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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 3)

So far in the “Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents” series we have covered how ABA providers can use the 7 dimensions of applied behavior analysis to ensure that ABA parent training is truly incorporating what ABA is meant to be (Part 1). We have also covered how ABA providers may use the items on the BACB task list in the measurement category throughout ABA parent training (Part 2). In this article, we will cover aspects of the Experimental Design category on the Task List and how these ABA concepts can be used in the natural environment with parents that you work with in ABA services.

For more guidance on ABA parent training, go to

  • B-01: Use the dimensions of applied behavior analysis (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968) to evaluate whether interventions are behavior analytic in nature
    • We discussed in Part 1 how ABA providers can focus on the 7 dimensions of ABA in ABA parent training.
  • B-02: Review and interpret articles from the behavior-analytic literature
    • ABA providers should reference the behavior-analytic literature for ideas and recommendations to incorporate into their ABA parent training services. The site,, provides research-supported guidance in this area.
  • B-03: Systematically arrange independent variables to demonstrate their effects on dependent variables
    • ABA providers should be skilled at documenting when new variables are implemented into a child’s intervention plan in order to evaluate the effectiveness of suggested strategies.
  • B-04: Use withdrawal/reversal designs
    • ABA providers may consider recommending that an intervention is withdrawn but this should be carefully considered to ensure that effective strategies are not removed that may lead to undesired outcomes. This may be a strategy recommended in parent training if an intervention is in question.
  • B-05: Use alternating treatments (i.e., multielement) designs
    • Using alternating treatments designs may be used in ABA parent training when there are more than one intervention ideas that are being considered. If the situation arises during ABA provider and parent dialogue that there are more than one intervention possibilities to address a behavior or skill, you may consider working with the parent on use of an alternating treatments design. For example, maybe you and the parent are discussing whether to use Signs or PECS to teach communication skills. You could use an alternating treatments design to see which method of communication results in quicker acquisition of 3 targets.
  • B-06: Use changing criterion designs
    • This may be a recommendation that you make in ABA parent training when you are working on goals like improving accurate responding with math problems or number of spelling words the child gets correct during spelling practice.
  • B-07: Use multiple baseline designs
    • Although it may not be necessary to have parents fully implement scientific designs with their children especially including the graphing and interpretation of the data, it may be helpful to have parents understand the basic idea of the design you use. With multiple baseline designs, you may have parents take data on 3 behaviors while only implementing an intervention on one of those behaviors. When they provide the data to you as the behavior analyst, you can assess the effect of the intervention on all behaviors and then instruct parents when they should address the second and third behaviors with the intervention (LaPointe, ND).
  • B-08: Use multiple probe designs
    • Multiple probe designs may be useful when evaluating behaviors that are related to behavioral chains or successive approximations (Horner & Baer, 1978)
  • B-09: Use combinations of design element
    • This concept is about being able to use your professional experience to incorporate aspects of various single subject designs to obtain the information that will best help you evaluate the intervention which ultimately is to help the child reach their goals.
  • B-10: Conduct a component analysis to determine the effective components of an intervention package
    • It can be helpful for ABA providers to use component analysis in ABA parent training to help weed out unnecessary components of a treatment plan and to only recommend continuing the effective parts of a plan. Parents have many responsibilities so if you are able to reduce the effort and activity required of them to help their child, this will help them to reserve their energy and resources for times when it is most needed and truly going to be effective at helping their child (Ward-Horner & Sturmey, 2010).
  • B-11: Conduct a parametric analysis to determine the effective values of an independent variable.
    • Although using parametric analysis in ABA parent training may be challenging, it could be helpful if you do not have the opportunity to do this type of experimental design one on one with the child. You may also want to talk to parents about how different values of a variable being provided to a child before a target behavior may change that child’s motivation and compliance with the target behavior (Sy, 2009). This provides the parent with more knowledge about behavior and ABA concepts even if a complete parametric analysis is not completed. For example, a parent could observe whether a child having access to electronics for five minutes, 15 minutes, or one hour changes how likely the child is to do his chores when given the instruction with the electronics being used as reinforcement for completing chores, as well.

Parents benefit from learning about ABA concepts in ABA parent training so that they can be more familiar with what ABA is and how to use the concepts with their child. When working with a parent you can obtain helpful data and information from the parent so that you, as the ABA provider, can evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention strategies that you recommend.

Remember that some parents may benefit from a more structured approach in which you assign specific data collection tasks while other parents may benefit more or prefer a general educational approach in which you teach them about the concepts and they implement ideas on their own with less direct instruction.


Barlow, D. H., & Hayes, S. C. (1979). Alternating treatments design: one strategy for comparing the effects of two treatments in a single subject. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 12(2), 199–210. doi:10.1901/jaba.1979.12-199

Hartmann, D. P., & Hall, R. V. (1976). The changing criterion design. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 9(4), 527–532. doi:10.1901/jaba.1976.9-527

Horner, R. D., & Baer, D. M. (1978). Multiple-probe technique: a variation on the multiple baseline. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 11(1), 189–196. doi:10.1901/jaba.1978.11-189

LaPointe, L. L., ND. Multiple Baseline Designs. Veterans Administration Hospital.

Sy, J. R., & Borrero, J. C. (2009). Parametric analysis of presession exposure to edible and nonedible stimuli. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 42(4), 833–837. doi:10.1901/jaba.2009.42-833

Ward-Horner, J., & Sturmey, P. (2010). Component analyses using single-subject experimental designs: a review. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 43(4), 685–704. doi:10.1901/jaba.2010.43-685

Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 3)

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2019). Using ABA Concepts in the Natural Environment – Recommendations for Parents (Part 3). Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from