Behavior IS Communication

Behavior IS Communication
(Please Listen)
Mary Ann Powers, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Common Behavior Problems for
Children with Autism
Non-Compliance – verbal or physical
Aggression – hit, bite, kick
Self - stim behaviors: verbal and physical
Screaming, crying, loud sounds & noises
Property Destruction
Tantrums – all of the above
How to Understand and Change
Problem Behaviors:
ABC Analysis
When did the behavior happen:
Time? Day?
Who was there:
People – peers & adults
What happened right before:
Who said & did what?
In addition to Antecedents, other triggers to
External events such as:
noise levels
seating arrangements
work load
Internal conditions:
food deprived
sleep deprived
not feeling well
Antecedent Frequently Associated with
Problem Behaviors:
Directions to start a task
Directions to end a task
Told to stop an inappropriate behavior
Wanted an item out of reach
Denied a requested item
Seeing others getting what they want
More Effective
Antecedent Instructions
Give instructions only when you have the
person’s attention/focus
Clear & concise language
Do not beg or give multiple chances
Give directions not questions
Every picture tells a story –
Paint the picture in words
All should SEE the same behavior
Does length of behavior count?
2 seconds vs. 20 minutes
Does intensity of behavior count?
hit no mark vs. blood
Does frequency of behavior count?
single hit vs. episode of 40+ hits
What happened after the behavior?
• What did person do or say?
• What did others do or say?
• What did you do or say?
Possible Functions of Behavior:
• To gain attention
• To escape a situation
• To engage in stimulation
• To get a tangible item or activity
Behaviors can have multiple functions (depending on the
More functional examples of Communicative
To request attention, a break, or help
To request food, drink, object, activity
To indicate pain or confusion
To engage in sensory pleasure
To protest a directive
…. And the intent continues to communicate:
access to reinforcement is low
difficulties with change or variety
difficulties with unstructured time
difficulties in waiting
choices are restricted
ABCs Identified – Now What
Future behavior is dependent upon:
Reinforcement is ANYTHING that increases
the future probability of a behavior - good or
a bad.
...can be about getting good things:
attention, toys, food
…can be about getting negative things:
negative attention or reprimands
…can be about getting rid of negative
things: demands, work, bedtime
…can be planned or unplanned
…can be expensive, cheap or free
Making Reinforcement
More Effective
Pair yourself with reinforcement delivery
Use reinforcers that matter – that are motivating – to
the person
Deliver reinforcer following response completion,
never before
Size matters: difficult, new or excellent responses
deserve better reinforcers
Does the ABC Analysis work with adults and
Yes! Yes!! and Yes!!!
It is all about function, function, and (oh yes) all
about the function
While the function categories are the same (i.e.
attention, tangibles, escape, and sensory), the
specific examples can be very different:
Things to consider:
To be safe,
To be happy,
To have friends,
To be independent,
To do work they like,
To like where you live,
To like to eat specific food,
To like where/how you live,
To do things in the community,
To have choices and earning power,
To have an adequate communication system to express
needs and wants.