Graphing Behavior Change

Introduction to Graphing

This lesson introduces you to graphs. Graphs are visual representations that display a comparison of one or more sets of data over a period of time. As a therapist there are two graphs that will typically be used when working with a child. The Skill Repertoire Building Line Graph and the Behavior Management Line Graph. This lesson will explain the purpose and basic elements of a graph. The specific procedures for completing the Skill Repertoire and Behavior Management graphs will be covered in subsequent lessons.

What is a Graph and why do we use it?

A graph is a visual representation that displays a comparison of one or more sets of data over a period of time. In other words, a graph provides a snapshot of data gathered over a period of time in a format that can be viewed on a single page. A graph allows a BCBA to easily view a child’s progress over time. In other words, the graph displays the summary measures gathered from multiple data sheets over consecutive therapy sessions in a format that can be viewed on a single page. One of the most commonly used graphs to display analytic behavior data is the line graph. A line graph uses lines to connect data points and show changes in data over time. By drawing connecting lines over data points the line graph highlights trends. Using the graphs the BCBA can quickly assess the child’s progress instead of having to individually review each data sheet’s summary measures and determine if a child is learning a skill or if a behavior intervention is effective. For example, on a skill repertoire building line graph that shows an increase in the percent correct of an acquisition target over several sessions the BCBA can easily see that the child is learning the skill. Likewise, when a behavior management graph shows a decline in a target behavior over time the BCBA can quickly determine that the BIP for that problem behavior is effective. The therapists update the graphs with the current summary measure during each session to ensure that the line graphs always represent the most current information for the BCBA to use in making effective decisions regarding the child’s program.

Elements of a Graph:

A line graph is six basic elements:

  1. X-Axis, Y-Axis: The X-Axis is the horizontal line across the bottom of the graph and represents the passage of time, the Y-Axis is the vertical line to the left of the graph and represents the value of the summary measure for the graphed items or targets.
  2. Axis labels: Brief descriptions of each axis. The labels describe the units of time and measurement included on the graph. The specific units of measurement used along the Y-Axis are referred to the Y-Axis Scale.
  3. Legend: The legend lists the graphed targets and identifies the symbol that corresponds to each.
  4. Data Points: The data points are plotted on the graph and indicate the numerical value according to the access labels and legend. Lines are drawn between the data points to provide a clear visual representation of data trends.

Condition Labels and Condition Lines work together to clearly identify the conditions in place when data was collected.

  1. Condition labels: A description of the training procedure or intervention in place when data was collected. It is written along the top of the graph, above the data that was collected during that condition. The description should be clear but brief and standard abbreviations can be used. Each time the teaching procedure or behavior intervention changes an updated condition label is added to the graph. When this is done a condition change line is drawn on the graph.
  2. Condition change lines: The condition change line isolates the data collected under that condition. The condition change line is a thin vertical line drawn on the graph at the corresponding point in time when the condition changed. In other words, the condition change line clearly identifies when the changes were made in the teaching procedure or intervention.

Graphing Guidelines:

Because the BCBA uses the graphs to guide decisions about a child’s program it is important to have accurate, complete and easy-to-read graphs. There are four standard guidelines for charting graphs:

  1. Clearly draw data points on a graph: When drawing the data points on the graph it is important to draw the correct symbol for that data point. Additionally the symbol should be large enough to be seen and drawn with the same color of ink as the legend indicates, which makes the graph easier to interpret.
  2. Connect the Data Points: Connect the data points with a line to clearly indicate trends in a child’s learning or behavior management program. By drawing a line to connect the data points it is easier for the BCBA to see if the data points are increasing or decreasing on the scale. It is important to connect the data point in the same condition when no breaks occur. However there are 2 instances when data points should not be connected:
    1. When they represent different conditions, or
    2. If there was a large break in time between when the data was collected. Data points that fall to either side of the condition change line are not connected to each other, only data points that fall within the same condition are connected.
  3. Indicate any large breaks in time when data was not collected: Such as when a child is sick for several days, or there is a vacation. There are two parts to this process:
    1. The two data points that precede and follow the break are not connected with a line.
    2. Then an axis break symbol is drawn on the X-Axis at the point where the break occurred. An axis break symbol is two forward slashes “//” drawn on the X-Axis.
  4. Identify data points that represent a value that exceeds the highest value on the Y-Axis scale: In order to identify a data point higher than the values indicated on the Y-Axis, the data point is plotted on the highest existing point on the Y-Axis and its true value is written in parenthesis above or below or near the data point (clearly visible). This allows the BCBA to see that the data point represents summary data greater than the highest number on the Y-Axis scale. By doing so, when the data points frequently exceed the Y-Axis scale the BCBA can determine if a new graph should be implemented with an adjusted Y-Axis scale.

Graphs are a valuable tool for interpreting data that has been recorded over a period of time. By following the guidelines outlined in this lesson a therapist can ensure that the information entered on the graphs will provide the BCBA with the information necessary to make effective decisions regarding a child’s ABA program.


Skill Repertoire Building Line Graph

In the last lesson you learned about the basic elements of a graph and guidelines for ensuring accurate and complete graphs. This lesson will introduce the specific elements for a Skill Repertoire Building Line Graph and explain how to complete the graph while following the graphing guidelines.

The Skill Repertoire Building Line Graph is completed by therapists during each therapy session. And while the format may vary the sample line graph (below) represents the standard information that will be included on any Skill Repertoire Building Line Graph.

The Identifying Information section includes the full name of the child whose data is being recorded (though in some cases this may be abbreviated according to the necessities of discretion and security). The title of the lesson being taught, and the month/year that data was recorded. The identifying information must be completed each time that a new repertoire line graph is used.

Graph Description section describes the information to be included on the graph an includes:

  • Target behaviors: The target behaviors displayed on the graph are identified on the legend. Two target behaviors can be listed on a single graph.
  • Lesson SD or EO: The SD or EO is identified in the space provided to the left of the graph.
  • Summary Measure: Also to the left of the graph, the type of summary measure used to convert the raw data is indicated here. Though Percent, Rate and Average are already identified in this section the therapist must specify exactly what summary measure was used, i.e., percent “correct”, rate per “hour”, or average “duration”, etc.
  • Y-Axis Scale: Once the summary measure is complete, the therapist designates the Y-Axis scale. When the scale is percentage the Y-Axis always ascends from 0-100 in 10% increments. When other summary measures are used the Y-Axis scale varies, and the scale is determined by the BCBA.
  • Condition: Located above the graph, this is the treatment or learning conditions that were in place when the data was collected. As the teaching or intervention method changes the condition must be updated to reflect that change. The description should be clear but brief and standard abbreviations can be used. In Skill Repertoire Building Line Graphs, the condition typically contains:
    • The discrimination training step used
    • The current step in a Chaining procedure
    • The current Shaping approximation

Example (Condition):

If the therapist were using massed trials and the target was “ball” for the condition the therapist would write, “MT: Ball”. Similarly when graphing chaining the therapist may use either the step number being graphed or a brief descriptor of the step such as “get shoes from closet”. In shaping, the therapist would write in the current approximation being reinforced, such as “mmm” for mommy. Recall though that any time the condition changes the graph must be updated to reflect this change with a new condition label and condition line.

Graph Data section includes the visualization of the data and includes:

  • Date the data was collected: mm/dd/yy
  • Therapist initials: To clearly identify who collected the data and plotted the graph.
  • Data Points and Connection Lines: Represents the summary data from the specific data sheet. Here, the therapist locates the data point for the data collected from their current session and then uses a connecting line to connect the information from the last plotted session to the current to show current trends in learning or intervention.

As you have learned the discrimination training process have a variety of procedures and steps. As a child advances through the steps of discrimination training or attains closer approximations during shaping, the condition changes and this must be listed on the graph.

This lesson has reviewed the basic elements of the Skill Building Repertoire Line Graph and demonstrated how to use it to graph data. As a therapist it is important to completely record the identifying information, the graph description, and the graph data as specified by the BCBA. The BCBA uses these graphs to make critical decisions regarding a child’s ABA program, so it is important that the graphs are accurately and consistently completed.


Behavior Management Line Graph

In the last lesson you learned how to complete the Skill Building Repertoire Line Graph, in this lesson you will learn the basic elements of and how to complete the Behavior Management Line Graph.

The Behavior Management Graph is completed by therapists during each therapy session. And while the format may vary the sample line graph (below) represents the standard information that will be included on any Behavior Management Line Graph.

The Identifying Information section includes the full name of the child whose data is being recorded (though in some cases this may be abbreviated according to the necessities of discretion and security). However unlike Skill Repertoire Building when recording data for Behavior Management, the therapist is likely recording data for several different behaviors and because of this the “lesson” section usually identified here is not included. Still indicated is the month/year that data was recorded. The identifying information must be completed each time that a new behavior management line graph is used.

Graph Description section describes the information to be included on the graph an includes:

  • Target Problem behaviors: The target behaviors displayed on the graph are identified on the legend. Two target behaviors can be listed on a single graph.
  • Summary Measure: Also to the left of the graph, the type of summary measure used to convert the raw data is indicated here. Though Percent, Rate and Average are already identified in this section the therapist must specify exactly what summary measure was used, i.e., percent “correct”, rate per “hour”, or average “duration”, etc.
  • Y-Axis Scale: Once the summary measure is complete, the therapist designates the Y-Axis scale. When the scale is percentage the Y-Axis always ascends from 0-100 in 10% increments. When other summary measures are used the Y-Axis scale varies, and the scale is determined by the BCBA.
  • Condition: Located above the graph, this is the treatment or learning conditions that were in place when the data was collected. As the teaching or intervention method changes the condition must be updated to reflect that change. The description should be clear but brief and standard abbreviations can be used. In Behavior Management Line Graphs, the condition may resemble:
    • Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Response: In which the therapist would write “DRA: target behavior”
    • Non-Contingent Reinforcement: In which the therapist would write “NCR: “specified interval”.

Recall though that any time the condition changes the graph must be updated to reflect this change with a new condition label and condition line.

Graph Data section includes the visualization of the data and includes:

  • Date the data was collected: mm/dd/yy
  • Therapist initials: To clearly identify who collected the data and plotted the graph.
  • Data Points and Connection Lines: Represents the summary data from the specific data sheet. Here, the therapist locates the data point for the data collected from their current session and then uses a connecting line to connect the information from the last plotted session to the current to show current trends in learning or intervention.

This lesson has reviewed the basic elements of the Behavior Management Line Graph and demonstrated how to use it to graph data. As a therapist it is important to completely record the identifying information, the graph description, and the graph data as specified by the BCBA. The BCBA uses these graphs to make critical decisions regarding a child’s ABA program, so it is important that the graphs are accurately and consistently completed.

Learn More…

Generalized Behavior Change

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *