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Having done a thorough assessment and identified the observable and socially significant behaviours to target in therapy, the next step is to make sure that behaviours are measurable.
From the Part 3 in the series, we learned that it’s really important that everyone can describe the same behaviour. The next step is to make sure that the target behaviour is ‘measurable’. This involves having a clear idea of the ways in which behaviour can be measured. The two most commonly used measures are to do with frequency and duration.
How to measure behaviour
Frequency is simply the number of times the behaviour occurs. Let’s use the example of homework. We could choose to measure how many times a child sits down during the week to do their homework. That the child sits down five times over the course of the week might be useful information. But…we might be more interested in duration.
Duration is the length of time that the behaviour occurs during an episode. While it might be useful to records the number of homework attempts, it actually might be more interesting to look at how long the child sat down and did their homework. Five seconds, 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes starts to tell a different story.
Two other factors might help is understand the behaviour – latency (how much time passes between a prompt and the occurrence of the behaviour) and intensity (the force with which a behaviour occurs). Latency is a big one when understanding homework. For example the child may sit down 5 times a week to do their homework, for 20 minutes at a time. However their parent has to prompt them every minute to “do your homework”. Frequency and duration are looking fine but latency is not looking good at all!
Measurable behaviour and progress
Part of creating an ABA program is focusing on how data can be collected to allow a thorough and meaningful evaluation of progress. Hence you’ll always see our program managers spend time with the behaviour therapists working out the best way to measure behaviour. Those of you already in the program know that this is often the first thing that is looked at in program reviews. At the end of the day we want everyone to feel good about therapy AND for the data to show us that real progress is being made. Data can also help us problem solve when progress isn’t going according to plan.
As always please contact the team on 9274 7062 should you have any questions.
Program Manager, ABACAS
Post Script – Jenny finished up in her role last week to fly back to America to be with her family and partner. She will remain a Board Certified supervisor working with the team long distance. Jenny brought a lot of enthusiasm for ABA to her role, as well as considerable skill and knowledge. We were very fortunate to have had her with us for the last 18 months and we will still miss her (even though we will have her from time to time on Skype!). Naomi Ward, Clinical Director.