An ABA practitioner observes behavior in the natural environment (classroom, home, public places etc.), to identify why the behavior occurs (known as antecedent) and what happens after the behavior (known as consequence). They also analyze what are the environmental factors that are responsible for a behavior to occur OR prevent certain behaviors from occurring. A consequence is the result that happens after the behavior. If the behavior is a desired behavior a reinforcer is introduced as a consequence for the behavior to reoccur. The key for effective intervention is to identify problem behaviors which need to be changed and which reinforers are acting for re occurrence of behavior.
The three strategies to deal with socially inappropriate behavior are :-
- Positive Reinforcement should not be provided on the occurrence of unwanted behaviour. Think of a situation: whenever a child throws tantrums the caregiver turns the TV on. In this case the consequence of a bad behaviour is reinforced (TV Viewing). When the behaviour analyst observes this behaviour they clearly guide the caregiver to stop reinforcing the behavior. Due to this wrong reinforcement the behavior of the child is likely to become worse in tantrum throwing which becomes of longer duration. We need to teach the child how to request TV time in an appropriate way instead of throwing tantrum.
- Appropriate Behavior should be reinforced.
There is a need to increase intensity and duration of reinforcement for appropriate behavior. In above example there is a need that child should be made aware of inappropriate behavior and the child will get reinforcement only if the child behaves appropriately. In this case, the behavior analyst may teach the child to request for TV time by using the terminology “TV please?” if the child can vocalize that statement. The behavior analyst would then train caregivers to only turn the television on when the child says “TV please” and not when the child throws tantrums.
Using these first two strategies in a combination may serve to eliminate the increase in the problem behavior.
- Introduce something that a child dislikes to reduce the Unwanted behavior. When the behavior is extremely severe, where individual is harming themselves or others, unpleasant consequence (Positive Punishment) can be introduced. Instead of providing the reinforcer, the behavior analyst may train caregivers to present a consequence the individual does not like, at all. The term behavior analyst’s use for this strategy is punishment. Say, for instance, in the example described above, the child’s tantrum behavior usually results in him forcefully hitting his body against objects in the environment, resulting in bruises and cuts. In such a case, any instance of the behavior could lead to the child severely harming himself. As an intervention, the behavior analyst may recommend a punishment procedure where, if the child doesn’t like being sent to the time-out corner, it is recommended that whenever he throws a tantrum he is taken to the time-out corner until he is quiet and calm for a designated period of
A combination of all three strategies may be used in this case for effective behavior management.