G-2: Use interventions based on motivating operations and discriminative stimuli ©

Important note: Fictionalized clients are used to demonstrate the skill items in the second half of the task list, sections F-I. They make the most sense when read in order. Please remember that there is not substitute for real-life supervision and consultation. Get your case-specific advice from professionals – not from the internet! These examples are just that – examples of how behavior analytic skills might be applied.


Case example: Jada is an elementary school student. She experiences Level 3 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Level 3 is the severity level of Autism which is characterized by “requiring very substantial support.” Jada has also been diagnosed with a severe Intellectual Disability (ID). Jada has just transferred to a private school for individuals with global needs. She loves all kinds of play and messy activities, such as finger paint and water play. She also enjoys swinging on the playground, eating popcorn, and watching Disney movies. She loves to be read to, and laughs when staff make dramatic gestures while reading picture books. Jada does not use any vocal speech. She makes noises sometimes, such as humming. Jada engages in motor stimming, including upper body tensing and flapping her arms. Jada engages in severe challenging behavior, including self injury (hand to head and head to surface) and aggression (including hitting and biting). Jada has a mom, dad, and older brother living together in one home. Jada’s family has advocated for her to attend a private program, and they are excited for her to get high quality services. Jada’s new behavior analyst is Dr. Brown-Davis, who is a BCBA-D employed by the private program.

Example of Item G-2: Dr. Brown-Davis knows that, in order for an intervention to be effective, it is important to consider the client’s motivations and current environmental variables which signal reinforcement. In Jada’s case, her problem behaviors are maintained by access to preferred items and escape from demands. Her unsafe behavior is socially maintained (meaning that her behaviors contact reinforcement through people). Based on FA results and a broad understanding of Jada’s case as a whole, Dr. Brown-Davis hypothesizes that the MOs for Jada’s problem behaviors are presentation of demands and deprivation of preferred tangibles. He hypothesizes that the corresponding SDs are staff members in both cases. Dr. Brown-Davis designs interventions that involve capturing Jada’s motivation (by creating a context in which relevant MOs will be in place) and teaching a communication response, rather than unsafe behavior, in the presence of the SD (staff members).


Case example: Donovan is a high school student. He has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). He attends a public school and has been placed in a support program for students with social/emotional/behavioral needs. Donovan enjoys playing video games and drawing in his sketchbook. He would like to be a welder when he is an adult. Academic achievement and attendance have been challenges for Donovan historically, and he is currently not on track to graduate with his peers due to missed work and failing grades in several classes. Donovan’s team has identified challenges including frequent non-attendance to school, walking the halls during class times, non-attendance at expected guidance appointments, and non-completion of classwork. Donovan lives with his mother and older brother. Donovan’s mother is concerned about her son’s school challenges and expresses frustration about his “lack of commitment” to his education. She wants Donovan to understand how important it is to graduate from high school. Donovan’s behavior analyst is Ms. Bailey, who has just started contracting with Donovan’s school district through the agency she works for.

Example of Item G-2: Ms. Bailey knows that, in order for an intervention to be effective, it is important to consider the client’s motivations and current environmental variables which signal reinforcement. Based on the functional assessment that Ms. Bailey conducted, she determines that relevant MO’s for Donovan’s interfering behavior are presentation of reading tasks and deprivation of access to his sketchbook. SDs are teachers, specifically ones that have a history of removing Donovan from class for misbehaving. Ms. Bailey decides to use the MO’s that occur in the natural environment (presentation of reading tasks/deprivation of access to his sketchbook) to create a context that she can use to teach a communication response that leads to escape/access for Donovan. Understanding all of the relevant MO’s in place will insure that Donovan is motivated to emit the communication response (along with appropriate levels of prompting/prompt fading).

%d bloggers like this: