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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #85
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating New Approaches to Observational Measurement of Problem Behavior in Applied Settings
Sunday, May 29, 2016
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
Grand Suite 3, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Johanna Staubitz (Vanderbilt University)
Discussant: Jeffrey H. Tiger (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
CE Instructor: Johanna Staubitz, M.Ed.
Abstract: Advances in observational measurement techniques have the potential to improve the quality and feasibility of direct observation data as they relate to the assessment and treatment of problem behavior. This symposium includes four data-based studies on new approaches to measuring problem behavior and behavior-environment contingencies. First, Doyle et al. will present an evaluation of correspondence between systematic direct observation and a practical alternative (Direct Behavior Rating) for evaluating treatment effects on problem behavior. The next three presentations will focus on methods of estimating behavior-environment contingencies from direct observation data. Staubitz & Lloyd will share results of a study comparing the validity of six methods of sequential analysis applied to observational data with programmed response-reinforcer contingencies. Courtemanche et al. will share results of a study applying one of these sequential analysis methods to estimate contingencies for individuals with chronic self-injury in community settings. Finally, Valdovinos et al. will present results of a study investigating the role of controlling for base rates when estimating contingencies between problem behavior and environmental events in natural settings. All four presentations represent innovative observational measurement strategies that have the potential to improve the quality and/or feasibility of direct measures of problem behavior in applied settings.
Keyword(s): contingencies, direct observation, measurement, sequential analysis

A Simplified Outcome Measure for Use in Treatment Trials for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities

ANNE DOYLE (Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders), Casey J. Clay (University of Missouri), Jenny Teator (University of Missouri), Brittany Schmitz (University of Missouri), Courtney Jorgenson (University of Missouri), SungWoo Kahng (University of Missouri)

One of the challenges faced by parents is objectively measuring treatment outcome. Currently, measurement methods are too cumbersome or rely upon subjective information. The current investigation aims to use a simplified measurement system to assess treatment outcome for problem behaviors exhibited by individuals with DD. Direct Behavior Rating (DBR) is an evaluative rating completed by caregivers at the time the behaviors occur and includes multiple, continuous observations over a period of time that yields a repeated, objective, and quantitative measure of behavior. The specific aim of this project is to demonstrate that DBR is maximally sensitive to detect behavioral changes. The participants were four female college students. Each participant viewed 12, 5-min videos of a child with autism under baseline and treatment conditions. After viewing each video, the participant used DBR to rate the severity of the problem behaviors. Our primary analysis compared DBR to systematic direction observation (SDO) across baseline and treatment phases comparing changes in level, trend, and variability. The results showed good correspondence between DBR and SDO in terms of changes in level across phases, trends, and variability. These preliminary data highlight a promising approach to evaluating treatment outcome in settings in which SDO is difficult.


Applications of Sequential Analysis Methods to Observations With Programmed Response-Reinforcer Contingencies: A Validity Assessment

JOHANNA STAUBITZ (Vanderbilt University), Blair Lloyd (Vanderbilt University)

A variety of sequential analysis methods exist to quantify operant contingencies from observational data. Results of a recent simulation study indicated a modified event lag method may produce more accurate and interpretable contingency estimates relative to other standard approaches (Lloyd, Yoder, Tapp, & Staubitz, 2015). Whereas the simulation study modeled zero contingencies, the current study extends this research by applying the same methods of sequential analysis to observations with programmed non-zero contingencies. We used Sniffy the Virtual Rat software to generate observational sessions with programmed reinforcement contingencies, then superimposed fixed time schedules of reinforcement to model variation in contingency strength. We evaluated the degree to which each method of sequential analysis produced contingency estimates that (a) approximated programmed reinforcement contingencies and (b) demonstrated sensitivity to changes in contingency strength. Results indicated that event lag methods produced closer approximations of programmed contingencies and demonstrated greater sensitivity to changes in contingency strength relative to interval-based and time window methods. In addition, consistent with the previous simulation study, our results suggest that interval-based and time-window methods have the potential to produce negatively biased contingency estimates.

Sequentially-Dependent Self-Injurious Behavior in Community Settings
ANDREA B. COURTEMANCHE (University of Saint Joseph), Blair Lloyd (Vanderbilt University), Johanna Staubitz (Vanderbilt University), Sherry Crossley (University of Saint Joseph)
Abstract: Studies have documented a sequential dependence between instances of self-injurious behavior (SIB) rather than temporal relationships between SIB and social consequences. Thus, rather than SIB resulting in consistent social consequences, one instance of SIB is likely to be followed by another instance of SIB. Because many of the participants in these studies lived in institution-like settings, it is unclear whether these results could be attributed to relatively low rates of social attention in that environment. The purpose of this study was to use sequential analysis methodology to assess behavior-behavior and behavior-environment contingencies for a group of individuals with SIB living in community settings. Seven individuals with chronic SIB were videotaped during their daily routines. A continuous, timed-event recording system was used to code videos for the frequency of SIB and the frequency and duration of staff attention and participant engagement in functional activities. Participant and staff behavior were analyzed for frequency, duration, inter-observer agreement, and sequential dependencies. A sequential pattern of SIB was identified for some participants. Additionally, sequential patterns of SIB varied based on idiosyncratic topographies. Future research should evaluate the relationship between sequential associations of SIB in natural contexts and behavioral function as determined by functional analyses.

A Comparison of Quantitative Observational Methods

MARIA G. VALDOVINOS (Drake University), Lisa Beard (Drake University), Meara McMahon (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), John D Hoch (University of Minnesota)

Advancing technology allows behavioral observation and analysis to move beyond summaries of partial-interval data, to methods that preserve the time sequence of events. With these changes come questions about analysis of indices of association available in different software packages for understanding contingencies between caregiver and participant behavior. Within the context of a larger study evaluating the impact medication changes had on challenging behavior of 11 individuals, weekly, one-hour direct observations were conducted over a period of 2.5 yrs. Videos were uploaded into The Observer XT and coded for the onset and offset of environmental conditions (e.g., location, noise level, number of people in the room), participant behavior (e.g., challenging and adaptive behavior), caregiver behavior (e.g., demands made, attention delivered, etc.). Data from observations were aggregated and analyzed using two tools: the lag sequential analysis function in Observer which provides unadjusted conditional probabilities, and the freeware Generalized Sequential Querier software which provides indices of association adjusted for base rates of occurrence of the event sequences in question (Yules Q). The results obtained from these tools produced different conclusions for the same events (e.g., Table 1). The benefits and challenges of interpreting results within a behavioral analytic contingency framework will be discussed.




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