Whole Interval Recording Technique in ABA Therapy for Autism


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a widely recognized approach for supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One of the essential techniques within ABA therapy is whole interval recording. This method is used to measure and assess behavior patterns over specific intervals, providing valuable insights that help tailor interventions and track progress. This article aims to provide comprehensive information on whole interval recording for ABA therapy and autism, targeting parents, family members, individuals with ASD, ABA therapists, educators, and school personnel.

Understanding ABA Therapy

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy is a scientific approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. It uses evidence-based techniques to improve social, communication, and learning skills through positive reinforcement. ABA is highly individualized, with interventions tailored to each person's unique needs and goals.

Key Components of ABA

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT): A structured method that breaks down skills into small, "discrete" components.

  • Natural Environment Teaching (NET): Utilizes natural settings to teach and reinforce behaviors.

  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT): Focuses on pivotal areas of a child's development to produce broad improvements.

  • Verbal Behavior (VB): Emphasizes teaching communication using the principles of ABA.

Whole Interval Recording: An Overview

What is Whole Interval Recording?

Whole interval recording is a time sampling method used to measure behavior by dividing observation periods into equal intervals. During each interval, the observer notes whether the target behavior occurred throughout the entire interval. This technique is beneficial for measuring continuous behaviors that occur at high rates and are challenging to count individually.

How Whole Interval Recording Works

  1. Define the Target Behavior: Clearly identify the specific behavior to be observed.

  2. Set Observation Intervals: Divide the observation period into equal intervals (e.g., 10 seconds, 1 minute).

  3. Record Occurrences: During each interval, mark whether the behavior was present throughout the entire interval.

  4. Analyze Data: Calculate the percentage of intervals in which the behavior occurred to assess patterns and trends.

Applications of Whole Interval Recording in ABA Therapy

Measuring Engagement and Attention

Whole interval recording is particularly useful for measuring behaviors related to engagement and attention, such as:

  • Time spent on-task during a classroom activity.

  • Participation in social interactions.

  • Involvement in play activities.

Tracking Progress and Effectiveness

ABA therapists use whole interval recording to track progress and determine the effectiveness of interventions. By monitoring how often a target behavior occurs across sessions, therapists can make data-driven decisions to adjust strategies and enhance outcomes.

Advantages of Whole Interval Recording

  • Precision: Provides a detailed analysis of behavior patterns over time.

  • Simplicity: Easy to implement and interpret.

  • Adaptability: Can be used across various settings and behaviors.

Implementing Whole Interval Recording: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Define the Target Behavior

Choose a specific behavior to observe. Ensure the behavior is clearly defined so that it can be consistently identified by different observers. Examples include:

  • Staying seated during class.

  • Making eye contact during conversations.

  • Participating in group activities.

Step 2: Select the Observation Period and Interval Length

Determine the total duration of the observation period and the length of each interval. Common interval lengths range from 10 seconds to several minutes, depending on the behavior and setting.

Step 3: Prepare Recording Materials

Create a recording sheet with columns for each interval. Ensure that the observer has a clear way to mark whether the behavior occurred throughout the entire interval.

Step 4: Conduct the Observation

During the observation period, the observer marks whether the target behavior was present for the whole duration of each interval. It's crucial to stay focused and objective, recording data accurately.

Step 5: Analyze and Interpret Data

After the observation, calculate the percentage of intervals in which the behavior occurred. Use this data to identify patterns, assess progress, and adjust intervention strategies as needed.

Challenges and Considerations

Potential Bias and Accuracy

Observers must remain objective to ensure accurate data collection. Training and practice can help minimize bias and improve consistency.

Behavior Variability

Behavior can vary across different settings and times of day. Multiple observations may be necessary to obtain a comprehensive understanding.

Data Interpretation

Whole interval recording may overestimate the occurrence of behaviors if intervals are too long. Selecting appropriate interval lengths is critical for accurate measurement.


Whole interval recording is a valuable tool in ABA therapy for assessing and tracking behaviors in individuals with autism. By providing a detailed analysis of behavior patterns, this method helps therapists, educators, and parents make informed decisions to support the development and progress of individuals with ASD. Understanding and effectively implementing whole interval recording can enhance the effectiveness of interventions and contribute to positive outcomes for those with autism.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is whole interval recording used for in ABA therapy?

Whole interval recording is used to measure continuous behaviors that occur at high rates, such as attention, engagement, and social participation. It helps track progress and assess the effectiveness of interventions.

How does whole interval recording differ from partial interval recording?

In whole interval recording, the behavior must occur throughout the entire interval to be recorded. In partial interval recording, the behavior is recorded if it occurs at any point during the interval. Whole interval recording is more suitable for behaviors that are continuous and sustained.

Can parents use whole interval recording at home?

Yes, parents can use whole interval recording at home to monitor their child's behaviors and progress. It is a straightforward method that can be easily implemented with proper guidance from ABA professionals.

How often should whole interval recording be conducted?

The frequency of whole interval recording depends on the specific goals and behaviors being monitored. Regular observations (e.g., daily or weekly) provide more comprehensive data and insights.

What are the benefits of using whole interval recording in educational settings?

Whole interval recording helps educators monitor students' engagement, on-task behavior, and participation. It provides valuable data to support individualized education plans (IEPs) and tailor instructional strategies.

Is whole interval recording suitable for all behaviors?

Whole interval recording is best suited for continuous and frequent behaviors. It may not be ideal for infrequent or brief behaviors, which are better measured using other methods such as event recording or partial interval recording.