assessments with four children: a mand assessment with prompts, a mand assessment without prompts, and an FA of problem behavior. The results indicate poor correspondence between FAs of problem behavior and mand assessments with prompts (0%), as well as mand assessments without prompts (25%), suggesting mand assessments should not be used as a basis for identifying function of problem behavior.




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