When working on reducing problem behaviour you need to be sure to deny any reinforcement related to the antecedent when problem behaviour occurs.
Here are some common reasons challenging behaviour may occur, with typical consequences we should deliver in brackets;
- Lack of effective communication (requests) (the ‘count and mand’ procedure could be used for this)
- Avoidance/escape of demands (follow through with reasonable demands)
- Sensory reinforcement is valuable (block and re-direct)
- Wanting attention (ignore)
- Having to wait (continue to wait until the learner has waited appropriately)
- Being told no (continue to deny access to what the learner wanted)
- Being interrupted from a preferred activity/having to transition (continue to interrupt /transition)
It’s also important to reinforce appropriate alternative behaviours where we can. This,
coupled with ensuring the appropriate consequence is delivered if problem behaviour does occur, will most likely reduce problem behaviours faster.
Here are some of the best ways to do this;
- Lack of effective communication (requests) – teach mands, the more spontaneous mands a learner has in their repertoire, the less likely they are to engage in other, less desirable, challenging behaviours.
- Avoidance/escape demands – implement an appropriate schedule of reinforcement that competes with the motivation to avoid/escape. Chances are, if there is a lot of problem behaviour when demands are placed, your reinforcement needs to be better.
- Sensory reinforcement is valuable – teach an appropriate behaviour to achieve sensory reinforcement (e.g. if your learner swipes things off of a table to see them fall, teach them to build blocks and knock them down instead).
- Wanting attention – teach to request attention appropriately (tap on arm, saying someone’s name).
- Having to wait – initially provide reinforcement during periods the learner is expected to wait (as long as there is no problem behaviour), and fade reinforcement gradually over time (as long as the learner is waiting successfully).
- Being told no – provide alternatives as long as there is no problem behaviour (you can’t have chocolate, but you can have some raisins).
- Being interrupted from a preferred activity/having to transition – use promise reinforcers (provide something the learner wants, initiate the interruption and immediately deliver reinforcer in the absence of problem behaviour).
This is a very brief snippet of what could be done, and there are comprehensive protocols for working on a range of problem behaviours, that should be overseen by a BCBA/BCaBA, with thorough data being taken.