What is (and is not) behavior?
Simply put, a behavior is what a person does, their actions.
So, when is a person's behavior considered negative? Well, a behavior is neither negative nor positive; the outcome or the impact of the behavior is what dictates whether the behavior is negative or positive.
A quote has helped me understand behavior: "Behavior is communication; that the behavior will continue until the message is heard." Ask yourself, 'what is the person trying to tell me with their behavior?' You have to figure out what the behavior is communicating to you so you can help the person with their needs.
How do you figure out what the behavior is communicating?
You do a Functional Behavior Assessment. A functional assessment is a tool to determine the need or motivation behind the behavior. The functional assessment will provide you with why the person is doing what they are doing. It is simple really, figure out what the person trying to gain or avoid. The focus should not be about stopping or eliminating the behavior. The focus should be what the behavior is communicating to us.
Data collection and analysis
Functional assessment allows you to figure out the why, when, and how of the undesired behavior is occurring. The process of data collection helps you to identify the events that trigger and maintain problem behavior. This process involves information gathering through record reviews, interviews observations, and the development of summary statements that describe the patterns identified (O'Neill et al., 1997). The outcomes for the data collection give you a clear description of the problem behavior, the setting event, the outcomes or the consequences that maintain the problem behavior.
Keep in mind that the process of functional assessment can range from extremely in-depth to rather quick and simple. Regardless of which approach you choose, it is important to remember that without having a good holistic picture of behavior, you are likely to do more harm than good without intervention.
Before understanding a behavior, determine exactly which specific behavior to address.
Then, ask yourself, "So, what?" Does it really matter to change the person's behavior? If not, then, the behavior is not really a problem? What if it is a problem?
First, you have to define the behavior using these three criteria –
The behavior that you are defining should be an action that you are able to observe – you can see, feel, hear, or even smell it.
The behavior you have defined should be objective. Your definition and language you use should be non-biased and void of your own opinion – your own thought and feelings.
The behavior should be measurable. The behavior is predictable if you are able to objectively say that the behavior occurs a specific number of times during the day, per hour, or per week. Or even, say that it occurs during a specific situation or environment.
Goal and Behavior Support Plans
Now that you have determined which behavior to address and have figured out why the behavior is happening, you need to create a behavior plan.
The goal and behavior support plans are created from the information that you gather from our observations and functional assessment. Understanding what the person is trying to gain or avoid will help you meet the person's need thereby minimizing the escalation. The support that you will provide to this person will get better each time you encounter this situation.
Thus, your relationship with this person develops a level of trust and rapport. Having this long-term relationship translates to long-term success.
The long term success is due to the fact that you are able to predict how the person is going act in the situation. You have become familiar with person's individual needs and you are able to meet them accordingly.
Now that you have a behavior plan in place, here are some strategies to help you with behavior management.
You can use reinforcements to increase the desired behavior. Reinforcement is something that you provide to the person when they engage in the desired behavior to increase the likelihood of the desired behavior to occur more frequently.
However, there are guidelines and ethical considerations that you need to know in order for the reinforcement to be effective so that it does not create problems in implementation.
Extinction is a specific technique designed to extinguish an undesired behavior. How do you make a behavior like a dinosaur – extinct? Extinction procedures are very tricky but effective as long as the team is consistent with the extinction plan. To be effective, the team has to be on the same page on removing whatever is reinforcing the behavior and the implementation of the plan. Otherwise, the behavior that you are trying to extinguish can become bigger and more problematic.
Shaping is one teaching method that teaches the behavior incrementally. The increments or steps you use when shaping are close approximations to the desired behavior. Shaping fosters the gradual development of a new behavior by repeatedly reinforcing minor improvements or steps toward that behavior. Instead of waiting for a new behavior to occur in its final form, you reinforce every step of that new behavior.
Fading is a teaching method used when the person begins to master a behavior and includes backing off the level of your instructions and supervision provided, as well as weaning the reinforcement schedule. You continue to fade your teaching and reinforcement at each step of the way until the person is able to perform each step on their own.
Behavior Chain is a teaching method used by teaching a specific sequence of steps. Each step is associated with teaching and reinforcement for as long as the person meets the specific expectation for that step or condition. Based on your observation or assessment, you create the steps and the conditions for each step that are understandable to the person. You need to consider their age, cognitive level, and their abilities.
Imitation is a teaching technique that permits new behaviors to be acquired quickly with little effort. You create the condition or situation for the person to be able to imitate the modeled behavior. If the person imitates the behavior, the person is given a reinforcer. If the person does not imitate the modeled behavior, the person does not receive a reinforcer.
Data collection and analysis
Functional assessment allows you to figure out the why, when, and how of the undesired behavior is occurring. The process of data collection helps you to identify the events that trigger and maintain problem behavior. This process involves information gathering through record reviews, interviews, observations, and the development of summary statements that describe the patterns identified (O'Neill et al., 1997). The outcomes for the data collection give you a clear description of the problem behavior, the setting event, the outcomes or the consequences that maintain the problem behavior.
Keep in mind that the process of functional assessment can range from extremely in-depth to rather quick and simple. Regardless of which approach you choose, it is important to remember that without having a good holistic picture of behavior, we are likely to do more harm than good without intervention.