The following post is written by one of our contributing experts, Donna Mattison, M.Ed., BCBA, BSL
Often, parents hear the term Behavioral Services and think that their child’s behaviors are not extreme enough to require working with a Behavior Analyst. Or, parents worry that behavioral therapies are always intense, heavily formatted programs with no flexibility for real-life situations. Read on to learn more about the reality of what a Behavior Analyst can do to help you and your child.
Does your child have behaviors that you would like to see decrease? Some examples might be screaming/crying/tantrums, hitting/kicking, eloping from the area, ignoring safety and routine directions, a restricted diet, difficulty with toilet training, problems with developing age-appropriate skills and play or interacting socially with peers or siblings.
Would you like to replace these problem behaviors with appropriate behaviors? These might include better communication, consistent following of safety and routine directions, eating a variety of foods, becoming toilet trained, safe behavior, more age-appropriate skills, play and socialization.
These are some of the many areas in which a Behavior Analyst can help. A Behavior Analyst works with you to work to replace problem behavior with appropriate behaviors. Depending on what you want the Analyst to focus on, assessments will be done to find out where the child is in skill and behavioral development.
One type of assessment involves looking at skills the child has, in order to determine where the child is functioning. Then, the Behavior Analyst sets up a program of skill development in areas of need. Some examples would include eating a variety of foods, developing independent toileting, direction following, play, socialization and/or communication.
Through a behavioral assessment (also called a Functional Behavior Assessment), the Analyst will try to determine why the child is exhibiting problem behavior (the function of the behavior).
One type of behavior an Analyst may help with is if a child screams and tantrums to get or keep an item or activity he/she wants or to avoid or escape a non-preferred direction. For example, the child may scream/tantrum to get the iPad, but he may also scream/cry when given a direction to brush teeth or sit down at table. The problem behaviors are the same (screaming/tantrums), but the function of the behavior is different.
After the functions of the problem behaviors are determined, the Behavior Analyst will develop a plan to replace the problem behavior with appropriate behavior that will serve the same function. Suppose the child is using screaming/tantrums to get an item or activity. Suggested alternatives to screaming would be teaching the child to request what he wants. Once the child is consistently requesting appropriately, the next step would be to work on having the child learn to wait get what he wants and to accept it when he is told “No” without resorting to problem behavior.
While tantruming is one example of a behavior that a Behavior Analyst can help with, Analysts have methods for developing your child’s skills in a wide variety of areas. Additionally, a Behavior Analyst can work with the parents and caregivers to help ensure consistency throughout the child’s environment. This consistency will help the child learn the skills more quickly and keep the skills they’ve learned when it is time to move on to the next set of skills.
Donna Mattison, M.Ed., BCBA, BSL, Co-Director Sensible Solutions for Children, LLC, 610-733-7785
Behavior analysis services to families, schools and agencies.