Non-compliant behavior can be a challenge for parents and caregivers of children with autism. Common social activities that parents take their children along with such as going out to eat, going to church or the movies, can feel like a challenge for the family. However, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) researchers developed 3-step prompting, a simple strategy used to encourage compliance with any known skill and a given instruction. By following this systematic method of prompting, parents and caregivers can encourage social behaviors in their children.
What does non-compliant behavior look like?
First, let’s look at what types of behavior 3-step prompting can address. Non-compliant behavior is when a child fails to start or complete a task or follow an instruction. There are a few factors that cause non-compliance. Among them are a lack of motivation to comply or they may have not learned how to complete the task.
Addressing noncompliant behavior at an early age is crucial. If problem behaviors are not attended to they can escalate into aggression or other problem behaviors.
How NOT to deal with non-compliant behavior
Just as important as what to do when faced with non-compliant behavior, is what not to do. Some of the ways in which parents and caregivers react to problem behavior may reinforce and encourage those behaviors. Often times, parents are unaware that their actions are having adverse effects that may encourage the problem behavior.
Here are a few tips on what not to do:
- DO NOT negotiate your request or give into the child’s demands/resistance.
- DO NOT make empty threats or promises. You must follow through!
- DO NOT stop placing the demand or instruction to the child
- DO NOT give your child attention when they display non-compliant behavior. Remember that attention can be expressed, behaviorally in a positive or negative manner. Scolding or giving your child a reprimand is a form of negative attention and can reinforce problem behavior.
What to do when dealing with non-compliant behavior
We covered the “do nots,” now before we dig into the actual 3-step prompting procedure, here are a few things you should be doing:
- DO give positive reinforcement. Reward the child whenever she or he is compliant. Let the intensity and size of the reward match the action. So, if your child is making strides, make sure that you let her or him know it!
- DO ensure that what you are asking of the child (your demands) are reasonable and clear. If your child is not yet toilet trained, you shouldn’t demand that they use the bathroom on their own. If your instruction is go to the potty and the child doesn’t know what a potty is, your instructions are not clear. A better instruction would be “go sit on the toilet”.
- DO be clear about consequences. Ensure that the consequence fits the crime, is age appropriate, and that the child cannot negotiate her or his way out of it. Common consequences might be withholding of reinforcement.
Preparing for 3-step prompting
Before beginning 3-step prompting, there are a few things you should do:
- Have your reinforcer (aka reward) ready. This should be something that your child likes or wants. For example, if your child likes to play games on the computer, computer playtime would be a great reinforcer. It’s also always a good idea to participate in the reinforcing activity. Lastly, just as consequences should fit the crime, the reward should match with what your child is accomplishing.
- Have your consequences ready and make sure your kiddo is clear on what the consequences are and how she or he can avoid them. Always know what you are going to do next in responding to noncompliance.
- Remind your child of the reward by using If you do _____________, then your will receive_____________. In ABA we call this the Premak principal. An example would be, eat your peas and then you can have dessert.
- Be aware of patterns. Does your child exhibit non-compliant behavior when she or he is tired? Is there a time of day that problematic behavior is more frequent? Plan ahead to deal with these particularly difficult times. For example, you can use a schedule so your child knows what to expect.
Implementing 3-step prompting with your child
So, you’re ready! You’ve identified the problematic behaviors you want to address. Also, you have chosen your reinforcers and consequences and made them clear to your child. You’ve also taken notes on when those behaviors occur frequently and have a plan to work through them. Here are the steps to follow:
- Step 1: Clearly give the instruction. For example, “eat your peas.” Give the child five seconds to comply. If she or he complies, enthusiastically present them with the reward! If they do not comply, or exhibit any non-compliant behavior, move on to step two.
- Step 2: Clearly give the instruction and a gestural or modeled prompt. Give the instruction again and this time, look over or point towards the activity or model the desired behavior. For example, “eat your peas.” (point to the peas.) If they comply, give subtle, or verbal, praise. If they do not, move on to step three.
- Step 3: Clearly give the instruction and a full physical prompt. Give the instruction then physically guide the child to complete the task. One popular physical prompt is a hand-over-hand prompt where you would place your hand over the child’s hand and guide them to eating their peas. You should not stop the guidance until the task is finished. At this point, do not reinforce, or reward the behavior but acknowledge that the behavior was completed. For example, “that’s eating your peas,” said in a neutral tone.
3-step prompting is a proven method to reduce problem behavior and promote positive social behaviors in children with autism disorder. The above steps can be implemented at home, in school or in the community. However, consistency is key. If a problem behavior is addressed in the same manner, using 3-step prompting, in all instances, the effectiveness of this method increases. Speak to your Board Certified Behavior Analyst to learn more or contact Animate Behavior with your questions, today!