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Identify the Function of your Child’s Behavior: Access

“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

Contact JoyBridge Kids

To contact a member of our team, please give us a call at 615-560-6622 or complete our online contact form.

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Identifying the Function of your Child’s Behavior: Attention

The four functions of behavior help us understand why our children display certain behaviors. By understanding the function, or “Reasoning” behind the behavior, we can identify various antecedents (What happens before the behavior?) and consequence strategies (What was the reaction to the specific behavior?) to help you and your family react in a way that decreases likelihood of continuous behaviors. Today’s topic will be on the function of “Attention”.

The utilization of antecedent strategies is essential to helping your family prevent the problem behavior from occurring. It also helps identify triggering events. What exactly are antecedent strategies? They are designed to alter the environment to assist in preventing a problem behavior from ever occurring in the first place.

These are strategies you and your family can utilize to help prevent problem behaviors from appearing. Some antecedent strategies that can be used based on “attention” maintained behaviors include:

  • Noncontingent reinforcement (Providing reinforcement in this instance in the form of “attention” frequently to where your child does not want to engage in the problem behavior to gain your attention)
  • Functional communication (Teaching your child how to gain your attention in an appropriate or even kind way)
  • Preference assessments (Give your child choices while they wait for your attention)
  • Premack Principle (First then statements to indicate when your attention is available. EX: FIRST let me talk on the phone, THEN I will come play with you)

While implementing these antecedent strategies, it is important to remember that these are used PRIOR to the behavior. Identifying and implementing these strategies, as well as knowing triggers signs to those behaviors, will help reduce the likelihood of the behavior developing.

Your reaction, as a parent or guardian, is important! These reactions will either lead to an increase in the behavior or put that behavior on extinction (The behavior no longer occurs). Consequence strategies are an essential concept that will be covered during parent training at JoyBridge with your BCBA.

These are strategies we use to help reduce these behaviors AFTER they occur. Some of these consequence strategies may include:

  • Ignoring (By ignoring these specific behaviors, this teaches your child this is not an appropriate way to gain your attention)
  • Modifying the environment (stepping away from the child, or leaving the room)
  • Blocking (while minimizing attention as much as possible)
  • Differential reinforcement (Providing praise for the behavior you are wanting to see acts as a replacement for the undesired behavior)

The scenario below is an example of how you and your family can utilize these strategies based on the function of “Attention”.

Attention Example: You are at home having a conversation on the phone. Your child comes up to you and begins to hit you for your attention. The function in this specific scenario is attention.

One way to handle this behavior would be to ignore hitting as much as possible. This can be done by stepping away from your child, holding your child’s hand or moving to another room. By doing so, this teaches your child that hitting is not an acceptable way to gain your attention.

Providing specific praise for waiting for you to get off the phone, tapping you on the shoulder, or say “excuse me” are excellent ways to teach your child how to appropriately gain your attention without engaging in behaviors such as hitting.

By identifying the function of a behavior, and utilizing antecedent and consequence strategies provided you and your family will be able to:

  • Prevent/limit the behavior from occurring
  • Learn how to react to these specific behaviors
  • Teach your child appropriate ways to gain your attention

Learning ABA concepts and how to implement them can be challenging and new for families. Our JoyBridge Kids team will work with you and your family to identify practical strategies that will help your child make socially significant gains to help reach an overall improved quality of life!

By: Nick Sobieralski, BCBA, LBA

Contact JoyBridge Kids

To contact a member of our team, please give us a call at 615-560-6622 or complete our online contact form.

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How do we help children using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

Many parents ask us this great question!

Applied behavior analysis, known best as ABA, is a scientific approach to understanding behavior. Behavior is simply the skills and actions we use to communicate and to get our needs/wants met!

ABA focuses on decreasing socially significant problem behaviors, like aggression, while also teaching socially appropriate behaviors such as:

  • • Communication
  • Social skills
  • • Academics
  • • Daily living skills
  • • Practical skills that improve overall quality of life

Here at Joybridge Kids, teaching ABA concepts to our families is an essential part of our parent training program. Understanding the function, or the reasoning of why a child engages in certain behaviors is a critical step to helping children significantly change a particular behavior.

This is one of the first ABA concepts that we introduce in our parent training program!

In the field of ABA, we focus on four basic “functions” of a behavior. The four “functions,” or the reasons a behavior may occur, are:

  • Escape – Trying to avoid or get away from an unpreferred activity/situation or a person, such as brushing teeth or completing a chore.
  • Access – Trying to gain access to something preferred, such as a favorite toy or activity.
  • Automatic – Engaging in a behavior that feels good to them, such as jumping or rocking back and forth.
  • Attention – Trying to gain the attention of another person.

By understanding the function behind your child’s behavior, you and your family can respond in a specific way that will assist in changing your child’s behavior. After identifying the function(s) of a problem behavior, we can then teach children how to express their wants/needs in a more effective and socially acceptable manner!

For example, if a child routinely screams while you’re attending to a sibling, we can identify the function of the behavior through observations of the environment, including antecedents (what occurs immediately prior to screaming) and consequences (what occurs immediately after the behavior).

Analyzing the pattern of behavior, we can identify the function of the screaming behavior, such as accessing attention, and then teach the child how to appropriately request attention in that context! This could include teaching the child to say “Daddy, I need you,” tapping their parent’s shoulder, etc. We work with you and your child to identify the communication method that will work best for the whole family unit!

Through parent training, your BCBA can help you identify the function of a behavior, and discuss simple strategies, known as preventative or antecedent-based strategies, of what to do in order to prevent the problem behavior from occurring. We will also work with you to develop a plan of consequence strategies, which outlines how to consistently respond to the problem behavior when it occurs- which will decrease the likelihood of them occurring over time!

When the problem behavior no longer meets the function (i.e. attention), and the new communicative behavior does (i.e. asking for help), you will see the appropriate attention-seeking behavior occur in place of the inappropriate attention-seeking behavior! Effective and meaningful behavior change!

We will dive deeper into the four functions of behavior in coming posts! We will provide various scenarios and ideas on how to handle specific behaviors to help parents better understand why the behavior is occurring and what to teach their child to do instead!

By: Nick Sobieralski, BCBA, LBA

Contact JoyBridge Kids

To contact a member of our team, please give us a call at 615-560-6622 or complete our online contact form.