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ABA 101. Kelly McKinnon, MA, BCBA, Kelly McKinnon & Associates, Inc. Why ABA to teach children with autism?.

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Aba 101

ABA 101

Kelly McKinnon, MA, BCBA, Kelly McKinnon & Associates, Inc.

Kelly McKinnon & Associates, Inc.

Why aba to teach children with autism
Why ABA to teach children with autism?

  • Research: * Lovaas study- Ivar Lovaas and his team at UCLA conducted a study in 1987, where they compared groups of children who received 40 hours of intensive treatment, vs. children who received10 hours of intensive treatment over 2 years.

  • Intensive treatment occurred at home, school and in the community (*summary of study only). Results summarized that 47% successfully passed 1st grade; 42%-completed classes for language-delayed, with substantial improvements, but not enough for regular 1st grade.

  • Note that 40 hours treatment included parental treatment as well. Other research since this has stated that actual treatment hours are between 24-27, due to lack of trained professionals, but with still good success rates.

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  • CalABA 2003: Gina Green, Ph.D with the institute of Effective Education: Behavior Analysts are ethically obligated to base interventions on this scientific evidence. She noted many current treatments for autism are NOT empirically based. ABA, (when used accurately) has substantial evidence of its effectiveness: 600+ studies since 1960, Matson et al, 1996, and that treatment should occur at least 25 hours per week.

  • Chapter three of the Surgeon General’s report on Mental Health 1999 states, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning and appropriate social behavior”. ABA methods clearly outline systematic programming when teaching new skills.

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Applied behavior analysis
Applied Behavior Analysis

Common misconceptions:

“Do you do ABA or Social Skills?

“ I do ABA”

“Only the ABA person can teach that goal”

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What is aba
What is ABA?

  • ABA: Applied Behavioral Analysis. An approach that uses instructional technology designed to change behavior in a systematic and measurable way that is meaningful

  • ABA is a methodology and set of tools. It is not a curriculum in and of itself

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What is not aba
What is Not ABA?

  • ABA does not mean “table work”

  • ABA is not discrete trial: Discrete trial is ONE method used in ABA, but does not stand alone

  • ABA does not mean a way to teach academics

  • ABA does not mean this is when you give candy

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Aba applied behavior analysis
ABA: Applied Behavior Analysis

  • ABA is a “way of life”. We use it every day!

  • We use “ABA” when we want to “make a change” or teach something new

  • Whenever you teach your child something new, and praise them you made a behavior change- and used “ABA”

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Let s look at behavior change and what it means
Let’s look at Behavior (change) and what it means:

  • Respondent Behavior:

    Is unlearned. It is solely under control of some antecedent stimuli. There is an S-R response. Reflexive behavior-automatic

  • Examples

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Let s look at behavior change and what it means1
Let’s look at Behavior change and what it means:

  • Operant Behavior:

    Is at least partially under control of the consequence– we do it because we get something for it that keeps us doing it again. Learned behavior

  • Many operands are under control of both the antecedent and the consequences. S-R-C relationship– we do it because we have been reinforced in the past, and the “conditions are right”

  • The consequence is what is often the reason the behavior occurs- think about this!

  • Think about what motivates you to do things- these are the pairings

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S r c relationship
S-R-C relationship

  • S-R-C (or three-term contingency) has become known as the way in which behaviors are learned. The way operant learning happens.

  • S: Stimulus (antecedent- what happens before you respond: Example: teacher asks “who can tell me this word?”

  • R: Response: the child responds (or does not respond)

  • C: Consequence: what happens immediately following a response (or no response). Teacher praises. (or ignores) If child likes this, they will respond again (or if they don’t like being ignored, they will respond next time).

    Examples: happens all day in our life

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A- What happened first

events vs. assumptions

B- What was the defined behavior

C- What happened next

behavior vs. assumptions

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The consequence: the stimulus that is motivating behavior (what is reinforcing). Most behaviors are maintained by the consequence:

  • Social: attention, praise, eye contact, physical touch

  • Task Avoidance: not wanting to complete, or keeping to own agenda, escaping demands- *note, maintained by negative reinforcement-if I escape, stimuli (demand) removed

  • Sensory: tactile, olfactory, visual, vocal sounds, etc. These

  • feel good to the child- and often automatically reinforced by the child

  • Tangibles: access to favorite toys, favorite activities

  • Examples:

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  • Function is not to be guessed!

  • It is in the data!

    Bad Example

    “The child is hitting the child next to him because he doesn’t like him”

    “The child is running out of the classroom to get out of doing his work”

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Data collection
Data collection

  • Collect Data across situations/settings/people- sometimes a behavior looks like something, but could be something else, like an illness, or a means to gain attention

  • Data sheets: can look different, as long as they note the behaviors, sometimes the intensity and duration, and what happens immediately after (consequence/what is reinforcing)

  • Data is important: example: we may think a child is responding to a situation due to escape behavior, but if we take date, we realize that every time they act out to “escape” math, the teacher gives them attention

  • We also want times of day in the data, to look for trends

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Function drives intervention
Function drives intervention

  • A- student was presented with a worksheet

  • B- student hit peer next to him

  • C-peer screamed

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How to decrease that behavior
How to decrease that behavior

  • How to decrease that behavior: REACTIVE METHOD

  • Goes back to your consequence: what did you determine as the consequence the child was seeking:

  • Now, stop providing access to that consequence for the undesired behavior demonstration.

  • In other words, if a child screams and runs around the room when the teacher says “it is time to work”, and the child gets a “sensory break”, which actually allows the em to escape work, then the child if he wants to escape work, will do the same response again under those same antecedent conditions, because the consequence motivating him is that he is allowed to escape work.

  • Other examples:

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How to decrease that behavior1
How to decrease that behavior

  • How to decrease that behavior: PROACTIVE METHOD

  • We know what is motivating for the child, based on the consequence we assessed: we determined what was maintaining a behavior (desire to escape, attention, internal motivators, access to tangibles) AND you stopped providing access to those consequences when the behavior you want to change is displayed

  • NOW, be PROACTIVE, and teach a REPLACEMENT SKILL for the child to gain access to that desired consequence

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How to increase a behavior
How to increase a behavior

  • We now have new REPLACEMENT behaviors that we want to increase.

  • Remember: it is often the consequence>>what happens after the response, that determines if a behavior is likely to happen again or not>>that is important in changing behavior.

  • If you want a behavior to increase-happen more often– then making sure to provide access to desired consequences (REINFORCEMENT) is the way to make an increase.

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  • Problem Behavior: calling out: assessed: for attention

  • Problem behaviorReplacement behavior decrease increase

    Calling out Raising hand

    Function-access attention Function-access attention

    Ignore Provide exaggerated

    (stop providing access attention—every

    to this desired consequence) instance

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  • The C in the S-R-C

  • Reinforcement: is a stimulus consequence: that serves to INCREASE the likelihood that the response will occur again

  • Gives you a reason to do it again- a child will not perform a new skill (especially that is hard or uncomfortable) without reinforcement- a reason to do it again

  • Running a marathon example

  • Reinforcement is NOT just giving candy

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Data collection1
Data Collection

Data collection let’s us know if what we are doing is working!

It is important that you breakdown what you are targeting, in a measurable way. Consider the following:

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How OFTEN does it occur?

* Frequency: Number of times a behavior occurs. Count each instance. Generally looking for rates or frequency of a specific behavior to go up or go down; generally frequency looks at an instance of behavior in isolation; total amount

Examples: Touching others, off-topic statements, hand flapping, total number of play ideas initiated

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A b c data
A-B-C data

A- (Antecedent)

B- (Behavior/Response)

C- (Consequence)

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Abc data
ABC Data

  • A- Teacher gave directions to the whole class


  • A- Student did not pay attention to teacher directions

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Abc data1
ABC Data

  • B- Child ripped paper and threw pencil


    B- Child became angry at teacher and threw his pencil at her and ripped paper to get out of doing work

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  • How often does a response occur

  • Percentage looks at how often or many times a response occurs, out of possible occurrence, generally frequency addresses:

    number of responses X 100

    Total number of opportunities

    Percentage often looks at accuracy of correct responses or total of responses in general

    Examples: number of times looked when responded; number of times correctly answering questions when asked; total number of times looked when listening

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Time samples
Time samples

  • Will also give you a percentage outcome

    Partial Interval recording:

    • Record responses occurring during some time of a pre-determined period of time. Example, a student looks at his teacher at least one time during a 30 second interval.

      Whole interval recording:

      • Record response that must occur for the entire time of a pre-determined period of time. Example, student remains on task, for a whole minute, for a 10 minute period.

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Time samples1
Time Samples

  • Momentary Time Samples

    • Record an response occurring when you end a designated period of time. For example, if you set a 30 second instance of time, record if a response occurs right when that time ends. This recording tends to give the most accurate estimate of responses

    • Examples: eye contact to teacher, engaged at recess, attending to peer

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  • Duration data looks at how LONG a response occurs.

    • Duration is helpful when you are looking to increase or decrease responses. Examples: how long a child sustains play. Determine appropriate duration, and then use a duration data system to track how long until you sustain for the criteria that you have set.

    • Examples, duration for playing an activity, duration for remaining seated in a circle time.

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Time of day
Time of day

  • Can be frequency data, or percentage

  • However time of day is accounted for

    • Medicine wear-off

    • Fatigue

    • Food

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Self monitoring

  • Is used to track a student’s own behavior.

  • Generally looks at percentage: did a response occur or not occur

  • Measure this by total number of occurrence


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  • Reinforcement occurs when an event immediately following a response causes an increase in the probability of that response occurring in the future.

  • It’s the C in A-B-C contingency.

  • Reinforcement is used to strengthen behaviors.

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  • It is NOT bribing. Bribing happens when you ask a child to do something, they don’t do it, THEN you say “I’ll give you this if you do it”. This teaches a child to ignore your first comments, and hold out for the good stuff

  • Reinforcement is NOT what YOU want it to be

  • It is a consequence that increases the likelihood that a response/behavior will occur again

  • Ways to obtain reinforcement information

    • Surveys, Observation, analysis through manipulation

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  • Reinforcement to increase responses:

  • Reinforcement is to be given immediately after a child has completed a correct response/desired behavior

  • This is to make sure the connection between the desired response and the reinforcer

  • Rule of thumb: when you are trying to increase/strengthen a new behavior, you want to reinforce it continuously—every instance (CRS-continuous reinforcement schedule)

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Does the list look familiar?

“Reinforcers” can consist of:

  • Sensory: tactile, olfactory, visual, etc.

  • Social : attention, praise, eye contact, escape from attention

  • Tangibles : edibles, favorite items, favorite activities

  • Breaks: opportunity to escape, “take a break”

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  • As often as you can, match the reinforcement you “put into place” (arrange as the consequence of the responses of your child) to be the SAME as the desired consequence of the child’s previous behavior (what was maintaining their behavior before)

  • Examples:

  • Fair Pair Rule: make the intensity of the reinforcement the same as the intensity of the behavior change you are looking for. Example: Don’t expect that a child that has jumped out of their seat 20 times in a class, to sit in their seat and raise their hand for 1 small piece of candy, or a coupon that they may or may not win something next week.

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There are 2 types of reinforcement:

  • Positive Reinforcement

  • Negative Reinforcement

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Positive reinforcement
Positive Reinforcement

An increase in the future frequency of a behavior due to the addition of a stimulus immediately following a response.

**It is only a true “reinforcer” if it increases a response/behavior

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Examples of positive reinforcement
Examples of Positive Reinforcement

  • Giving sweets to a child after he completes a worksheet independently (assuming this increases the likelihood that the child will complete a worksheet independently in the future).

  • Providing tickles to a child that looks at you

  • Providing praise to a child that completed a task

  • If spanking a child after he spits increases the frequency of spitting in the future, the act of spanking is a positive reinforcement.

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Negative reinforcement
Negative Reinforcement

An increasein the future frequency of a behavior due to the removal of an aversive stimulus immediately following a response.

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Examples of negative reinforcement
Examples of Negative Reinforcement

  • Turning off the computer to have a child attend

  • Husband cleans garage to stop wife from nagging

  • Itching your skin after you got bitten by a mosquito. (The itching behavior removes the itchy sensation.)

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Schedules of reinforcement
Schedules of reinforcement

  • A schedule of Continuous Reinforcement (CRF) provides reinforcement for each occurrence of behavior.

    • Examples

  • Intermittent schedules of reinforcement (INT) provides reinforcement in some, but not all occurrences of behavior. Stronger R+

    * Examples

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    Token economies positive reinforcement
    Token economies (Positive reinforcement)


    A behavior change system which involves the identification of specific behavior to be reinforced, a medium of exchange such as tokens or points, and back-up reinforcers which are purchased with the medium of exchange (Malott, 2000)

    Summary: 1) Clearly defined behaviors

    2) Medium of exchange

    3) Backup reinforcer

    Token=Generalized Conditioned Reinforcer:

    A conditioned reinforcer that has been paired with a wide variety of backup reinforcers.

    (Conditioned reinforcer: an event, object, stimulus that is not initially reinforcing but acquires properties of a reinforcer after frequent pairing or association with another reinforcer)

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    Effective: research shows effective with those behaviors resistant to instruction

    • Tokens can bridge time gap (teaches delay of R+), and may be undesirable to stop lesson plan to deliver an immediate reinforcer

    • Tokens can bridge setting gap (example: tokens for assembly behavior can be for exchange later in classroom)

    • Management of satiation, and deprivation become less critical

    • Provides versatile means of communication—behavior that earns tokens can be varied among individuals

    • Provides structured interactions in a consistent manner—requires positive R+ in a timely, consistent method

    • Provides representation for student progress- can see accumulation

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    Making reinforcement “natural”

    Be creative~ reinforcement must match as closely as possible to function

    Reinforcement should closely match the situation

    Increase sociability by having peers reinforcing


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    Teaching new skills
    Teaching new skills

    • Teaching a new skill generally involves showing, breaking down.

    • Teaching a new skill generally involves teaching, via PROMPTS

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    Instructional control
    Instructional Control

    • Developing attending and instructional control

    • Developing good attending skills and pattern of responding is often the first step when working with a child with ASD. This involves the systematic pairing of yourself with reinforcement and then generating a stimulus transfer. If you are reinforcing to be around, a pattern is developed. Now, slowly build in demands-pairing continuous reinforcement for each demand. Again, you develop a pattern of responding. Now, slowly thin your reinforcement. We cannot say enough about this. It does not mean forcing a child to sit—it means making your teaching fun! So they are motivated to respond!

    • Examples:

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    Information/assistance added to the SD that helps the student perform the target behavior.

    • Purpose: Reduces frustration (few errors) and speeds up correct response-thus learning.

    • Consider your prompt hierarchy needed for child to respond correctly-to reduce errors and frustration; thus need to include a fading process.

    • Prompt dependency is due to lack of proper fading and reinforcement,

    • Watch for accidental extraneous prompts

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    • Prompt hierarchy

      • Full physical

      • Partial physical

      • Gradual guidance

      • Touch cue

      • Gestural cue

      • Modeling

      • Direct verbal

      • Visual cue

      • Indirect prompt

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    Types of prompting
    Types of Prompting

    General rule of thumb:

    Least-to-most prompting

    Errorless teaching is opposite:


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    Other antecedent variables
    Other antecedent variables

    • Environmental modifications—rearranging the environment or setting to allow target behaviors to occur more easily and/or more naturally. This could mean changing where the student sits, where materials are kept, access to games to take to recess, modification of schedule to minimize transitions, etc.

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    • Indirect prompts—this technique is generally best used if a child has previously had an experience with the expected response, and can be used as a prompt-fading process. For example, if you have taught a child to walk over to you when you present markers, and the child is not looking at you, you may knock on the table or make a noise that prompts the child to look at you, and then realize they should walk over to initiate interaction.

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    Why we use peers peers go first
    Why we use peers~ peers go first!

    • Modeling— demonstrating exactly what the correct or desired response is for the student. Keep in mind, the teacher, a peer, sibling, or parentcan do modeling. It is a prerequisite that the student has imitationskills and understands that he/she should follow/imitate the behavior just observed.

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    Behavior chaining
    Behavior chaining

    Teaching Behavior Chains:

    • Construct a task analysis

    • Assess the level of mastery of each behavior

    • Teach the individual to perform the behaviors in order and in close temporal succession (quickly upon completion of each step)

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    • Define the behaviors

    • Establish value of behavior/rules for tokens

    • High priority worth more/or 1:1 correspondence

    • Determine criterion for success (how many tokens by what)

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    School setting
    School Setting

    Scheduled Play activities as part of day

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    • Here is one sample of how we took a school’s “theme” and broke it down:

    • Teaching Social Skills

    • Lily Elementary School

    • School Theme: Be Safe

    • Our breakdown: -Being nice to others/complimenting others

    • -Recognizing teasing/dealing with a bully

    • -Keeping your hands to yourself

    • -Dealing with peer pressure

    • -Recognizing a stranger and what to do

    • School Theme: Be Respectful

    • Our breakdown: -Definition of respectful

    • -Look/Listen to your teacher

    • -Look/Listen to adults & friends

    • -Use polite words

    • -Following school rules

    • -Waiting your turn

    • -Sharing/trading

    • -Being a good sport

    • -Joining into conversations/not interrupting others

    • School Theme: Be Responsible

    • Our breakdown: -Bring materials to class and be prepared

    • -Complete all assignments

    • -Help a teacher/Help a friend

    • -Avoiding fights/trouble

    • -Recognizing another’s feelings & helping them

    • -Keeping yourself neat & clean

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    Analyzing behavior key factors to consider in autism
    Analyzing and broke it down:Behavior: Key Factors to Consider in Autism

    • Core deficits in autism affect behavior:

      • Language processing problems

      • Social communication issues

      • Cognitive dysfunction

      • Sensory processing concerns

    • How do these factors influence behavior?

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    Child with asd language processing
    Child with ASD: Language Processing: and broke it down:

    • Difficulty with receptive language

      • Does your child understand the spoken word?

      • Using visual supports can help

    • Difficulty with expressive language in order to be understood by others

      • Can your child communicate his wants and needs?

      • “Language” is more than “words”

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    Child with asd social communication issues
    Child with ASD: and broke it down:Social Communication Issues

    • Does your child recognize the need to communicate with others?

    • Does he want to communicate but lacks the necessary skills to engage others?

    • Does your child have problems communicating appropriately in social situations? (pragmatic language)

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    © Nancy McGovern , PhD - 2004 to 2011

    Cognitive issues
    Cognitive Issues and broke it down:

    • Difficulty generalizing to new situations

    • Inflexible thought processes: “rule bound” behavior

    • Concrete thinking

      • Difficulty with abstract concepts: (becomes more evident as child ages)

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    The role of anxiety contributing factors
    The Role of Anxiety and broke it down:Contributing Factors:

    • Inaccurate understanding of others

    • Difficulty effectively communicating wants, needs and desires

    • Feeling overwhelmed

      • bombarded by sounds, task demands or sensory stimuli

    • Change in comfort zone may result in… “problem behaviors"

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    © Nancy McGovern , PhD - 2004 to 2011

    Behavioral principles cont
    Behavioral Principles cont. and broke it down:

    • Behavior that is reinforced is repeated

    • Behavior that is not reinforced is extinguished…….It disappears

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    So… and broke it down:

    • We should reinforce the behaviors we want to see again

    • We should ignore the behaviors we don’t want repeated

    • Simple? Not quite!

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    When focusing on problem behavior
    When Focusing on Problem Behavior… and broke it down:

    • Pick your battles

    • Make a plan:

      • clear the deck…make time and space for change

      • when you change behavior, it gets worse before it gets better

    • Don’t try to change everything at once

      • Identify one or two target behaviors

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    Identifying antecedents
    Identifying Antecedents and broke it down:

    • Observe behavior

    • Recognize triggers

    • Keep a log

    • Look for a pattern

      • Look at what proceeded the behavior

    • Develop instinct for problematic situations

      • Trust your knowledge

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    Clear communication
    Clear Communication and broke it down:

    • Keep your language simple and concrete:

      • use as few words as possible

      • Tell your child exactlywhat you want or expect him to do

    • Identify consequences ahead of time

    • Don’t expect your child to be able to generalize behavior to new situations

    • Break information down into small steps

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    Make it visual and concrete
    Make It Visual and Concrete and broke it down:

    • Use pictures, schedules, concrete examples

    • Anticipate problems

      • think ahead to potential struggles

      • Think: Is what I am asking tangible?

    • Begin with structure.

      • Then introduce small variations to promote flexibility

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    Set limits
    Set Limits and broke it down:

    • Setting limits is an act of love

    • Be kind but firm. “Stick to your guns.”

    • Negotiate before, not after the behavior occurs

    • Don’t be too sympathetic and don’t give in “just this once”

      • If you give in this time, she will try twice as hard next time

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    Reducing anxiety your child s and your own
    Reducing Anxiety and broke it down:Your child’s and your own

    • Avoid situations your child is not ready for:

      • don’t set your child up for failure

    • Use “Social Stories”

      • They help your child become comfortable with a new situation

    • Use rehearsal and role playing

      • Repetition makes “new” become “familiar”

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    Reinforce the positive
    Reinforce the Positive and broke it down:

    • Shape behavior by reinforcing small positive changes

      • Reinforcers should be meaningful to your child

      • Your attention is a powerful reinforcer

    • Change reinforcer when it no longer works

    • Short term reinforcement works best at first:

      • your child may not be ready for delayed gratification

      • Set your child up for success

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    Do not tolerate behaviors that are intolerable
    Do not tolerate behaviors that are intolerable and broke it down:

    • Parents often accommodate to unacceptable behaviors to avoid conflict

    • Be understanding but firm

    • Autism is not an excuse for bad behavior!

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    Remember and broke it down:

    • Recognize that changing behavior takes time and patience

    • Set realistic goals

    • Re-enforce good behaviors

    • Celebrate each small step

    • Keep a sense of humor

    • Utilize your support system, take care of yourself

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    What you can do
    What you can do and broke it down:

    General “Rules of Thumb”

    • Reward what you DO want~ be happy!

    • Ignore what you DON’T want

    • Remain calm- say what you mean~ be a presence with your child- you are the boss!

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    Kelly McKinnon & Associates, Inc.