Main Points of Behavior Management Training

I.  Theories of Behavior

1.  Behaviors are observable phenomena which can be:

A. Defined in concrete terms

B. Altered by changing aspects of the environment

2.  Behavior is influenced by the interaction of these factors:

A. Characteristics of the child (e.g., learning style, motivation, etc..)

  • Effects of autism includes discussion of social, communication, and sensory impairments on behavior
  • Iceburg model demonstrates how underlying deficits influence behavior

B. Characteristics of the environment (e.g., classroom)

  • Structured vs. Unstructured
  • Sensory characteristics
  • Adaptations for the child

C. Characteristics of the social context (e.g., teacher, peers).

  • # kids, teachers, etc.
  • Interpersonal style of teachers
  • Social skills training of peers

3.  Behavior is related to events which happened just before the behavior (antecedents) and events that occur just after the behavior (consequences).

A.  Many antecedent conditions are described above.

B.  Antecedents and consequences can reinforce a behavior (increase the likelihood that it will occur) or can punish a behavior (decrease the likelihood that a behavior will occur).

C.  One of the first steps in applying behavior management strategies is to identify the A-B-C behavior chain.

4.  Behavior is functional (i.e., it serves a purpose).

A.  Examples of functions include:  Attention, Tangible, Sensory, Escape

B.  For an individual with poor expressive communication skills, behavior is often the only means of communicating intentions.

5.  Negative behaviors are often skill deficits.

A.  Behavior management is an educational process.

B.  Children often need to be taught another way to reach their goals (i.e., an adaptive alternative to the maladaptive target behavior).

C.  Behavior change is an active process for all concerned.

II.  Assessment

1.  Determining how to change behavior in a specific situation (e.g., the combination of prevention and intervention techniques that will work best) requires thorough assessment of the child and the behavior.

A.  Assessment of the child must include:

  • Preferences (to be used as rewards)
  • Strength
  • Deficits
  • Motivations
  • Learning style

B.  Assessment of the behavior must include:

  • Topography (e.g., frequency, intensity, duration)
  • Antecedents
  • Consequences
  • Functions

2.  There are many ethical issues to consider when creating a plan to change behavior.  These include:

A.  Least Restrictive Treatment Model (Foxx, 1978)

B.  Principles for Rights to Effective Treatment  (Van Houten, 1988)

III.  Tools for  Behavior Change

1.  Changing behavior implies changing the antecedent conditions (prevention) or changing the consequences (intervention).

A.  Prevention strategies include:

  • Adapting the environment
  • Modifying teaching style
  • Incorporating visual cues
  • Developing predictable, positive routines
  • Teaching functional communication strategies
  • Identifying adaptive alternative behaviors
  • Practicing adaptive alternative behaviors

B.  Intervention strategies include:

  • Providing potent rewards
  • Catching the child being good
  • Implementing meaningful consequences

2.  Most effective behavior management strategies involve a combination of prevention and intervention approaches.

IV. Creation and Implementation of Behavior Plans

1.  Once the assessments have been conducted, a plan can be designed which must include the following components:

A.  Clear definitions

  • Of maladaptive target behavior
  • Of adaptive alternative behavior

B.   Description of baseline rates of frequency, intensity, duration

  • Of maladaptive target behavior
  • Of adaptive alternative behavior

C.  Formulation of specific behavioral objective

  • For maladaptive target behavior
  • For adaptive alternative behavior

D.  Identification of hypothesized function(s) of target behavior

E.  Identification of functionally-equivalent reinforcer for presence of adaptive alternative behavior

F.  Rationale for program, which includes:

  • How decreasing target behavior will help the child
  • Use of least restrictive intervention

G.  Specific procedures at antecedent level used to:

  • Prevent the target behavior
  • Encourage the adaptive alternative behavior

H.  Specific procedures at consequence level used to:

  • Decrease the likelihood that the target behavior will be exhibited
  • Increase the likelihood that the adaptive alternative will be exhibited

I.  Specific guidelines for data collection and program evaluation

  • How and when and by whom will data be collected
  • How and when and by whom will performance be evaluated
  • What are the mechanisms for changing the program because of 1) behavioral gains or 2) lack of behavioral gains
  • Plans for ongoing functional analysis and preference assessment

2.  To implement a behavior plan, the following steps are recommended:

A.  Provide an overview of the plan to all teachers and assistants*, include:

  • Discussion of rationale (to assist with problem-solving)
  • Modelling of specific techniques

*If at all possible, it can be very instructive to include parents in this step.

B.  Implement the plan for a specified time period (e.g., two weeks)

  • Observe teachers/assistants implementing and provide feedback
  • Review data

C.  Meet with teachers/assistants to revise plan

  • Access their comments regarding ease of implementation
  • Base revisions on data

D.  Draft a revised version and re-train as necessary

E.  Once you have a solid plan, involve the parents for generalization and consistency

F.  Set up monthly meetings to monitor progress, revise plan as needed.


Activities for Teaching Behavior Management

I.  Theories of  Behavior

1.  Observe a child trying to complete a task (e.g., toileting, completing a puzzle, etc.)  Write a list of all of the discrete behaviors which are linked in the completion of that task.  Observe another child completing that task and record for each step if the child performed the task independently (I), with a verbal prompt (V), or a physical prompt (P).  Note the presence of interfering behaviors at each task step.  Which steps were most challenging for the child?  How could you tell?

2.  Observe child in classroom for 5 minutes.  Choose a target behavior and define it clearly.   Observe the child for 10 minutes, looking for that behavior.  Identify how that behavior is influenced by the characteristics of the child, the characteristics of the environment, the characteristics of the teacher.  Of these influences, determine which are amenable to change and which must be accepted as unchangable. 

3.  Observe a child’s behavior briefly and choose a target behavior (which can be negative or positive).  Observe this child for 15 minutes and record the antecedents and consequences of the target behavior over that time period.  What are the antecedent events which tend to occur before the behavior?  What are the consequences that tend to happen after the behavior?  How can these observations assist you in teaching the child positive behaviors? If you chose a negative behavior, what would an adaptive alternative behavior be?

4.  Observe a child for 15 minutes and determine:

A.  How does this child communicate to get attention?

B.  How does this child communicate to request an object or activity?

C.  How does this child communicate to request a particular sensory experience?

D.  How does this child communicate to reject an activity or leave a situation?

What are some more adaptive ways that the child could behave to get attention, request objects or experiences, and reject activities?  Make a list of the target behaviors you have observed and their alternatives.  Clearly define each behavior.

II.  Assessment

1.  Two participants work together on this activity.  Each dyad is assigned a child to observe and completes four activities together concerning that child and those behaviors.  Each activity is later presented to the group for discussion.

(1).  The dyad choose one target behavior for the child and:

(a)  Defines the behavior

(b)  Devises a recording system to record frequency, intensity, and duration.

Both participants take data simultaneously and independently on the behavior for 15 minutes.  Issues of data collection and reliability are then discussed.

(2)  The dyad completes a preference assessment with the child and identifies three potential rewards in the following categories:  social/attention, tangible, sensory, and escape.

(3)  The dyad continues to observe the child and the target behavior.  The dyad completes a functional analysis of this target behavior.  Tools used may include: A-B-C sheet, Detailed Behavior Report, Motivation Assessment Scale, etc. The          dyad forms a hypothesis concerning the primary and secondary functions of the target behavior. 

(4)  The dyad identifies an adaptive alternative behavior to the target behavior and clearly defines it. 

III.  Tools of Behavior Change

1.  Each participant is given one of the following assignments.  Each completes it and then presents her ideas to the group.  Following her presentation of preventative techniques that can be used, the group brainstorms some intervention techniques which could also be applied to the behavioral issue.

a.  Choose a child and watch how he/she manages transitions between activities.  Perform whatever assessments you need to perform.  Devise a method which combines some of the preventative strategies to assist this child in making calm transitions.

b.  Choose a child who has difficulty completing a specific task or activity. Perform whatever assessments you need to perform.  Devise a method which combines some of the preventative strategies to assist this child in completing an activity successfully.

c.  Choose a child who has difficulty playing with toys in a functional manner. Perform whatever assessments you need to perform. Devise a method which combines some of the preventative strategies to assist this child in playing with a toy as it was intended to be used.

d.  Choose a child who has difficulty controlling impulses and tends to run toward objects or grab objects or take objects from other children children. Perform whatever assessments you need to perform. Devise a method which combines some of the preventative strategies to assist this child in inhibiting impulses.

e.  Choose a child who tends to place inedible objects into his/mouth. Perform whatever assessments you need to perform.  Devise a method which combines  some of the preventative strategies to assist this child in not mouthing inedible objects.

IV.  Creation and Implementation of Behavior Plans

Using the same dyads from part II (assessment) and the same child and target behavior, each dyad is asked to devise a behavior plan which includes the aspects listed in the training.  Each dyad presents this plan to the group and describes how to teach others to implement it.