Saturday, January 29, 2011


I compiled this at the request of students in the college classes I teach:

Let’s start with good basics: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
This basic concept has been respected for years and components of it are found in many behavior programs. I’m sure you have studied this, so I’m doing a very brief overview that hits the high spots. ABA is also recognized as a highly effective way to modify behaviors of children with autism.
1. Observations, interviews, and records reviews are some sources of information necessary to discern possible causes of behaviors, select socially significant behaviors to change, determine replacement behaviors, and establish rewards and punishment that will be effective with this child.
2. ABC is another acronym that might be helpful: Antecedent (cause, trigger of behavior), the Behavior itself, and Consequences (reward or punishment)
3. We can often eliminate a behavior by simply removing the antecedent which sometimes takes careful observation. If another student is doing something to cause said unacceptable reaction—separating them may be an easy solution, for example. This would be considered a fast and external trigger because the antecedent could be seen and came immediately before. It is more difficult when the behavior may be a slow and/or internal trigger like what we call “the straw that broke the camel’s back” or the child being tired or getting sick.
4. It is important to focus on a minimum number of behaviors to change at any one time—selecting most socially significant and serious should help guide your choices.
5. When trying to extinguish undesirable behaviors, it is critical to have a replacement behavior to introduce. This must also be a”Fair Pair”. In other words, every behavior has a purpose and function for that child. When you select a replacement, it must serve the same purpose and function. Attached you will find a Motivation Assessment Scale. Adults and teachers most familiar with the child can fill this out and the cluster scores will tell you if the motivation for this behavior is for escape, attention, something tangible, or for sensory needs (common with autism). This information, along with knowing the interests of the child will help you find a fair pair behavior.
6. Rewards and punishments should also be based on the interests of the child. What is valuable “currency” to the child may not be what seems valuable to you. So it is important to determine their currency for it to be effective either in giving or withdrawing. Time and activities can be as valuable to a child as objects—often even more so.

Here are some other random ideas for thought.
1. Strategies and routines as stressed by the Wongs can be great preventative measures
2. Building relationships with students who tend to disrupt class can fill their need for attention and get them operating with you instead of against you—start out with a few minutes a day of conversation to get to know them; also give them important roles to play. You may find the students who got on your nerves initially become favorites.
3. Brian Mendler suggests informing student you may not always interrupt class to deal with an inappropriate behavior because teaching is important, but you will deal with it later and it will be a private matter between you and that child as will be any kind of comments you will often make to all students. Because it is private—he warns in advance, don’t ask.
4. “It’s not fair” can be responded to that fair is not the same as equal, and no two students are the same. Fair is giving each student what they need, and the teacher makes that determination. The student can be reassured that if they feel they need something, they are welcome to discuss that with the teacher so it can be decided if and what is needed.
5. Group work has a lot of value, but there are things that can be done to make it more fair. Good students generally don’t feel it is fair because they do most of the work in order to keep a good grade (and control). The teacher should assign specific roles to each member and determine the leader. Individual accountability balances the group grade as each person writes their own reflection of what they learned.
6. Avoid making situations into power struggles. Choose your battles, say what you mean and mean what you say (follow through), and you don’t have to have the last word. Warn students about what is going to happen and then make sure you follow through.
7. A private conversation with eye contact and caring before something spins out of control may be a best defense.
8. Be aware that competition may bring out the worst (as a defense) instead of the best in some students.
9. Bribes may be effective, but they are only temporary solutions.
10. Class rules should be accompanied by explanation of the values behind them.