How To Measure Target Behaviors?

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There are several ways to measure target behaviors. Behavior analysts will choose the simplest strategy for caregivers to use and focus on measures that will produce the best information.

Here are the most common measurement strategies behavior analysts ask caregivers to use:

  • Frequency: Behavior analysts may ask caregivers to count the number of times a target behavior occurs during an hour, during a specific routine (dinner, grooming), or throughout an entire day. We want to know “how many.” For example, we may ask a caregiver to record the number of times a patient becomes aggressive.
  • Duration: We may ask that caregivers record how long a target behavior lasts. Behavior analysts want to know when the behavior started and when it ended. We may ask that you keep track of the number of minutes or even hours that the target behavior occurred. For example, we may ask a caregiver to record how long a patient cries.
  • Time-Sampling: Behavior analysts may ask that caregivers record if a target behavior occurred after a certain period of time or at a certain time of day. We may ask a caregiver to record if a target behavior occurred or did not every 10 minutes during dinner. For example, score yes or no if the patient cursed between 7:00-7:10pm, 7:10-7:20pm, and 7:20-7:30pm. Or, we may ask a caregiver to record if a behavior occurred at the top of each hour. For example, score yes or no if the patient wandered at 8am, 9am, 10am, etc.

Behavior analysts will train caregivers to use special recording sheets to keep track of target behaviors. We ask that caregivers fill them out throughout the day or at the end of the day. Each recording sheet will be individualized to the patient’s needs and caregiver’s availability.

Behavior analysts do not want to burden caregivers with paperwork, so we work hard to choose the simplest strategies that produce the best information.

Resource: A sample time-sampling data sheet for wandering.

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