Fundamentals of Applied Behavior Analysis: Part 2: Assessment


Behavioral assessment involves a variety of methods, including direct observations, interviews, checklists, and tests to identify and set behavior change goals. (Cooper, Heron and Heward, 2014).

In applied behavior analysis, thorough and quality assessments are important. It is not enough to just 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 of growth.

Additionally, ABA assessments should include procedures that lead to the collection of information relating to the identification of resources, strengths, capabilities, support systems, competing behavioral contingencies, and potential reinforcers of a individual.

These concepts can be identified in several ways. Some examples include formal assessment instruments being used, such as using the RAISD to identify potential reinforcers. You can also use a facilitated interview of the identified client and/or their caregiver to gather information about natural supports, important 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 Provision
  2. Define and generally quantify problems or desired achievement criteria
  3. Identify target behaviors to address
  4. Progress Tracking
  5. Followed

The main objective of behavioral assessment in applied behavior analysis is to identify the function that the identified behavior serves in the life of the individual. Additionally, assessments can help identify reinforcement strategies that will likely need to be put in place to teach new behaviors and skills.

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

  • Interviews
    • Interview the person (the identified client)
    • Interview 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 person is doing and take careful notes)
  • Ecological assessment (this helps provide deeper insights into the multiple environments in which the individual lives, works, and spends their time)

There are also other ways to perform behavioral assessments.

For example, functional behavioral assessments can help provide more accurate information about behavioral function. Ratings that fall into this category can help you determine whether a behavior is maintained by one of the four primary functions of behavior, such as escape, access, automatic reinforcement, or attention.

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

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

  • RASD (Reinforcement Assessment for People with Severe Disabilities)
  • FAST (Functional Analysis Screening Tool)

Reference: Cooper, Heron and Heward. (2014). Applied behavioral analysis. 2nd edition. Pearson Education Limited.

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