Addressing problem behavior before it even happens? Is this possible? Sounds to good to be true but it is possible if your team of educators and ABA professionals takes the correct measures. Of course, addressing and reducing problem behavior does not happen overnight but if you commit to your own awareness of the evidence-based practices your team is implementing, you can actively enable faster results.
Why knowing what is happening before a problem behavior arises can help us make it go away.
There are a number of strategies that your ABA provider will partake in to address and reduce problem behavior and promote on-task behavior. One such group of interventions are referred to as antecedent-based interventions (ABI). Antecedent means “The events, action(s), or circumstances that occur immediately before a behavior.” By knowing and affecting what happens before a targeted problem behavior, we can change that behavior!
There have been a multitude of studies on ABI. We know that behavior gets linked to the environment in which it takes place. So, in other words, certain cues that happen at the home, in school, or in the community can cause the unwanted behavior. For example, noise in the environment distracts your child and then she gets up from doing her homework.
But, how do ABI strategies work to reduce unwanted behavior?
ABI strategies start out with your team of clinical ABA specialists looking at the behavior and determining why it happens. Perhaps your child is showing aggressive behavior towards others at lunchtime. Knowing this is helpful but, to address it we need to know why is it happening. Perhaps the aggression is taking place because the child wants attention. After obtaining this knowledge, the next step is for your team to identify what aspects of the environment are associated with the behavior.
The 4 essential steps in reducing unwanted behavior using ABI
Step 1: Identify the behavior
There may be several behaviors that you are looking to reduce. Our best advice is to be realistic as to how many, and which ones, you choose to work on reducing. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Which behaviors are interfering with learning?
- Which behaviors are creating unwanted social situations? (For example, perhaps your child speaks too loudly or makes unintelligible sounds during conversation.)
- What behavior can be reduced, and in doing so, bring out the best from your child
Your staff of clinical experts should be running a functional behavioral assessment to determine:
- When, where and with whom does the behavior occurs?
- What is happening in the environment when the behavior occurs? And, who is doing what at that time?
Step 2: Figure out, how often is the behavior occurring?
ABA is driven by data. So, your ABA clinicians will collect data that will help us to determine how often the behavior is happening. The data is typically taken for at least four days. Also, data should ideally be collected in a number of settings (at school, in the home, and in the community.) This will help your team identify behavioral patterns, which will inform the intervention.
Step 3: Set the plan into action!
By this point, you and your clinical team have taken all of the necessary steps to learn about your child’s unwanted behavior. Now, it’s time to get the ball rolling, safely, on your interventions! The goal of ABI strategies are to impact the behavior to prevent its future occurrence. There are several ABI strategies that your Board Certified Behavior Analyst may propose. They are:
- Using your child’s preferences – In other words, making an activity more interesting for your child. For example, say your kiddo loves My Little Pony, and you’re trying to get her to attend to her homework. In this case, your BCBA may suggest having her use a My Little Pony themed notebook.
- Changing routines – In this type of intervention, your clinical team would change the schedule or order in which activities are done. Also, during nonpreferred activities (and this is something you can do at home), a kitchen timer can be used. For example, your child’s teacher may say to her, “You will stay seated for 5 minutes” while she starts the timer.
- Implement an intervention before the activity begins – Before beginning an activity, your clinical staff may give a five-minute warning, speak with your child about changes to the schedule, use a visual schedule, or go over activities before they occur.
- Giving your child a choice – Giving your child a choice is a powerful tool that can help reduce problem behavior and create engagement. You may give your child the choice of which activity to do first or which toy to play with.
- Changing how the instruction is given – It’s possible that your child does not understand the instruction. Altering this can provide her with crucial understanding of expectations. For example, rather than written directions, you could provide visual or spoken instruction.
- Enriching the environment – Your clinical team, in this case, may work to make the environment more engaging. Perhaps your child disrupts class with self-stimulatory behavior. If implemented, your BCBA may advise you to give your child a foam ball to squeeze, or playdough to play with, when school is in session.
Step 4 – Monitor progress and assess as you go – constant assessment of behaviors and the interventions are crucial!
Your clinical team should be collecting data on the behavior. Over time, the data can be evaluated to assess whether the interventions are working. If they are, that’s awesome! If not, then more observations need to be made. For example, your BCBA may ask if the behavior in question is truly able to be observed and measured. Also, they may investigate whether or not the intervention is being implemented correctly by all staff in all settings. This is where you come in! It’s crucial to understand how these interventions work so, at home, parents can support the program!
If you have questions about functional behavioral assessments and ABI strategies, click here now to email one of our clinical directors!