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August 16, 2022

How to Choose the Right ABA Data Collection Modality

Thomas John
ABA Providers Recover Dues From Patients To Efficient Your Account Receivables

Data collection is the bedrock upon which ABA providers build their therapy approach. Without knowing how a child is progressing under their care, therapists lose effectiveness. So, gathering information should be a top priority for behavioral Analysts.

Common data collection modalities include duration, frequency, rate, and interval recording. Circumstantially, any or all of these modalities can be the perfect tool or or just a wasted effort. Behavior Analysts must learn the limitations of each technique and where to apply them appropriately. 

Here’s how to choose the right ABA data collection modality.  


A scale assessment is possibly the simplest information-gathering tool. The scale presents a ranking system with labels that note a performance level. The therapist can observe a child, then rank him/her based on their session.

Scale assessment works best during the first meeting or initial assessment. A therapist will spend significant mental energy observing the new environment, the child, and his/her caretakers. A simple ranking system obstructs this process the least. 

Probe Data

Some children rarely exhibit negative behaviors and quickly advance through learning materials. In such cases, a therapist may decide teaching is more time efficient than recording reactions. 

Probe data involves measuring a behavior during the first part of the session, then temporarily halting measurements. The goal is facilitating the child’s leap to the next stage without distractions. Once the child reaches the stage, the therapist will take another probe to confirm his/her advancement.  


Developmentally disabled children often exhibit lengthy, unusual behaviors with a clear beginning and end points. A therapist may believe the length of these behaviors indicates therapy receptiveness. Under these conditions, duration measurements excel. 

Typically, therapists record habit duration to keep abreast with undesirable conduct like tantrums. Tracking how long a tantrum lasts is important when judging that day’s  therapy adjustments.  


Frequency collection refers to counting how often a behavior occurs. This technique is simple to perform during therapy and is easily transferable to guardians. For example, a caretaker can record how often a child leaves the dinner table. However, frequency collection may be too tedious for habits that happen multiple times a minute.  


Rate collection involves counting occurrences per unit of time. Behaviors happen at high rates when the frequency is often and the period is short. Therapists understand the prevalence of certain conduct better through this method. 

For example, some sessions may last 90 minutes while others last 60 minutes. The 90-minute session may have more habit occurrences. However, the rate of occurrence may be higher in the 60-minute sessions. Failing to capture this distinction can cause therapists to stop effective therapy methods. 

Interval Recording

Some behaviors occur randomly or have a poorly defined beginning and end point. A tantrum may last ten minutes, with brief peaks starting again later. This lack of clarity challenges frequency or duration observations. In such cases, interval recording may be ideal. 

Interval recording involves creating time windows and noting whether a behavior happens within each window. To handle the above-mentioned sporadic tantrum, a therapist could set five-minute intervals. Once the therapist defines the periods, she can make a mark if the behavior exists in that period. 

By properly collecting data, ABAs demonstrate their professionalism that is deserving of quality RCM. 

At Plutus Health, we satisfy this quality through our careful financial handling. We specialize in ABA billing and coding and have consistently exceeded reimbursement benchmarks in the ABA field. See how our expert team of billers will maximize your hard work by visiting our website today. 

Key Takeaways

1. No modality is preferable over all others in all circumstances. 

2. Scales help rank a child without obstructing a therapist’s other tasks. 

3. Probe data pushes advanced learners along without data collection holdups. 

4. Duration records when a behavior starts and ends.

5. Frequency observes how often a habit occurs. 

6. Rate notes the percentage presence of an act over a period. 

7. Interval recording tracks the presence of behavior within a time frame. 

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