Practical and Ethical Methodologies for Assessing Function of Problematic Behaviors in the Natural Environment
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Robert K. Ross, Ed.D., BCBA-D, LABA Presented at the 2018 Michigan Autism Conference
Abstract: Some current Functional Analysis (FA) methods (Analog and Trial-based) typically rely on two elements that raise ethical concerns: 1. The direct reinforcement of the problem behavior as part of the assessment process (Analog and Trial-based methods) 2. Use of indirect data rather than direct to develop hypotheses that then guide treatment (IISCA). Additionally, many practitioners simply cannot conduct analog FA’s in many if not most applied settings. This session will describe alternative procedures and methods that focus on direct experimental tests that can be conducted in the context of home and school settings. These methods involve direct tests of consequence effects on topographies of behavior similar to the actual problem behavior. This results in the clinician having objective data on the reinforcing effects of stimuli without needing to directly reinforce potentially dangerous/injurious topographies of behavior. An advantage of such procedures is that they involve simultaneous establishment of appropriate alternative behaviors as part of the assessment procedures. Additionally, the collection and use of objective data to develop hypotheses of function enables clinicians to avoid having to test all potential functions, and focus only on those that actually occur. This efficiency may speed access to effective treatment over more laborious subjective methods. The proposed methodology provides a more ethical, conceptually systematic, and practical assessment of function.