PS 385 Purdue University Unit 7 Targeted Topics in Applied Behavior Analysis Discussion

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In addition to these acquisition strategies, you explored the antecedent modification procedures of non-contingent reinforcement, high-probability (high-p) request sequences, and Functional Communication Training (FCT). These antecedent modification approaches are applied to prevent unwanted behaviors and to bring about desired responses.

Setting the Scene:

Freddie is a 7-year old, second grader. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 2-years-old. Freddie has a loving family that consists of his mother, father, and two older brothers. Recently, Freddie woke up in the middle of the night in terrible pain – it was a severe tooth ache. His parents took him to a pediatric dentist, Dr. Jim, who told them that Freddie had an abscess of his second molar of the right upper jaw. Thankfully, this was a baby tooth and would have been lost by, at the latest, 12-years of age. 

The parents explained that Freddie is very resistant to brushing his teeth, or even having his parents brush his teeth. They expressed great concern about his health and the impact his oral hygiene would have. Dr. Jim told Freddie’s parents that he had seen many cases just like Freddie’s and that he always refers his patients who have this “resistance” to a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who designs individualized skill acquisition programs to increase independence in brushing teeth, as well as reduce the resistance. 

Freddie’s parents were thrilled to learn that there is this type of help available to them – for Freddie’s oral hygiene and other activities of daily life with which Freddie struggles. This could help Freddie in so many ways! 


  • Explain the skill acquisition procedures of shaping and chaining. Discuss the role of Differential Reinforcement (DR) in the shaping procedure. Discuss the role of the task analysis in the chaining procedure. What is the rationale for using each of these procedures?
  • Design a teeth-brushing chaining procedure for Freddie. Include a complete task analysis. Select a chaining procedure (forward chaining, backward chaining, or total task chaining) for this procedure and explain the steps in the procedure with regard to Freddie’s teeth-brushing chain. 

Guided Response Posts:

Respond to your first peer’s primary post by choosing a chaining procedure that is different from the one he/she chose to train teeth-brushing, and explain the process of chaining using the task analysis that the peer designed. 

Respond to your second peer’s primary post by selecting one component in his/her task analysis and explaining how you would apply a shaping procedure to teach that component if Freddie were having difficulty achieving proficiency. Be sure to break down the process by setting pre-determined criteria for Differential Reinforcement (DR).

Reading and Resources

Read the following:

Chapter 22 in Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd edition): “Shaping” (pp. 540-553)

The shaping strategy is explained in terms of when it is appropriate to use, how differential reinforcement is applied in the shaping process, and how shaping may be different across response topographies.  The skills a trainer must have to effectively implement a shaping program and the steps the trainer must take to implement are discussed in detail.

Chapter 23 in Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd edition): “Chaining” 

The chaining procedure, and its usefulness in training complex behaviors, is explained, as is the development and use of the task analysis. The different types of chaining procedures are presented, along with how one can select the most effective chaining procedure given the specific variables in each case.

Chapter 26 in Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd edition): “Antecedent Interventions” (pp. 615-623)

Various strategies derived from the fundamental principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) are presented and explained. Antecedent intervention strategies that work to prevent unwanted behaviors, non-contingent reinforcement, high-probability (high-p) request sequences, and Functional Communication Training (FCT), are examined.


Cooper, J., & Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2019) Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd ed.) Person Education, Inc. New Jersey, NJ: Hoboken


Discussion responses

 Mahoney posted

Shaping is when one differentially reinforces successive approximations toward a final behavior. With shaping one has to use discriminative judgement to decide if what they have seen or heard is a closer approximation to the desired final behavior. Differential reinforcement is used in shaping by only reinforcing a progression of responses that are more similar to the target response, while putting on all other responses on extinction. The purpose of shaping is to help learners acquire new behaviors (Cooper et al., 2020). Chaining refers to differing methods for linking specific sequences of stimuli and responses to form new behaviors. In forward chaining behaviors are linked starting with the first behavior in the chain, and in backward chaining the behaviors are linked starting with the last behavior in the chain. Before individual behaviors can be linked in a chain, a task analysis must be done. The task analysis will break down the components of the behavioral sequence and assess the learner’s mastery level of each behavior in the task analysis. The purpose of chaining to to allow individuals to develop complex behaviors so they can function more independently (Cooper et al., 2020). Task analysis of teeth-brushing: Section 1: PreparationTake out toothbrush Take out toothpasteRemove cap from toothpasteGrab toothbrush with one handGrab toothpaste with the otherPut toothpaste on toothbrush Turn on waterWet the toothbrush with waterSection 2: BrushingPut toothbrush in mouthBrush upper teethBrush lower teethSpit into sinkBrush tongue Cup water into mouthRinse mouth and spit Section 3: Clean upRinse toothbrush in sink Put away toothbrushPut cap on toothpastePut toothpaste away I will use forward chaining by teaching the behaviors I have identified in the task analysis in their naturally occurring order. To start, reinforcement will be delivered when Freddy takes out this toothbrush, which is step 1. Once we are confident Freddy has mastered this step, reinforcement will be only be delivered after successful completion of steps 1 and 2. Each succeeding step will require the the cumulative performance of all prior steps in the correct order until Freddy has mastered all steps in the chain (Cooper et al., 2020).Freddie Hates Brushing His Teeth ( Targeted Topics)Korey Jones posted Feb 19, 2020 8:42 PMSubscribeINITIAL POST:Freddie Hates Brushing His TeethShaping: shaping is a method of differential reinforcement for successful approximations to a target goal (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2019). This would be conducted by offering reinforcement for an attempt at the target behavior, regardless of success. After some time, the reinforcement would be withdrawn, leading to closer approximations. This process continues until the individual succeeds in exhibiting the target behavior. The differential reinforcement comes into play when presenting a reinforcer for behaviors that meet a specific criteria or quality in meeting the target behavior, while placing all other behaviors on extinction (Cooper et al, 2019). Shaping can be a great method of teaching behaviors to individuals who may have learning disabilities and can even be used to modify existing behaviors.Chaining: chaining requires the use of a task analysis that breaks a complex target behavior into parts, with each part receiving reinforcement when it is exhibited successfully. This procedure uses a combination of prompting and fading to reach a desired target behavior. There are three chaining methods: backward chaining, forward chaining, and total task presentation (Cooper et al, 2019). Chaining has been used in many settings, especially when increasing independence in individuals with developmental disabilities and to add behavior to an existing line-up of behaviors.Freddie’s Task AnalysisS?1 (walk to bathroom sink) ? R1 (standing at sink)S?2 (Freddie’s toothbrush is in holder) ? R2 (place toothbrush in hand)S?3 (toothbrush is in hand) ? R3 (turn on water)S?4 (water is running) ? R4 (place head of toothbrush under water)S?5 (toothbrush is wet) ? R5 (remove toothbrush from under water)S?6 (water is running) ? R6 (turn off water)S?7 (toothpaste is on counter) ? R7 (open toothpaste)S?8 (toothpaste is open) ? R8 (squeeze toothpaste onto toothbrush)S?9 (toothpaste is on toothbrush) ? R9 (place toothbrush in mouth)S?10 (toothbrush is in mouth) ? R10 (move brush back and forth on lower teeth)S?11 (lower teeth are brushed) ? R11 (spit excess into sink)S?12 (toothbrush is in mouth) ? R12 (move brush back and forth on upper teeth)S?13 (upper teeth are brushed) ? R13 (spit excess into sink)S?14 (all teeth are brushed) ? R14 (remove toothbrush from mouth)S?15 (toothbrush is no longer in mouth) ? R15 (turn water on)S?16 (water is running) ? R16 (rinse toothbrush under water)S?17 (toothbrush is rinsed) ? R17 (turn water off)S?18 (water is off) ? R18 (place toothbrush in holder)I would like to use a backward chaining method with Freddie, which will begin with prompting Freddie throughout the entire task analysis and performing the actions for him. When we reach S?18 – water is off at the end of the task analysis and the R18 is to place the toothbrush in holder. I would prompt Freddie to place the toothbrush in the holder once the water has been turned off. When he exhibits the correct response, he will be praised. This process will continue with gradual fading of prompts until he exhibits R18 without prompting. When this occurs, we will move to S?17. This process will continue with each step on the task analysis, until Freddie is performing the task independently.

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