Effective ABA Data Collection Methods

The Methods of Applied Behavior Analysis

Changing our behavior might be among the most difficult challenges we can face. Still, helping others to improve turns out to be even more difficult. Regardless of how much they strive to change, they might be trapped within a vicious circle of unwanted behavior patterns.

So, are you looking to help someone get rid of bad habits or make good ones? Even with more severe conditions such as autism, a mechanism called applied behavior analysis can prove effective. It doesn’t matter if you’re a trained psychologist or a worried parent — you just want to help. Hopefully, our selected ABA data collection methods will help you help others.

What Is ABA?

ABA or applied behavior analysis is a scientific technique used to modify our behavior. This therapy uses psychological principles to determine and track our behavioral patterns and help us to change them. Be it petty bad habits like biting nails or being late, or something more serious like managing autism, ABA will rise to the challenge. In fact, it is the only widely-approved therapy for treating the symptoms of ASD.

What Are Some Effective ABA Data Collection Methods?

To answer this, let’s start by looking at what we mean by data collection. 

When it comes to behavioral therapy, data collection might as well be its most crucial part. Analysts collect data that relate to the patterns of behavior we want to change. For instance, we might be looking to decrease tantrums or aggression, or improve social skills. So, the therapist will keep track of all the relevant information regarding that behavior.

But which methods of ABA data collection should we use?


This method measures how often we express certain behavior within a given timeframe. For instance, we can use it to find out how many times a child bites their pencil during class. Or we can try to count the number of times they’re late throughout the day. Then, we can use the data to determine how serious the situation is.

Still, we should measure only the things we can properly count. The ideal behaviors to track would be simple acts that happen slowly but don’t last too long. So, we need to be able to determine both their beginning and their end. If the behavior has no distinct start and end point, determining its frequency will be much more difficult.


If we want to collect data about how long certain behavior lasts, this would be the way to go. Unlike frequency, this method can help us measure less quantifiable actions without clear borders. Plus, it is great for actions that are either too slow or too fast.

Sometimes, we can compare how long certain behavior lasts depending on certain variables. For instance, we can use this method to determine the duration of a child’s tantrum phase. Does the child seem to behave even worse at night? In other words, do their pre-bedtime tantrums last longer than the morning ones?


As therapists or parents, we can try to correct negative or encourage positive behavior using just words. This act relates to the method called latency. Put differently, we measure how much time it takes a child to follow an order or a request.

For instance, we can see a child acting inappropriately. They might be screaming, chewing on their hair, or even hitting other children. Naturally, we want to prevent this, so we tell them something like: “Stop doing that, please.” Then, we wait and see how delayed their reaction is — did they immediately change their behavior or not?

ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence)

As we’ve already mentioned, applied behavior analysis data collection methods aren’t necessarily quantitative. Thus, the ABC method is a qualitative way of determining the pattern of a child’s behavior. In other words, it refers to the cause and effect of those actions we want to prevent or encourage.

So, we might feel a child with autism is more open with certain people around. Or, they might be more relaxed having a favorite toy by their side. Because we want to encourage positive behavior, we collect these tiny triggers and use them later on. The same thing goes for negative behavior — once we’ve found its cause, we can avoid its effect.

Scatterplot Analysis

Similar to what we’ve seen under duration, scatterplot analysis helps us measure how frequent a child’s behavior is at what time. For example, we see a child frequently biting their nails. But do they do this more often at school or when they’re home?

We can split the day into smaller chunks of time and follow the child’s behavior throughout each of them. So, whenever the child bites their nails, we write it down or tick the box. Then, we can compare the number of ticks belonging to the time spent at school vs. at home. Does schooltime seem to make the child more nervous?

Permanent Product Recording

Finally, the permanent product recording method helps us determine the exact effects of the said behavior. Permanent products refer to material or figurative objects that come as a result of the child’s action. For example, if a child misbehaves, we can count how many toys they’ve broken or how many times they’ve spilled something on purpose.

Alternatively, we can use this technique to count the products of a child’s positive behavior. When it comes to children with autism, making them feel productive might mean the world to them. So, we can keep score of all the LEGO houses they’ve built or all the math problems they’ve managed to solve. Later on, we can try to find out what triggers their productivity.

Final Remarks

In case we want to help a child correct their negative or boost their positive behavior, ABA data collection methods will make that easier for us. The ABA technique gathers information about the child’s behavior to arrive at a pattern of its occurrence. The methods such as frequency, duration, latency, ABC, scatterplot, and permanent product recording can help you keep track of the child’s behavioral patterns. This way, you’ll be able to help them improve.


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