In the world of ABA data collection, most people think of frequency in terms of time, and how often the data is collected in a given span. In reality, Applied Behavior Analysis uses frequency based on the times a specific behavior occurs. This differs from rate, which measures data points of behavior by time.
An example of this would be a patient who raises their hand five times in a session is a collection of frequency. Noting that the patient raised their hand five times in a 60-minute or one-hour session is an example of how to apply the rate for a given behavior.
Though these can be murky waters. To get a better understanding of how to effectively collect data based on rate and frequency, we will need to take a closer look at both and how to apply them in the most effective manner.
The Benefits Of Rate & Frequency In ABA Data Collection
One of the big benefits of rate in ABA data collection is that it offers superior accuracy when you are tracking data across multiple sessions. Especially if those sessions have different lengths of time. It’s a way to gather a clear understanding of expressions, behaviors, and choices of words regardless of whether or not the session lasted half an hour, or it lasted a full hour. With rate data collection there is essentially an extra step of calculating the behavior divided by the time
When utilizing frequency, you can graph how many instances a particular client engages in per day. This convenience and opportunity to apply analytics at a glance is one of the reasons why frequency is more commonly used than rate. When applying frequency data, you simply count the number of instances, which makes it is easier to track.
The Potential Drawbacks Of Rate & Frequency
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can simply choose rate or frequency and then disregard the other data sets. They truly are intended to work together in ABA data collection. To make sure you are making the most out of the analytics opportunities presented by each, it helps to take a closer look at their potential drawbacks as well.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that some patient behaviors occur with high frequency. They can be challenging to track discreetly. It might also be the case that it isn’t the frequency that matters as much as how long the behavior occurs in a measured span of time. This is where rate and frequency need to both be accounted for to ensure that the collected data is truly painting a complete picture.
The Benefits Of Interval Recording
Some behaviors happen with high frequency or at a rate that makes it convenient or downright distracting to record as they happen in the session. In a situation like this, the technique of interval recording might be the ideal strategy.
This might include an entire interval, partial interval, or a momentary time sampling. With this technique, you essentially record the presence of the behavior within the interval that you feel is best. This might be every twenty seconds, once a minute, or every ten minutes. Just make sure that whatever span of time you choose remains consistent through the session or over the course of multiple sessions. This gives you a consistent baseline to apply other behavioral metrics without having to worry about consistency.
In the case of a partial interval, the recorded behavior can occur at any point throughout the interval to count as a single noted occurrence. With a momentary time sampling, the behavior might simply occur at the beginning of the end of the interval to accurately count as an occurrence.
An Example Of Interval Recording
Here is a good example of how interval recording can be applied in a session.
Let’s say that your patient uses a lot of repetitive words, groans, or expressions throughout their sessions. Trying to record these instances can be a real challenge that distracts your focus from the patient. You would ultimately spend more time recording the occurrences than you would be engaging with your patient on more important topics.
In a situation like this, a partial interval or momentary time sampling might be the preferred method of data collection. In a scenario like this, you would only need to observe the behavior once throughout the interval for it to count as an occurrence.
When it comes to momentary time sampling, you would only need to record the occurrence of the behavior when it occurred in the given interval. This methodology is much simpler than trying to count each individual occurrence.
Using An Automated Data Collection Tool
One of the challenges faced by a lot of ABA therapists is collecting and tracking key data, while still staying intently focused on the client during the session. One effective answer to this problem is to use an automated data collection tool.
This might come in the form of a hand clicker to capture a single occurrence. Though this is a little bulky, and depending on the patient it could be off-putting. It’s especially cumbersome if you are tracking multiple behavioral occurrences and need to use more than one hand clicker. This can be even more of an issue if you also rely on handwritten SOAP notes to provide better context and detail. Collecting data this way can later be challenging to graph or interpret via analytics.
Fortunately, there are suites of data collection software that are designed to specifically meet the needs of ABA therapists. They allow you to collect data on a personal digital device. Later the system will automatically graph your data based on the algorithm or analytics you set it for. This can include key factors such as duration data, frequency, or rate, as well as making it easy to collect interval data. At the same time, it also allows you to take data on your targets and input the specific prompt you used to solicit the response.