Children on the autistic spectrum can display problem behaviors, and as a parent, it can be hard to manage. It isn’t always possible to take a step back and think about what is happening, and what can be done.
This is where behavior analysts can help. Behavior analysts look at the problem behavior that is happening and analyze exactly why it is occurring.
The function is established by taking and analyzing what is called A, B, C data. This looks at the antecedent, behavior and consequence. In other words, we want to know what happened directly before and after the behavior.
The antecedent is what happens directly before the behavior:
- Where does the behavior happen?
- Who is around when it happen?
- When does it happen?
- What activities were happening at the time?
- What were others doing at this time?
- Did anything change just before the behavior started?
All of this information helps us to understand exactly why the child engages in any type of behavior.
As much information as possible is recorded here. For example, instead of writing “aggression” specifics are recorded, for example “kicked sibling” or “hit adult with fist”
What happens directly after the behavior is recorded here, for example, “played with musical toy” or “went to bedroom”.
This information helps us to understand why the behavior happens more than once – if the behavior is an effective communication strategy for them (despite it being an appropriate behavior or not).
This data is then analyzed to in order to work out the function of the behavior – exactly why the behavior is occurring. Often the functions are to gain access to items, to gain attention of a parent or adult, or to avoid situations.
Once the function has been established, an alternative, more appropriate, functionally equivalent behavior can be taught.
So, if the function is established to be in order to gain access to something, the child can be taught to communicate their desires through speech, sign or pictures, instead of engaging in the problem behavior. (See our other blogs about communication http://earlyactionforautism.co.uk/blogg/howcaniteachcommunicationathome http://earlyactionforautism.co.uk/blogg/mychilddoesnttalkhowdoiteachthemtocommunicate )
If the function is to gain attention of a parent or adult, the child can be taught to tap their hand or call their name in order to gain their attention.
If the function is to avoid situations, the specific situation can be broken down into smaller, much more achievable steps.
We hope this blog gives you an outline of how ABA can help support you and your child with overcoming problem behavior. This is a huge topic and, as with all ABA strategies, they are highly individualized for each child. There is a vast amount of research, strategies and effective methods that mean that problem behavior does not have to be a daily occurrence for your child or family.