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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #282
CE Offered: BACB
Functional Analysis Methodology: Updated
Sunday, May 24, 2020
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon H
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Michele D. Wallace (California State University, Los Angeles)
CE Instructor: Michele D. Wallace, Ph.D.

Functional analyses are assessments that demonstrate cause and effect relationships. As such, the gold standard when applying behavior analytic services should be the use of this methodology regardless of applications (e.g., to reduce problem behavior or to teach appropriate behavior). In this symposium, we have three papers that will be looking at functional analysis methodology and data analysis: 1) to assess and develop intervention to treat aggression exhibited by individuals with a traumatic brain injury; 2) to provide a decision model with respect to conducting functional analyses of problem behavior in practice and 3) regarding interpretation of functional analysis data. Each presentation will elucidate the unique variables associated with application of functional analysis methodology as well as discuss implications for practice and future research.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: Participants will understand how to modify functional analyses to assessment and treat problem behavior exhibited by individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury. Participants will understand the various methodological variations of functional analysis, when to utilize them, and how to utilize them in practice. Participants will understand the visual analysis procedures used to interpret functional analyses.
Practical Functional Analysis and Functional Communication Training for Survivors of Traumatic Brian Injury
LAUREN SERVELLON (University of Southern California), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)
Abstract: Life after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can involve new challenging behaviors that influence not only the TBI survivor but their caregivers as well. Behavior analytic interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing various challenging behaviors following TBI, however, limited research has been done on the use of functional assessments within the TBI community (Heinicke & Carr, 2014). In study, practical functional analyses, consisting of Interview-Informed Synthesized Contingency Analyses, were used to determine the function of verbal aggression (e.g. yelling, screaming, cursing) in adults with TBI. Individualized functional communication treatment plans were designed based on functional analysis results and generalized to the survivor’s caregiver. Social validity, limitations, and suggestions for future research will be presented.
A Practical Guide to Functional Analyses in the Natural Environment
BENJAMIN THOMAS HEIMANN (CABA), Michele D. Wallace (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract: While the efficacy of applied behavior analysis has always been based on experimentation; the work of Brian Iwata et al. in 1994 solidified the technology of systematically manipulating the consequences of a specific behavior to identify it’s function in the environment. This Experimental Functional Analysis quickly became the gold standard of ABA treatment as it allowed the clinician to have evidence of what function the target behavior is producing for the individual thereby allowing an intervention that ensures that the treated individual is still achieving their needs. While the initial studies emphasized a controlled environment with minimal confounding variables, since the seminal article of Iwata et al. there have been numerous variations and modifications of this technology which allow it’s application in a variety of situations. The purpose of the current analysis is to provide a brief summary of these variations and provide a guide for the clinician when determining which combination of variations best fit the circumstances of the unique behavior environment relationship they are attempting to analyze. Some brief case studies of variations of functional analyses will be discussed.
Visual-Inspection and Conceptualization of Functional Analysis in Graduate Setting
JUSTIN B HAN (California State University Los Angeles), Michele D. Wallace (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract: The functional analysis (FA) methodology, developed by Brian Iwata and his colleagues, is often considered one of the most important advancements in applied behavior analysis (Neef, 1994). The procedure allows for functional treatments and greatly increased the usage of reinforcement-based procedures when treating both self-injurious behavior and aggressive behavior (Pelios, Morren, Tesch, and Axelrod, 1999). However, research has shown that FA has been underutilized in the clinical setting despite evidence supporting its validity for routine implementation (Oliver et al., 2015; Iwata & Dozier, 2008). Different factors have been attributed to the underutilization of the FA methodology, such as time requirement and lack of experience from clinicians. To identify a potential influence on the under-utilization of FA methodology in the clinical setting, the current study examined the accuracy of visual-inspection of standard, trial-based, latency, low-rate, precursor, and transition functional analysis graphs between graduate-level and doctorate-level behavior analysts. Furthermore, the current study evaluated the effectiveness of a graduate level functional analysis conceptualization course in increasing the accuracy of visual-analysis of functional analysis results. Results show that on average, agreement in functions identification increased from 59% to 83%, and agreement in visual-analysis method increased from 3% to 75%.



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