In Part 1, I walked you through how to collect ABC data for the purpose of replacing undesired behaviors with desired behaviors. Now that you have the data, let’s do something with it!
Analyze the Antecedents
Analyzing the antecedents and can help caregivers see where they can make changes or adaptions to help modify the target behavior. If you are placing a Demand on a child to clean their room and it ends in a Tantrum it may be time to take a look at that Demand. Many children, especially those with ADHD and ASD, have difficulty with executive functioning skills. Those are the skills such as starting and completing a task, working memory, paying attention, focusing and more. So back up and break that task down for the child. Offer a list of steps or better yet take a photo of what the finished clean room should look like so they have a visual reference. If the targeted behavior seems to happen during transitions then start giving timed references. Use a verbal reminder and/or a timer. I noticed when my son was Engaged in a Task using a trainset he had that was too difficult for him to put together he’d get frustrated and throw it. So simply by putting the train set away (changing the environment) until it was more age-appropriate for him worked.
Analyze the Consequences
Sometimes the antecedents aren’t able to be adjusted so it’s time to analyze the consequences and see if that is where we can be successful. My son used to be a biter. He’d often bite me when he wanted my attention. At first, I was using the consequence of Ignore, but that wasn’t working. He was trying to gain access to something and that something was me. I decided when he’d bite, I remove myself from him. I’d stand on the other side of the baby gate and set a timer for two minutes. Then I’d come back over and tell him “no, bite” and we’d move on. But I also started teaching him appropriate ways to ask for my attention. The sign for “help” or to grab my hand, and eventually to say, “Help, Mom”. We also starting counting to 10 when he’d ask for something to teach him to be able to wait. The biting occurrences reduced dramatically.
The Four Functions of Behavior
Most children’s behavior (undesired or desired) falls into these four categories.
- Escape/Avoid – Child is behaving a certain way to avoid doing something he/she doesn’t want to do.
- Attention Seeking – Child is behaving in a certain way to gain the attention of others, positive or negative.
- Gain Access to Something – Child is behaving a certain way to get a preferred item or to be able to do a preferred activity.
- Sensory Stimulation – Child is doing something because it feels good to them.
Using the ABC Data Collection method to analyze the antecedents, behaviors, and consequences helps to determine the function and offer either change in the antecedents or modifications in the consequence to achieve the desired behavior. It is up to us to set our children up for success! Using an approach such as ABA at home can certainly help!
Another great tool in modifying behaviors is using reinforcers. The key is it must be motivating to your child. My 3 1/2-year-old son is super motivated by praise. We are in the middle of a program to help him overcome his restrictive diet (check out my blog post Eating with Autism: The Happy Dance and my journal Eating With Autism on my homepage) and when he willingly tries a non-preferred food we do the Happy Dance. The Happy Dance is when my husband and I are super excited and happy and running around acting silly. When my older kids were little I ran the Mommy Market. The kids could earn Mommy Money (which was just printed pretend money) and at the end of the week cash it in for their preferred currency. They could either choose actual cash, or to pick the family meal and help cook, or pick a family movie, or pick a family game. The reverse of this is you can also withhold the reinforcer if the desired behavior isn’t demonstrated.
In ABA reinforcers are always preferred over punishment. However, punishment in ABA is probably not what you think it is. In ABA punishment is something that makes an undesired behavior decrease. The most common types of punishment in ABA are:
- Reprimands – Telling the child something such as, “Please, stop” or “Get down”.
- Response Blocking – Physically preventing the child from completing a problem behavior, such as blocking them from biting you or intervening before they push down a younger sibling.
- Overcorrection – This is when you “overcorrect” a response to a problem behavior. If a child throws his food on the floor you make them clean up the food, clean the floor, wash their dishes, dry them, put them away.
It is important to remember that punishment doesn’t teach a child what to do, only what not to do. So once you implement a punishment it needs to be followed through with teaching the desired behavior and that desired behavior should be rewarded with reinforcement.
To me, using ABA strategies in my home has helped me parent my son respectfully. It helps me to understand what my role is in helping him be successful. It helps me to understand that he is the child and I am the parent and the responsibility isn’t on him, it’s on me. I want him to feel safe, secure, loved, valued and proud. These strategies are part of that philosophy. I hope this two-part series has given you some insight into how ABA strategies can be helpful in your family!
Children do well if they can. – Ross Green