Targeted Topics in ABA Unit 5 Discussion

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Setting the Scene:

Sherry is a 15-year-old girl diagnosed with autism and severe intellectual disabilities. Her Individualized Education Program (IEP) team met to discuss Sherry’s serious, self-injurious behavior of hand biting that has resulted in significant tissue damage requiring medical attention. Prior interventions attempted by the school staff were response blocking, physical restraint, and mechanical restraint (arm splints). An initial Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) conducted by the consulting Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) revealed that the apparent function of the hand biting was negative reinforcement in the form of escape from task demands. Based on this assessment, the BCBA developed a Differential Reinforcement of Alternative behavior (DRA) intervention in which Sherry was taught to use her hand to squeeze a stress ball when non-preferred demands were presented. The teacher and other individuals involved with Sherry were trained to allow immediate escape whenever Sherry squeezed the stress ball during instruction. In addition, instructional material was altered so that the learning tasks were easier with the goal of gradually increasing task difficulty. Baseline data was taken for 10-days and the DRA intervention was implemented on day 11. On day 21, the BCBA employed a reversal design in which the intervention was stopped to verify that it was indeed the intervention that was responsible for the behavior change.

Unit 5 Discussion Board graph


  • According to your readings, what are the six primary benefits of using graphs as tools to measure the effectiveness of interventions, and why are they important? Discuss two of the benefits that you feel are most relevant to the current case and explain your reasons for your choices.
  • Based on your visual analysis of the data in the graph (above), was the DRA effective in reducing Sherry’s hand biting? Discuss the purpose of the reversal design and identify the type of reversal design reflected in the graph.

Guided Response Posts:

Respond to a peer’s primary post by explaining the benefits (purposes) of reversal/withdrawal designs and the risks.

Respond to a second peer’s post by discussing two specific ethical guidelines that are relevant in Sherry’s case.

Reading and Resources

Read the following:

Chapter 6 in Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd edition): “Constructing and Interpreting Graphic Displays of Behavioral Data” (pp. 124-131)

The purpose and benefits of the graphic display of data are introduced. The importance of the visual analysis of behavior data is explained, as are the various formats for the graphic display of data. Level, trend, and variability are discussed in terms of the visual analysis of graphically displayed data and the determination of intervention effectiveness.

Chapter 8 in Applied Behavior Analysis 3rd edition): “Reversal and Multielement Designs” (pp. 171-191)

Two experimental designs commonly used in applied behavior analysis (ABA) research are introduced. The reversal and multi-element (alternating treatments) designs are explained and advantages and disadvantages for their use are presented. An explanation of baseline logic (prediction, verification, and replication), as it relates to these experimental designs, is provided.

Chapter 16 in Ethics for Behavior Analysts (3rd edition): “Conducting a Risk-Benefit Analysis”

Chapter 16 introduces you to the Risk-Benefit Analysis that is recommended in Code 4.05. The authors provide a detailed explanation of the purpose and process of this analysis.


Bailey, J. (2016). Ethics for Behavior Analysts. (3rd ed.)

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., Heward, W. L. (2019). Applied Behavior Analysis. (3rd ed.)

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