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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Basics of Applied Behavior Analysis: Part 2: Assessment

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“Behavioral assessment involves a variety of methods including direct observations, interviews, checklists, and tests to identify and define targets for behavior change.” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2014).

In applied behavior analysis, thorough and quality assessments are important. It isn’t good enough to simply go through a quick survey, checklist, or interview questionnaire. Instead, it is imperative that assessments include relevant tools that will lead to useful information and quality results related to an individual’s strengths and areas for growth.

Additionally, assessments in ABA should include procedures that lead to gathering information related to identifying an individual’s resources, strengths, abilities, support systems, competing behavior contingencies, and potential reinforcers.

These concepts can be identified in a number of ways. Some examples include utilized formal assessment instruments, such as using the RAISD to identify potential reinforcers. You can also utilize a directed interview of the identified client and/or their caregiver to gather information regarding natural supports, significant people in the client’s life, and potential challenges or barriers that might impact treatment.

According to Cooper, et. al. (2014), there are five phases of behavioral assessment which include:

  1. Screening and general disposition
  2. Defining and generally quantifying problems or desired achievement criteria
  3. Pinpointing the target behaviors to be treated
  4. Monitoring progress
  5. Following up

The primary purpose of the behavioral assessment in applied behavior analysis is to identify the function that the identified behavior serves in the individual’s life. Additionally, assessments can help to identify what reinforcement strategies are likely to be necessary to put in place in order to teach new behaviors and new skills.

There are multiple types of assessments used in ABA. Here is a list of the various assessment types:

  • Interviews
    • Interviewing the person (the identified client)
    • Interviewing significant others (such as the parent, guardian, or other relevant people in the client’s life such as a teacher)
  • Checklists
  • Standardized tests
  • Direct observation (observe what the individual does and take notes accurately)
  • Ecological assessment (this helps to provide more in-depth information regarding the multiple environments in which the individual lives, works, and spends their time)

There are other ways of completing behavioral assessments, as well.

For instance, functional behavior assessments can help to provide more accurate information on the function of the behavior. The assessments that fall under this category can help you to identify whether a behavior is being maintained by one of the four main functions of behavior, such as escape, access, automatic reinforcement, or attention.

Here is a link to a great article on Functional Behavior Assessments. Read this article to learn more information about FBAs.

Here is a link that identifies multiple formal assessment tools that can be used in ABA. Some of the assessments identified in the article link include:

  • ABLLS-R
  • VB-MAPP
  • RAISD (Reinforcer Assessment for Individuals with Severe Disabilities)
  • FAST (Functional Analysis Screening Tool)

Reference: Cooper, Heron, & Heward. (2014). Applied Behavior Analysis. 2nd Edition. Pearson Education Limited.

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Basics of Applied Behavior Analysis: Part 2: Assessment


APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2016). Basics of Applied Behavior Analysis: Part 2: Assessment. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/child-therapist/2016/10/basics-of-applied-behavior-analysis-part-2-assessment/