When analyzing inappropriate behavior excesses the first step is to determine if the behavior interferes with the person’s ability to function or interact appropriately in typical environmental conditions. To do this observational data needs to be taken for an extended amount of time to determine whether the behavior is disruptive. This is a very important part of the process because if the behavior only has occurred once or very infrequently then it would not be considered a disruptive behavior which needs to be altered.
When observing a new behavior evidence has shown that if you do not bring attention or acknowledge the behavior, it may not re-occur because the person exhibiting the behavior has not achieved the desired reaction they had hoped for. Once observational data has determined that a target behavior is considered disruptive then you must operationally define the behavior.
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For example a tantrum behavior of a specific individual could be defined as: Crying with or without tears, screaming loudly, making statements like “no, no, no”, pounding fists on the table, swiping lesson materials, getting up and running from their desk, and falling to the ground. When you are defining a behavior and also writing a descriptive analysis of the behavior, it must always be specific, observable, and measurable.
Based on these principles an example of a descriptive analysis of a self injurious behavior it would be: “Tim stood up and hit the back of his head on the wall four times then dropped to the ground, rolled over, hit his forehead on the carpeted area three times, then with his right hand closed in a fist he hit his forehead five times. ” Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) works off of this theory because it is strictly a scientific approach to analyzing behavior.
When taking descriptive analysis of a behavior a person should be able to read about the behavior as described above and close their eyes and visualize it. With this approach speculation is taken out of the equation. It strictly pertains to what you are observing not what may be causing a behavior such as internal conditions. In descriptive behavioral analysis data that is taken statements such as “He seemed tired today”, or “I think the student is in a bad mood”, “Tommy seemed really mad that he had to do his work”, and He doesn’t seem to be feeling well today” are not included because those are interpretive statements not behaviors that are specific, observable, and measurable. To attempt to change or maintain a behavior you must operate off of the concrete behaviors you are observing. Additionally a crucial part of changing or maintaining a behavior is to determine the antecedents prior to the behavior and the consequence that follows the behavior and how that impacts the behavior itself. For example after a week or so of taking descriptive analysis you should be able to determine patterns of the behavior.
For example it could produce a pattern of every time you tell a student “My turn” (the antecedent) and they are asked to give up a reinforcing item, the student begins screaming and drops to the floor, and exhibits self injurious behaviors (the behavior), then the person either asks the student to sit down or possibly ignores the behavior (the consequence). This data would enable the teacher to create a prevention behavior plan where either you use a different phrase instead of “my turn” such as “can you please put the toy over here” or “can I see that toy? etc. and also teach an alternative behavior to replace the tantrum behavior. A replacement behavior could be “I want more time” or “I’m not done playing with this”. This is an extremely important part of the process because the replacement behavior needs to be a direct replacement of the inappropriate behavior and meet the needs of the individual in a more appropriate manner. Analyzing and determining the function of a behavior is a very fascinating process and for this exercise I have chosen a behavior that I have recently observed in my classroom.
I will refer to the student throughout this assignment as “Tommy”. I work as a teacher at a school for children diagnosed with autism in one of the higher functioning classrooms. In my classroom the learning environment is set up so that there is s balance between group and individual instruction. Tommy would intermittently display inappropriate vocalizations that was paired with self stimulatory behaviors (flapping of hands/bouncing in seat repeatedly).
I operationally defined the behavior as: high pitched repetitive vocalizations, self stimulatory behaviors that include flapping of hands, bouncing up in down in seat, and shaking long sleeves of his shirt. Recently the behavior seemed to be increasing and negatively impacting his programming and also distracting other students so I began to take data as well as data on frequency and duration of the behavior. My goal was to determine how often the behavior was occurring, the environment it took place in, the antecedent to the behavior, and the consequence to the behavior and how it impacted the behavior.
The baseline data produced inappropriate vocalizations paired with self stimulatory behaviors on average every 30 seconds primarily during group teaching formats. Our group time activities would last about 15 minutes so the behavior would occur about 30 times during each group time. The data helped me determine a variety of factors that were impacting or leading to the behavior. That data indicated that when he was getting more one on one attention during individual instruction the behavior tended to be much less frequent.
The reason was that he not only received more attention but also he was receiving a much denser schedule of reinforcement with visual motivators being used. The visual motivator was a token chart system where he was intermittently given tokens for appropriate behaviors such as: a quiet voice, staying at the lesson table, giving up a reinforcer when it was time to earn more time with it, correct answers, etc. He would get a token roughly every 30 seconds during each teaching session.
Additionally the staff members working with Tommy would consistently conduct reinforcer assessments to determine what Tommy would be earning after he completed the lesson or task that he was being asked to do. He would get a small amount of time with the reinforcer then the staff member would set the deal using the token chart to indicate that he would have to earn six tokens to have more time with the reinforcer. This was a very crucial part of his success because by using the token chart there was a clear visual of what he had to do to earn the reinforcer.
Also the staff members would constantly remind him of how many tokens he still needed and also have him count how many he had left. The interaction was continuous and there was constant reinforcement both socially and using the tokens. After observing Tommy and taking frequency data of the behaviors he had been exhibiting during group and individual instruction I was able to determine many reasons why the behaviors were happening with greater frequency during group instruction and also how I would attempt to decrease the behaviors.
In a class of nine students he was not getting as much reinforcement during the group instruction portion of our days and he had had to work much longer to earn reinforcement. To work on decreasing the behavior I had to design a behavior plan that focused on prevention and I first addressed the issue of creating a denser schedule of reinforcement and a visual motivator (a large token chart on the white board with his name on it) which would serve as a type of Disruptive Incident Barometer.
The only difference between the Disruptive Incident Barometer example provided in our textbook and the token chart that I am using is that the token chart only focuses on gaining tokens for positive behaviors and the student does not lose tokens for inappropriate behaviors. The idea is that I am only focusing on reinforcing the behavior I want to see re-occur and not bringing attention to the inappropriate vocalizations he is exhibiting.
Prior to group time I would make sure I set the deal with Tommy so that he could choose the reinforcer that he would earn, and then I would place a picture of that item on his token chart. In addition I moved his desk so that he was in the front row directly in front of me so that I could maintain more consistent eye contact and interaction with him. Since the baseline data indicated that the behaviors were happening every 30 seconds I made sure that provided social reinforcement (“Nice job having a quiet voice and calm body during group time) and a token every 20 seconds.
The idea was to create learning environment where he would receive the same type of dense reinforcement that he received during individual instruction with the same visual motivators so that he could see his progress towards earning the reinforcing item he chose. The results have been very positive because instead of working for long periods of time during group time he now only has to work for no more than 1 minute and 30 seconds to earn the reinforcer he chose.
If I saw him begin to engage in self stimulatory behaviors my replacement behavior was to immediately prompt him to ask for pressure. I squeeze his hands, arms, and shoulders which have slowly led to a decrease in self stimulatory behaviors and also an increase in independent mands for pressure. It’s very encouraging to see positive results when trying to decrease a target behavior and increase replacement behaviors. The data has shown a steady decrease of inappropriate vocalizations and currently the frequency is an average of 12 inappropriate vocalizations during a 15 minute group activity.
Even if I had not seen immediate results I would let the plan run its course for at least a week to determine the effectiveness of it. Often times I have seen people want to change the plan immediately because it did not provide the desired results right away. It often takes time to shape a desired behavior so it is important that you do not change the plan prematurely. By using a token chart, setting the deal with the student and consistently reinforcing appropriate behaviors I have already began to see the desired results that I was hoping for with this new behavior plan.
This has led to an increase of his motivation, participation, and ability to achieve correct responses during group time which is fantastic to see. I will continue the plan in hopes of further reducing the behavior and over time systematically increase the amount of time that he will be able to work without exhibiting inappropriate vocalizations and self stimulatory behaviors. The process has been very gratifying to me because it makes me so happy to see students reduce behaviors which lead directly success in the classroom and also a better quality of life.