I-7: Use function-based strategies to improve personnel performance.  ©

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.

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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 I-7: When problem solving staff performance deficits, or when supporting additional skill growth, Dr. Brown-Davis takes a contingency-driven approach. He involves his staff in engineering environments in which staff members are doing their best work. For example, Dr. Brown-Davis does not assume that everyone’s behavior responds similarly to the same contingency (such as a special public “shout out” to staff who have met certain performance targets). What may be reinforcing for one behavior in one context for one person may be neutral or punishing to another (just like for clients).


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 I-7: Ms. Bailey’s new supervisee, Mandy, has been assigned to provide consultation to Donovan’s teacher (with supervision). In working closely with Mandy, Ms. Bailey learns that Mandy sometimes struggles with feelings of anxiety when providing consultation to teachers, particularly teachers who are older and more experienced than Mandy. Ms. Bailey is very careful not to accidentally punish Mandy’s behavior when Mandy shares this information. It is important for supervisees to have good experiences when sharing vulnerable things about themselves with supervisors, so that they remain open to sharing important (and perhaps challenging) information later. Ms. Bailey commends Mandy for sharing this information, and they come up with a plan together to work on Mandy’s challenge.

Based on their training in ABA, both Ms. Bailey and Mandy know that progressive exposure to the anxiety-producing stimulus is an effective treatment for anxiety. They also know that escape/avoidance of anxious feelings (such as skipping consultation meetings or not speaking up during consultation) are likely to reinforce the avoidant behaviors and make the anxiety even more challenging. Ms. Bailey and Mandy agree on a system to progressively expose Mandy to the stimuli related to eventually doing consultation entirely by herself. They agree on useful data/measurement systems, and check in often.

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