We've all wished that our children had come with an instruction manual. An understanding of the basic principles of behavior can help prepare you to handle many of the challenges typically developing children will present. If you are a parent of a child with special needs, a behavior analyst can help you learn to effectively deal with challenging behaviors while increasing your child's functional skills, language development, and social skills.


Do I need behavior analysis services?


Applied Behavior Analysis is an applied science, meaning we tackle problems of social significance. Thus, if the behavior in question is a problem for you (or others) it is likely a problem worth addressing. Upon your initial meeting with a behavior analyst, they will help you determine if services are needed, and to what extent, or if a solution lies in another avenue (such as a referral to a medical doctor or a professional in another field).


How does behavior analysis therapy work?


Behavior Analysis services are typically provided in the home, and begin with a functional assessment: a process of determining the environmental variables that affect your child's behavior. You will be interviewed, and the behavior analyst will typically observe your child in the natural setting, whether it be home, school, or in the community. You will also be trained in and asked to participate in data collection on targeted behaviors. An individualized behavior plan will be written, based on the results of the assessment, your child's needs, and your family's dynamics. During sessions, the behavior analyst may work directly with your child, or may choose to direct your interactions with the child. Either way, YOU are an integral part of the process. Your involvement in implementing the recommended interventions is the single most important factor for success.


Tools/Links for Parents


Data collection:


A-B-C Chart: This is a simple chart to help you start collecting information about your child's behavior and start looking at the environmental factors that play a part.


Frequency Chart: Use this tool to start collecting data on the target behavior.



Autism Links:


The Association for Science in Autism Treatment- I love this site! Comprehensive information on evaluating treatments, plus a summary of the research on various treatments with recommendations.

Autism is a Blessing- A wonderful book by a parent of a child with autism, who also completed the professional development program in ABA from FIT and is seeking her BCBA.


(note: Any comments made are the personal and professional opinion of Corey L. Robertson based on the information given. They are not a substitute for a functional assessment and individualized behavior plan or the services of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst®.)

Q: What are the best strategies for a teacher to use with students who are hyperactive/have ADHD? And how can they be implemented while also teaching 25+ other kids in the class?

A: Children diagnosed with ADHD and hyperactivity are often satiated by reinforcement quickly, even during preferred activities. However, exhibited behaviors may serve to obtain attention, escape from demands, a combination, or even other functions. A Behavior Analyst would conduct assessment to determine what variables appear to be maintaining these behaviors, and make recommendations based on the findings. A good behavior plan must be “do-able” with the available resources. However, some general classroom strategies for learners with challenges include:

  1. Ensuring that the curriculum is appropriate for the child. When we aren’t good at something, we generally try to avoid having to do it.

  2. Making adjustments to the order of tasks, the duration, number of assignments presented at a time, etc. --Make the task less aversive.

  3. Frequent attention or reinforcement in the classroom. Even in high student-teacher ratios, this can be achieved through the use of token reinforcers exchanged for activities or tangibles at intervals, or systems that involve self-monitoring.

Individuals can learn to attend for longer periods of time, with the right support. Remember that incremental changes in expectations and frequent success are the key: shaping, shaping, shaping!

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