Taking Effective Data: Duration and Latency

duration and latency

Continuing our look at the RBT™ Task List, we are looking at A-02 Continuous Measurement procedures which is probably the most used method in school if you’re taking any direct observation data. These include ABC data collection, frequency or count, rate, latency, and a few more. Let’s look at DURATION and LATENCY recording.

What is duration and latency recording in ABA?

Duration and latency measure time, one looking at how LONG a behavior lasts, and the other at how long it took UNTIL a behavior starts.

When do you use duration and latency recording?

This measurement is typically used for behaviors that last too long or too short, and you want to work with the student on increasing time or decreasing time.

Let’s look at them both:

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Duration recording measures how LONG (the amount of time) a behavior occurs. It measures the amount of time a response is performed. For example, time spent on an activity, time engaged in a challenging behavior, time spent in contact with feared stimulus, or time engaged in a social interaction.

Joe had a tantrum for 35 minutes.

Janie brushed her teeth for 28 seconds.

Jose played 4-in-a-row for 3 minutes.

How do you record duration?

  • Have a clearly defined onset (what identifies as the START of the behavior) and offset (what defined the END of the behavior).
  • Make sure staff are trained to identify start and stop and have a good way to measure it (e.g., clipboard with behavior definition and data sheet, stopwatch or other way to measure time).
  • Observe and track the time of the behaviors.
  • At the end of each identified behavior, calculate how long it occurred, and that is your measurement for that instance.

Latency recording measures the amount of time after some sort of “trigger” that a behavior SHOULD begin and when the behavior actually DOES begin. For example, the time between the delivery of a request to the initiation of a response (wanting to increase) or the time between the exposure of a fear stimulus until the observable response to the item (wanting the time to decrease).

Teacher gives a direction to start work, Joe takes 2 minutes to pick up his pencil and start.

Janie walks into the dentist office and stays 2.5 minutes before problem behavior begins.

How do you record latency?

  • Have a clearly defined trigger (what indicates the behavior is SUPPOSED to happen) and target behavior (what defines the start of the behavior you’re looking for).
  • Make sure staff are trained and a good way to measure it (e.g., clipboard with behavior definition and data sheet, stopwatch or other way to measure time).
  • Observe and track the time of the trigger and the time until the target behavior occurs.
  • At the end of each identified behavior, calculate how long until the behavior occurred, and that is your measurement for that instance.

What do you do with the information?

  • Gather baseline data
  • Implement a strategy and measure change
  • Re-evaluate success of strategy and make a change if needed
  • Go back to #2 and repeat until you hit your goal
  • Gather reporting or final evaluation data
  • Choose a new goal and keep going!

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!




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