Trial Based Functional Analysis

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Definition: Trial Based functional analysis (FA) generally refers to two forms of systematic assessment procedures.

1. One form of trial based FA  involves systematically assessing the changes in rates of a target behavior when one or more  forms of  consequences  hypothesized to be maintaining the occurrence of problem behavior are delivered contingent upon the occurrence of the problem behavior.   When rates are noted to increase in one consequence condition at a rate/frequency greater than all others,  it is presumed that the consequence is the reinforcer maintaining the problem behavior.

A number of ethical issues have been raised by the use of this (as well as analog FA) methods due to the fact that the procedure directly reinforces the very behavior being targeted for reduction. This is particularly problematic when the behavior may cause injury to the individual (SIB) or others (aggression).   This version of a Trial based FA procedure should only be used under teh following conditions:

1. With the expressed written consent (Informed Consent) of the parent guardian and or client and site administrator if applicable.

2.  Supervision by a person experienced in the conduct of Trial based FA’s and treatment of the behavior targeted for reduction

3.  With a written protocol specifying supervision/training of implementer’s and clear criteria for termination of the procedure due to escalation or injury.


Functional Communication Trial Based FA:

An alternative version of the trial based FA is to select an adaptive behavior of similar topography to the problem behavior (for hitting- using touching an object or picture) instead of using the problem behavior.

In this procedure the potential reinforcing consequences are delivered systematically contingent upon touch an designated object or picture.  After several trials  where the action and consequence are paired so that the individual has learned what consequence will be produced by touching which object/picture,  the items are presented in a series of trials to enable the person to “select” the consequence that they find “most” reinforcing.

If the consequence maintaining problem behavior is a potent reinforcer,  rates of the selection behavior that will produce should also increase.  This will enable you to confirm its function as a reinforcer, teach an alternative way of requesting it and limit ethical concerns as well.



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