Generalization and Sustainability in Positive Behavior Support

Adapting Measurement Systems Over Time

A baseline graph titled social invitation. The x axis shows days and the primary y axis shows incidents of baseline challenging behavior while the secondary y axis shows incidents of replacement behavior (requsts).

We discussed the importance of data-based decision making in both Modules 1 and 2. The decision about the types of measures to use can change over time requiring modifications to how data are collected. The types of social and emotional skills a person is using may become more sophisticated and require a different type of measurement. The function maintaining a behavior could change in new routines where challenging behaviors have arisen. New challenging behaviors may occur that were not measured initially.

The type of measurement chosen in a positive behavior support plan is based on the operational definition of the behaviors of interest. However, these operational definitions may also need to change. The measurement strategy chosen is used in the FBA and in the planning process. Measurement starts during the FBA in order to learn more about the challenging behavior and capture details before any changes are made as part of the PBS plan. Data collected before any interventions have been implemented is referred to as a baseline. When large changes in life occur, it may be necessary to start a new baseline since the measures are different and new routines are being added.

The graph on this page shows that the baseline phase occurred before September 28 with dates when data were collected listed on the X-axis before and after intervention. Data are reporting the number of incidents of challenging behavior on the left side vertical (or Y-axis) in light blue.The information on the right vertical axis is reporting the number of positive social behaviors in dark blue. This type of line graph helps teams understand whether the PBS plan is having a positive impact on behavior.

Frequency measures are the best choice when the onset and offset of each instance of a behavior can be clearly observed. The frequency of a behavior is the number of times the behavior occurs in a specific time period. In other words, frequency is measured by simply counting the number of occurrences of the behavior.

The duration of a behavior is the total amount of time occupied by the behavior from start to finish. The duration is measured by timing it from its onset to its offset. Examples include: the number of minutes a person watches TV per day, the number of seconds holding your breath, or the length of time it takes to drive to work. A duration measure is important if what you want to know is how long the behavior lasts.

The measure of latency is the time between the introduction of a stimulus (request, an event) and the onset or response to that stimulus. You measure latency by recording how long it takes a person to initiate the behavior after a particular event occurs.

Intensity refers to the magnitude, strength, force, or effort of a behavior. This might include photographing injuries over time to assess whether wounds are healing or using a decibel reader to gather information about how loud a behavior might sound. This measure is often used as an additional measure along with frequency or duration because it is often difficult to obtain an objective measure of intensity.

The PBS Notebook includes a section on measurement and includes blank copies for different measurement approaches.