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Using Partial Interval Recording to Track Negative Behaviour

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Unless you have seven arms, taking data while trying to manage challenging behaviour is nearly impossible.

There are many tools in our toolbox to measure and track behaviour, but the tricky part is knowing which tool to implement when. We might choose to take probe data for some teaching targets and trial-by-trial data for others. For some Natural Environment Teaching, we might prefer to use a rating scale method of data collection.

An important aspect of data collection is when it is related to tracking and managing negative behaviours. Before intervention, we collect data to determine baseline levels and whether or not it’s significant to intervene. Then, we take data during intervention to guide our decisions and let us know if our intervention is successful. We also continue to take data to ensure generalization and maintenance of acquired levels of behaviour.

Partial interval recording

This method of data collection involves recording whether a behaviour occurs or does not occur during a specific interval. It DOES NOT have to occur throughout the entire interval (that would be called “Whole interval recording”). A larger time slot is broken down into equal intervals (eg: by minute) and then the intervals can be added to result in a percentage of intervals that the student engaged in the negative behaviour.

Why Not Other Methods?

While frequency data gives us information about negative behaviour, it doesn’t compare it to the overall amount of time recorded. It’s very different to have 4 episodes of head-banging in an hour than to have 4 episodes spread across 4 hours.

Duration gives good information on how long behaviour is lasting but it also doesn’t tell us when the behaviour is happening. Reducing behaviour to a percentage of intervals is the best way to standardize data collection. If it’s relevant, you can also include frequency and duration data with the partial interval recording. It might be helpful to know if it was one long episode or many small outbursts.

Step 1: Define the Behaviour

Make sure that it’s clear for anyone involved in collecting data as to what behaviours to be including. Include both examples and non-examples in the definition.   For example, are we recording when the child flops to the ground AND when he stomps his feet? Or just flopping?

Step 2: Set the Interval

Decide on an interval that is doable. Remember that it should be small enough so that it is possible for the child to be successful but large enough to be able to measure. If it’s too large, you’ll likely have negative behaviour in every interval. It helps to set a timer (eg: for 1 minute) as a reminder and then record if any negative behaviour happened in that interval.

Step 3: Collect and Monitor Data

Before beginning intervention, determine a baseline. Over 2-3 sessions, what is the percentage of intervals that contained negative behaviour? This should be graphed daily. Then, begin intervention (insert phase change line) and monitor whether the percentage of intervals is decreasing. By graphing the data, you’ll easily be able to see whether the behaviour is increasing or decreasing. If it’s decreasing – great! Continue until mastery is achieved. If it’s increasing or staying the same (extinction burst accounted for), adjustments may have to be made to the treatment plan.

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