Data collection in ABA is critical because it is the driving force behind all decisions made in a treatment plan. When graphed, it provides a visual that shows overall progress. Based on the graph, a clinical team can determine if progress is being made, or if there is a lack of progress, which indicates that a plan needs to be modified.
There are multiple types of data collection measures, and most often data is collected on any one of these measures digitally. This allows data to be updated in real time so a clinical team will always have access to the most updated data. Some data collection measures typically used in ABA include percent accurate, percent independent, rate, frequency, and duration. When targeting maladaptive behaviors, the measure used would likely be rate, frequency, or duration. For these targets, data should be low, as it signifies that the maladaptive behavior is decreasing. When targeting skill acquisition behaviors, the measure used would likely be percent accurate or percent independent. For these targets, data should be high, as it signifies that the accuracy and/or independence are increasing.
Another major component of data collection in ABA is the reliability and validity. Reliability refers to the consistency of the data. When analyzing data, the trend shows whether data is on an increasing or decreasing path. For skill acquisition targets, data should display increasing trends, and for maladaptive behavior targets, decreasing trends. Sometimes data will display variability, or inconsistent data. Variability in data will result in a modification to the treatment plan in an effort to stabilize the data, thus increasing its reliability. Similarly, data needs to be valid. Validity in data ensures that the measure being used is measuring what it is intended to measure. These two concepts are closely associated; if the measure being used is valid, it should result in reliable data.
Data collection determines the outcomes of a treatment plan. Without data, a clinical team cannot determine how well a treatment plan is working, or when it needs to be modified. ABA is designed to create positive change in participants, and data collection is a major component to making that possible.
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