ABA Jargon: Establishing Operations



So EO, let's take a look at our actual definition. EO stands for Establishing Operation. So it is a motivating operation. Well, that's make it clearer, that establishes or increases the effectiveness of some stimulus, object or event as a reinforcer. Thus, increasing the current frequency of all behavior that has been reinforced by that stimulus, object or event in the past.

Now, it's clear. We can just go on with the rest of our lives know exactly what to do with that, right? Yes, that's why we do jargon of the day. Moving on, let's look at our working definition, what EO stands for? Again, it stands for establishing operation. It's some internal, I remember this one too. I asked for approval from this [inaudible 00:00:58], so don't worry. We are going to go through this, and then we are going to take a step further down.

Some internal or external variable that makes particular reinforcers even more reinforcing. Thus, increasing the likelihood that you will engage in certain behaviors associated with accessing those reinforcers. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's no better. So establishing operations what I would like to think of it is what's on board. And the other side of it is what's on board that's going to create success because establishing operations is something that makes it more likely that the behavior that the targeted behavior is going to occur.

Now, we do this all the time. We have establishing operations and motivating operations going on all the time, and sometimes they sink our battleship, right? And what we are doing here is saying, okay, if I could think about this and think what circumstances could I set up to set us up for success. That's when you're using EOs. For instance, the example that I always like to use is when you go to do a potty training program. If you reading through a potty training lesson and it says that the targeted behavior is that the child is going to void on the toilet, they're going to urinate on the toilet. This is where we are trying to get to, right?

And so, they'll talk about how to set up the lesson, but they'll say EO, your establishing operation is that you give the child access to a bunch of salty snacks. You go, okay. I thought I was doing a potty training thing but if you think it through, if you give the child access to a bunch of salty snacks, and then you give them access to their preferred liquids, what's going to happen, right? You're setting the child up for having to go to the bathroom, then you're more likely to get an opportunity for that teaching moment where you get them on the toilet, right?

So you've given the child the salty snacks which made them want the preferred liquid, they drank the preferred liquid. And we know, liquid in liquid out, right? We are on a timer where we know that they are going to drink the liquid, and within a certain amount of time, they're going to need to go to the bathroom. Different kids, different amount of time to work through the system, but hopefully we have already done some research into that that gave them some water and saw how long it was before they peed in the diaper.

I just have to say voiding, right? They peed in the diaper. The establishing operation that you had was giving them access to the salty snacks and the preferred liquids. It made it more likely that you were going to succeed in having the child need to urinate, because I am sure we've all done the potty training thing where we put the child up on the potty and they wait and they wait they wait, and finally their little legs get sore sitting on the potty because they didn't have to go, right? We set ourselves up for success because we gave him a full bladder is what we did.

There's lots of other ways that we can set somebody up for success. What we might see sometimes is for an establishing operation that it will ask you to have found a really preferred item that they really love and to have had a period of time beforehand where it just wasn't available. And it's not a long period of time, it may just be for like the two hours before the child who absolutely loves that one stuffed elephant. It just wasn't around, right? And then the elephant comes out because we're going to do something with the elephant. Maybe we're going to teach colors or whatever, but we're going to use the elephant to do it and there hasn't been an access to it.

So establishing operation is really something that you bring on board that is going to make it more likely that you're going to get the targeted behaviors. Sometimes it's just something in the environment that you set up to set up for success. Sometimes it is a very specific thing that super charges a reinforcer like not having the elephant available. When you haven't seen the toy that you like a lot for a couple of hours. When you see it after a couple of hours of not seeing it, you really want to play with it, right? That's an establishing operation and believe me sometimes you just need a little to get the individual excited about something.

Establishing operations set us up for success. Now, wasn't that worthwhile?