For Related Professionals: Behaviorism 101

Many times when I am working with a family their child is involved in multiple therapies, both across home and school.

These other therapies can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills playgroups,  psychotherapy or counseling, physical therapy, and many more. Not to mention the multiple teachers and paraprofessionals at school that work with my client daily. Sometimes  I get the opportunity to meet and connect with the various professionals, and sometimes I do not. When I do get the chance I always am grateful for it. It is always beneficial to talk to other professionals who work with your client and have a different perspective from you.

When I meet with these professionals they usually ask me questions about problem behavior, learning motivation, and coping skills. Typically the related professionals want a kind of mini-crash course in ABA strategies to better work with the client.

If you serve Autistic clients as a therapist, teacher, nanny, baby sitter, etc., I hope you find this post helpful. These are simple ABA tips to know and be aware of so you can better understand behavior management.

Understand the ABC's of behavior. This is your "detective tool kit" to methodically locate the function of any behavior. A=antecedent, B=behavior, and C=consequence. The antecedent means "what happened before the behavior", and the consequence means "what happened after the behavior". For example, if every time you arrive at the house to begin a session (antecedent), the child begins to cry and run away from you (behavior), and you then spend several minutes chasing the child through the house to have them begin working (consequence), then it is very likely the function of the behavior is escape from demand. To correct the behavior, you would find a new behavior that serves the same purpose. 

Learn what incompatible behaviors are, and use them. An incompatible behavior is simply a behavior that the child cannot do at the same time as the target behavior. For example, if you are working with a child at a table and the child  knocks the materials onto the floor a simple incompatible behavior is to have the child place their hands in their lap when you are putting out stimuli. This provides no opportunity to knock things onto the floor.

Consistency! Being inconsistent in your reactions to the child's behaviors is equivalent to intermittent reinforcement. By "sometimes" being firm, and "sometimes" letting things go, you are intermittently reinforcing the behavior which will cause it to increase. 

Understand reinforcement. Reinforcement is a way to increase behaviors you want to see again. If the child does something appropriate, give them a smile, hug, high five, tickle, etc.  Reinforcement is a powerful way to shape behavior and also has the added benefit of making the child more interested in spending time with you. Over time you will become reinforcing to the child because in the past you have delivered reinforcement.

Finish out instructional demands. Do not give demands that you are not prepared to prompt if necessary. If the child is across the room playing don't shout out to them "Come sit down" unless you are able to go and assist them with sitting if they do not respond. 

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