“Why does my child act that way?!”
This is a question every parent asks at some point along their journey while raising children.
Finding out the reasoning behind your child’s behavior can be a big challenge. While it may be a complex question to understand why a child is engaging in these behaviors, there will always be an underlying function.
Once the reason, or function, is identified, strategies can be used to assist in preventing these behaviors from occurring.
We can also find how to properly react to the behaviors if they are observed. In this discussion, we continue our exploration of the four functions of behavior focusing specifically upon: access maintained behaviors.
Access maintained behaviors can have many different topographies (forms). Often individuals will engage in this function to gain access to:
- • Tangible items
- • Activities
Individuals may engage in certain behaviors to gain access to these items/activities, however these behaviors are not always socially acceptable. Some of these problem behaviors a child engages in may include:
- • Aggressive behaviors
- • Yelling/screaming
- • Property destruction
Once the function of a child’s behavior has been identified as access maintained behaviors, there are several antecedent and consequence strategies that can be utilized to help decrease these problem behaviors! This is a long way of saying there are awesome solutions available to help.
Antecedent strategies are used to assist with preventing the behavior from happening. Some antecedent strategies to help with access maintained behaviors include:
- • Functional communication (Teaching your child how to appropriately ask for the item)
- • Premack principle (First then statements to indicate when reinforcement is available)
- • Visual timers (Set a timer to indicate when your child can have access to the reinforcer)
These are just several antecedent strategies that can be used effectively. While antecedent strategies are often helpful, it is crucial to understand how to implement consequence strategies with your child if they do engage in access maintained behaviors.
Consequence strategies are used to decrease problematic behaviors. Ultimately these can help eliminate these behaviors with work and focus.
Consequence strategies will depend on the function of a child’s behavior. Some of these strategies, which are based off of access maintained behaviors, may include the following:
- • Differential reinforcement (Teaching and reinforcing appropriate behavior to gain an item. EX: Instead of reinforcing yelling for a toy, your child says “Can I please have the toy?”, and then receives reinforcement for that socially appropriate behavior.
- • Functional communication (Once your child is no longer engaging in the problem behavior, provide them the appropriate communication to gain access to the item/activity).
- • Extinction (Putting a behavior on extinction requires for the specific behavior to not be reinforced. For example, if your child is engaging in yelling for attention and receives reinforcement they will continue that behavior. If that behavior is ignored, and they don’t receive reinforcement for yelling, that specific behavior can begin to decrease).
The scenario below is an example of how one can use the strategies listed above to handle access maintained behaviors:
Your child is outside playing with his/her sibling, when one of their siblings takes away their toy. Your child begins to scream and cry for access to the toy. There are several consequence strategies that can be used in this situation. One crucial strategy would be functional communication.
After your child stops screaming for the toy, prompt them to appropriately ask for the toy back from their sibling. After this is done successfully, give your child behavior specific praise for gaining access to the toy appropriately. Functional communication can also be used as an antecedent strategy in this situation.
When the toy is taken away, quickly prompt your child to ask for the toy back before they begin to engage in the screaming behavior. Again, provide behavior specific praise for them asking to have access to the toy again.
Like the other functions of behavior, access maintained behavior can be difficult to handle with your child but there are many excellent ways to help your child find positive paths to grow.
We believe that sharing concepts like understanding access as part of our parent training will be a significant factor to your child’s success while receiving services here at JoyBridge Kids.
Our team of BCBAs are thrilled to work with you and your family to ensure the proper steps are taken for your child to make socially significant gains to hopefully find an overall improved quality of life.
By: Nick Sobieralski, BCBA, LBA