Has your child ever thrown a fit in Wal-mart because he didn’t get the toy he wanted? Have you ever seen someone throw a chair at the teacher? Why do people act the way they do? The answer: people behave to either get something or get out of doing something. If they didn’t get something they wanted, they wouldn’t keep doing it.
- Johnny interrupts you when you are on the phone again and again. You put your phone conversation on hold to tell Johnny to stop interrupting you because you are busy. You go back to your conversation, but Johnny keeps talking and tapping you on the shoulder. He got your attention once by interrupting, so he is going to try it again.
- Susie has a report to give to the class today, but she is so nervous about it that she tells the teacher she forgot it at home. By telling the teacher she forgot her report, she got out of having to speak in front of the class.
- Daniel is nonverbal. He hits, kicks, and bites his parents when he wants their attention. His parents always put their arms up to block him and yell, “Stop hitting!” or “Don’t! That really hurts!”
The goal of Applied Behavior Analysis is to increase good behavior and get rid of problem behaviors. How do we do it? Pair appropriate behavior with something the person wants. Even the most difficult child has appropriate behavior. Appropriate behavior can be anything from sitting still for 2 minutes, getting to school/work on time, saying “Excuse me” before talking, putting up a toy, to looking at you when you talk.
Rewards are different for everyone because everyone likes different things. While you want to get paid money for going to work, your daughter may like to get a bag of chips, praise, or a high five for washing the dishes. I once did a reading intervention with a girl who liked to work for cookie cutters. The problem is how do you know what works? Anything that increases behavior is called reinforcement.
- If John’s teacher offers a sticker to her students for turning in work on Friday, and John turns in his assignment on time, stickers are a good reward for John. If John waits 4 days to turn in his work, then it is likely that stickers are not reinforcing enough. Try something else!
- Maibel is really interested in computer games, so interested that she stays home to play on the computer instead of going to school. Maibel’s parents tell her she can play on the computer only if she attends school. If Maibel goes to school on time, computer time is a great reward!
What about inappropriate behavior? Give the child what they want for good behavior, and don’t give them what they want for bad behavior. Sounds easy enough, but it can be hard.
- If your child is behaving inappropriately to get out of something, keep presenting the task until it is complete. You can break the task into sections to make it less frustrating, but always bring your child back to the task after a break. When your child is done, he can do something fun.
- If your child is behaving inappropriately to get attention, ignore them. Only pay attention after good behavior. For example, you are eating dinner, and your daughter does not like the food. She throws a tantrum because you told her to eat what is on her plate. We have all been there. What do you do? Stick to your guns. Ignore the tantrum. When she calms down, gets hungry, and eats what is on her plate, praise her. It was great that she ate what cooked for dinner.
ABA is an effective and powerful tool for individuals with the most difficult problems. It can be used with Autism, developmental disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Tourette’s, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Learning Disorders, compliance, aggression, and many other problems. ABA is also very useful because it can be implemented in a variety of settings: school, work, in a clinic, home, at the store, at the park, anywhere. Everything is an opportunity to learn, and the more settings you teach in, the more successful your child will be.