Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Spring 2009

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Data Collection in Social Settings

By Rachel Russell
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Creating an appropriate data form to collect data is an important part of any behavior intervention. Some questions to consider include: 1) is the data form easy enough to complete so that it does not interfere with teaching or helping the child, 2) is the data form clear enough so that different observers would record the same data, and 3) will the data collected show trends (i.e., increases or decreases in behavior) for those behaviors that are most important for a particular child? While standardized data forms can serve as helpful examples for data collection, it is often necessary to individualize the data collection form in order to obtain relevant data. Below are a few examples of data collection forms created by behavior consultants at the Lovaas Institute for behaviors that can be difficult to measure: group learning and peer interactions.


Vincent LaMarca, M.A., BCBA
Behavior Consultant
Lovaas Institute - Indianapolis

This following data collection form provided a measurable way to assess whether or not the child was "listening" in circle time. Specific behaviors were identified that we hypothesized were reducing the likelihood the child was listening to the teacher (looking away from the teacher, lying on the floor, touching another child). However, we also recorded positive examples of attending to the group. And, we made sure to compare the child's behavior with a peer...we didn't expect perfection!

Circle Time

(Alternate collecting data every 30 seconds with child then 30 seconds with peer.)

Record each of the following that occur:
Response = any appropriate verbal or nonverbal response in circle time (e.g., answer question, imitate actions, etc.)
Touch = touching another child
Posture = lying on the floor, facing away from teacher
Inattentive = looking away from teacher/activity for more than 10 seconds

Note: It is possible for none of the above to occur in a given interval.

Click for larger version [PDF]

Of course, it's possible to look like you're paying attention, while thinking about something else (and vice versa!). So, we also asked up to 3 questions after circle time to measure the child's recall of important information presented in the group.

Circle Time Recall

(Ask child 2-3 questions at the end of circle time to assess whether he was paying attention and can recall important information.)

Click for larger version [PDF]


Noreen Laberinto,
M.A., Case Supervisor,
Lovaas Institute – San Diego

Angela Fulgencio,
Assistant Case Supervisor,
Lovaas Institute – San Diego

We created a data sheet to provide our staff with a measurable (and fast!) way to assess the following:

  • Current distance between the instructor and the child
  • Progress with current objectives during peer play: a) increasing child's cooperation with alternating who would be first down the slide and b) following peers across activities
  • Frequency of verbal protest and antecedents to identify future objectives to teach
  • Generalization of the skill of requesting objects as a replacement for grabbing
  • Generalization of certain programs (e.g., Observational Learning, Play Stations) that were initially taught and acquired in a more formal setting

In terms of implementation, instructors reminded the child of his "goals" and established a reinforcement contingency to motivate the child to reach these goals during the peer play session. These goals matched the objectives listed on the data sheet. Following the play session, we reviewed with the child at least two things he had done well and one thing that he needed to work on for the next time. The parent also helped to address this during their evening routine when they reviewed the day together. Finally, this data sheet was created to be compact so that staff could record data quickly and secretly! It was "foldable" and fit right into the instructor's pocket.

Click for larger version [PDF]


Becky White, M.S.
Clinic Supervisor
Lovaas Institute – New Jersey

This following data collection system was tailored to incorporate the child's IEP goals focusing on skills used in a peer play setting. The data sheet enabled the team to look at whether the child was learning language and/or other adaptive skills to independently interact with his peers in a play situation. Instructors recorded the frequency of independent and prompted responses for each category during the school session (seeking peer attention, initiating play, etc.). Instructors facilitated peer interaction through a variety of strategies such as teaching specific language to the child that related to each category, prompting a peer to initiate interaction in a specific way, and/or arranging a situation in which the child "needed" the peer interaction to continue with a desired activity. For example, this child enjoyed floor puzzles. The instructor would arrange the pieces so that the child would need to initiate interaction with his peer to gain access to more pieces of the puzzle. Additionally, the instructors noted the duration of each play situation and whether it was best described as parallel play or interactive play.

Click for larger version [PDF]

Do you have an experience with a creative format to typical programming? Share them with us here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.

Whistle Praise! Try to praise with a whistle in your mouth, which forces you to simulate talking with a whistle (or blow-out noisemaker, sound vibrator, guitar amplifier or microphone).

Tell Me What to Do! Model an instruction to do something silly, and then comply with the child's instruction when they say it. For example, give the instruction, "say, 'walk like a duck.'" When the child says so, start crouching on the floor and waddle around while quacking like a duck. Try other silly actions, like falling down or imitating "Barney."

Emotional Clown! Act out silly, exaggerated emotions like sad — with a real sappy "boo hoo hoo" and drip water on your face for tears (all very fake) or happy - with a silly happy song and dance.

Lost in the Hood! Wear a hooded sweatshirt with a drawstring and make your head disappear as you tighten the string. Ask the child to help to get you out.

I'm Pouring! Hold a spring water bottle above the child's head - tilt ever so slightly in an anticipatory way - drop droplet. Fair play, however, is allowing them to get you. But they are usually less reserved about the amount they drop!

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