Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Descriptive Assessment Method to Reduce Overall Disruptive Behavior in a Preschool Classroom. (Research into Practice)

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Descriptive Assessment Method to Reduce Overall Disruptive Behavior in a Preschool Classroom. (Research into Practice)

Article excerpt

Abstract. Legal mandate and limited resources provide an impetus to increase the utility of functional assessment. Studies have demonstrated the utility of descriptive analysis-based interventions on an individual level (Lalli, Browder, Mace, & Brown, 1993; Mace & Lalli, 1991). The goal of this study was to develop a brief assessment that could be conducted in the natural setting to identify naturally occurring, high-frequency subsequent events that may serve as maintaining consequences for disruptive behavior using the entire class as the unit of analysis. Procedures were conducted in two early childhood classrooms during regularly scheduled classroom activities. Descriptive analyses were conducted by rotating among students every 90 s. Conditional probabilities from the aggregate class data were calculated to identify the most frequently occurring subsequent event(s) for disruptive behavior in each classroom. Following the descriptive analysis, the identified subsequent event was manipulated in an alternati ng treatments design (contingent deilvery of the subsequent event and contingent withholding of the subsequent event) to validate the results of the descriptive analysis. In both classrooms, the descriptive analysis-based contingency reversal treatment more successfully suppressed disruptive behavior than a contraindicated treatment.

The purpose of functional assessment is to identify the antecedent and/or subsequent variables that are consistently associated with the occurrence of the behavior targeted for assessment. These assessment data link directly to treatment by identifying potential maintaining variables that can be manipulated to alter the response-reinforcer relationship. For example, presentation of events (e.g., praise, preferred activities or items, food, reprimands) contingent on the occurrence of a behavior may function as positive reinforcement for that behavior, strengthening the behavior. No specific form of treatment (e.g., response cost, medication) has been shown to be sufficiently effective across all behavioral topographies, contingencies, and situations. Thus, function-based treatments, which are individually determined, are quite effective in reducing problematic behaviors and increasing appropriate behaviors (Iwata, Vollmer, Zarcone, & Rodgers, 1993). Indeed, function-based treatments have yielded effective trea tments for aggression (Mace, Page, Ivancic, & O'Brien, 1986), bizarre speech (Mace & Lalli, 1991), disruption (Carr & Durand, 1985), pica (Mace & Knight, 1986), self-injury (Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1994), and stereotypy (Repp, Felce, & Barton, 1988). Several methods of functional assessment are possible (e.g., analogue functional analysis, in vivo functional analysis, descriptive analysis).

In a descriptive analysis, the observer records, usually in a naturalistic setting, occurrences of the target behavior along with temporally proximate antecedent and subsequent events. When antecedent or subsequent events are highly correlated with the occurrence of the target behavior, it is generally inferred that these antecedent or subsequent events predict the occurrence of the target behavior. The mathematical depiction of this relationship is called a conditional probability (Bakeman & Gottman, 1986). Conditional probabilities provide an indication of the degree to which one observed behavior tends to occur in temporal proximity to the occurrence of another observed behavior. That is, conditional probabilities answer the question, "When a target behavior has occurred (i.e., condition), what is the probability that another behavior will either precede or follow the target behavior in close temporal contiguity (i.e., probability)?" For example, if the occurrence of aggression is highly correlated with es cape from demands, the presentation of a demand is said to predict the occurrence of aggression. Further, it is hypothesized (1) that a functional relationship exists between aggression and escape, so that the client engages in aggression to obtain escape from demands (i. …

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