One of the tenets of ABA is to provide evidence-based practice. The best way to help us do this is to keep up with the literature! Each month, Sam Blanco, PhD, LBA, BCBA will select one journal article and provide discussion questions for professionals working within the ABA community. The following week another ABA professional will respond to Sam’s questions and provide further insight and a different perspective on the piece.
When I was first starting out in behavior analysis, I was amazed at the simplicity and accuracy of functional analysis. Behaviors that had seemed complex and impossible to change suddenly made sense. I felt ready to create interventions to address those behaviors, and started to see more success in my behavior change procedures. Functional analysis remains one of my favorite topics to teach, and one of the questions I get most often from my graduate students is about ethical concerns in relation to completing a functional analysis for potentially dangerous behaviors.
This has been a concern in the field, and there is a strong evidence base that identifying, assessing, and treating precursor behaviors is effective in reducing the target problem behavior. For this month, I have selected a paper on this topic.
Herscovitch, B., Roscoe, E. M., Libby, M. E., Bourret, J. C., & Ahearn, W. H. (2009). A procedure for identifying precursors to problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(3), 697-702.
What is the purpose of the current study? How is it relevant to your current work?
The researchers used both indirect and descriptive methods for identifying precursor responses. What were these methods?
Describe each of the probability measures the researchers used. How were these related to each other? Could these be used in your current setting?
What did the authors find was most probable to occur prior to head-hitting behavior? Why is this information important?
When the researchers conducted the functional analysis on the precursor behavior, was the head-hitting behavior eliminated? Why is this important to recognize? What implications does it have for practitioners?
Identifying the precursor behavior can decrease risk resulting from problem behaviors such as self-injurious behavior or aggression. Can you identify a current problem behavior for one of your clients and create a plan for determining precursor behaviors?
Please note that this particular study has only one participant. Sometimes, behavior analysis as a field is criticized for the use of single-subject studies. You can read this previous post for more on the topic of single-subject studies.
WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, PhD, LBA, BCBA
The founder of ABA Journal Club, Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-15 in NYC. Working in education for twelve years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam utilizes strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. She is also an assistant professor in the ABA program at The Sage Colleges.