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The ABC's Of Behavior Modification

by Stella Robinson

Children with autism or other developmental disorders often exhibit challenging behaviors that can frustrate both parents and children alike. These behaviors can span a range of severity from relatively tame to actually dangerous. Disruption, self-injurious behaviors and aggression are all quite problematic and can pose a serious threat to siblings, classmates, teachers, parents and other caregivers, as well as to the child themselves. All challenging behaviors, regardless of severity, require coordinated interventions in order to maintain discipline and keep everyone safe. One of the most effective methods for eliminating these unsafe behaviors at home or in the classroom is through the techniques that are derived from Applied Behavior Analysis. 

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a technique that is used to observe and understand how situations and events in the environment affect an individual's behavior. Psychologists and other professionals who are trained in ABA acquire additional education and intense training in order to accurately evaluate the complex interplay that occurs between a child and the various settings in which they engage. Although ABA is not an exact science, it is a reliable and scientifically validated method for eliminating problem behaviors in children who exhibit them. Although the steps of the process are relatively easy to execute, interpreting and utilizing the information often is not. Effective ABA strategies should be developed by trained professionals, but it may be hard for parents and educators to find certified practitioners to help them. Parents may then have to rely on their own interventions, but they can learn to implement some of the same strategies that professionals do in order to get their child some help.

The ABC Model for Parents

In ABA therapy, one of the tools that professionals use is the Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) Worksheet. This form provides a streamlined method for collecting information about all the factors that might influence the occurrence of a challenging behavior. Parents can use this form to record these events and then try to determine the possible causes. Although this can be far more difficult than it may appear initially, many times parents and educators will see a pattern emerge that can help them figure out strategies to eliminate the unwanted behaviors. For example, if a child begins to bang his head every day at the same time, this may be an indicator that they do not want to participate in the upcoming lesson. This is only one of many interpretations that can be made, so parents and educators will have to be diligent and resourceful in making these determinations. This form can also be used to communicate this information to professionals in a comprehensive and meaningful format when behaviors are serious enough to warrant professional intervention.

Cautions for Parents

As noted, ABA is not an exact science, and it can be very difficult to determine the exact causes of problematic behaviors, so parents should use any other resources that they may have available as well. Some of the time, especially for aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, professional intervention is essential in order for the child to be safe and successful, but armed with the ABC data, parents are already a step ahead in the process. To learn more, contact a company like Cancer Lifeline