Positive Approaches to Challenging Behavior

Direct Observation: Scatter Plot

Another strategy for observing behavior in home, school, work, and community settings is called the scatter plot. A scatter plot is helpful to document when a behavior is more or less likely to occur. For instance, you can see from the visual on the right that challenging behaviors occur during certain time periods including 2:30PM and 4:40 PM. The next step after collecting the data in the scatter plot might be to do some observations using an ABC chart. The scatter plot helps you decide when to schedule further observations and to learn more about routines that are more and less challenging. A blank copy of scatter plot PDF can be found in this link.

Some PBS leaders have created tracking forms that combine the scatter plot and the ABC Chart to save time. Although this form is more complicated to use, it collects data in a fast an efficient manner. An example of this type of tracking tool is called the Functional Assessment Observation Form and it is available in the PBS Notebook in the FBA section.

Example of a completed scatter plot with the month and year at the top. Columns from left to right read, time, activity, and then have dates of the month listed in ascending order.

Adapted from Freeman, R., Matthews, K., Griggs, P., & Quick, S. (2013). Scatter plot figure. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Schiefelbusch Institute for Lifespan Studies.