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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #181
CE Offered: BACB
Taking a Deeper Dive: Investigations Into Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) Protocols and Procedures
Sunday, May 26, 2024
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 103 B
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jill Harper (Melmark New England, Endicott College)
CE Instructor: Lisa Tereshko, Ph.D.

While behavioral intervention based on results from functional analyses (FA) shows more successful intervention effects, survey data on behavior analysts implementing FAs in their practice has shown they are rarely implemented (Oliver et al., 2015). Research has studied why behavior analysts are stating they do not use FAs, while also disputing the stated limitations (Hanley, 2012). The avoidance of FAs in practice by behavior analysts often results in behavior analysts turning to descriptive assessments (Oliver et al., 2015); however, our science questions the validity of descriptive assessments leaving the practicing behavior analyst at a crossroads to select the best assessment method for their clients. This symposium will review the current status of behavior analysts implementing functional behavior assessments in practice, while also providing guidance on future practice. A focus will consist of how to determine the best practice of behavioral assessments for your clients and how best to interpret data collected during functional behavior assessments to lead to effective interventions.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Descriptive assessments, Functional analyses
Target Audience:

Participants should have experience implementing functional behavior assessments within their practice.

Learning Objectives: (1)Attendees will be able to discuss the analysis of descriptive assessments and the components that lead to the most successful treatment selection; (2) Attendees will describe empirically supported FA methodology and the implications for practice and further research; (3) Attendees will describe how to use the FA decision-making tool when selecting an FA methodology based on commonly encountered barriers

A Component Analysis of Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) Assessments as Demonstrated Through Function Based Interventions

LISA TERESHKO (Endicott College), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College), Robert K. Ross (Ross Consultation LLC), Jill Harper (Melmark New England, Endicott College), Dennis Keane (Beacon ABA Services, Inc. )

Research demonstrates that in order for behavior analysts to implement a successful behavior analytic intervention, the behavior analyst must first identify the maintaining contingencies of their client’s target behavior. Descriptive assessments are the most commonly implemented functional assessment by behavior analysts with approximately 94% of behavior analysts reporting to ‘almost always’ or ‘always’ use them to determine a function of behavior with the most common type of descriptive assessment being antecedent-behavior-consequence assessments (ABC; Oliver et al., 2015). Conversely, comparative research further supports the use of analog functional analyses over descriptive assessments as the validity of descriptive assessments has been questioned. ABC assessments and adapted practical functional analysis procedures were used to analyze the key components of descriptive assessment and were then verified with the implementation of a function-based intervention. Results indicated that conditional probabilities from the antecedent condition were verified as the function in the modified practical functional analysis and treatment. Implications for clinicians and researchers are reviewed.


Functional Analysis Methodology: The Current Status and Pursuit to Enhance Practitioners' Decision-Making

Brittany Tomasi (Endicott College), ADRIANA (ADIE) ANDERSON (Easterseals Southern California/Endicott College/), Jill Harper (Melmark New England, Endicott College), Candice Colón (LEARN ), Justin B. Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation; Endicott College), Kathleen Holehan (Kennedy Krieger Institute)

Decades of research on functional analysis (FA) methodology suggest that the development of the FA provides scientific technology for clinicians and researchers to determine the function of problem behavior (Hagopian et al., 2013) and inform more efficacious treatment (Campbell, 2003; Heyvaert, Saenen, Campbell, Maes, & Onghena, 2014). To date, there have been several empirically supported adaptations to the methodology of the FA (Cooper et al., 2019) to address practical barriers, including time and environmental constraints, the severity of the behavior, and lack of clinical expertise (Chok et al., 2019; Cooper et al., 2019; Henry et al., 2021; Griffith et al., 2021; Standish et al., 2021). Despite the utility of adaptations to FA's, many behavior analysts still have not consistently adopted the use of FA’s in clinical practice to inform treatment for challenging behavior (Oliver et al., 2015; Roscoe et al., 2015). Based on this, there continues to be limited information regarding learning history (e.g., supervision, training) and contextual variables (e.g., constraints, topography, and severity of behavior) that may influence practitioner clinical decision-making when selecting and designing FAs among the various designs and adaptations within the growing body of literature on FA methodology. Therefore, the purpose of this presentation is to review the current status of practitioners' clinical decision-making on selecting and designing an FA, based on qualitative data gathered from a survey study designed for those professionals, scholars, or graduate students who currently or recently incorporated FAs within clinical practice for the treatment of challenging behavior.

More Than Just a Flowchart: Using Survey Data to Create a Functional Analysis Decision-Making Tool
ADRIANA (ADIE) ANDERSON (Easterseals Southern California/Endicott College/), Brittany Tomasi (Endicott College), Justin B. Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation; Endicott College), Jill Harper (Melmark New England, Endicott College), Candice Colón (LEARN )
Abstract: While behavioral treatment informed by the functional analysis (FA) results show more successful treatment effects (Campbell, 2003), survey data on using FAs in daily practice has shown limited research to practice application. Roscoe et al. (2015) reported that under 35% of respondents said they “typically” include FAs, while Tomasi et al. (manuscript in progress) found similar results in that 42% strongly disagreed that FAs should always be included in the functional behavior assessment process (FBA). The limited use of FAs in practice may be related to time constraints and risks posed by the behaviors (Iwata & Dozier, 2008). However, numerous procedural modifications have been implemented to address these. While the current literature does yield convincing evidence of the effectiveness of FA’s, more needs to be done to train practitioners in deciding which type of FA to use based on individual and context factors. Tomasi et al. (manuscript in progress) survey data indicated that 86.11% of respondents agree that a decision-making tool for designing FAs would be beneficial. From this, the authors designed an FA decision-making tool to help navigate the reported barriers practitioners encounter. (Anderson et al. 2023 [manuscript in process]). A demonstration of this tool will be provided.



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