We should always keep the learners’ safety and dignity as paramount. It’s also important to rule out any medical issues when dealing with problem behaviour.
One very important thing to consider when working on decreasing challenging behaviour is an extinction burst. An extinction burst basically means that when you start working on reducing problem behaviour, it gets worse before it gets better. Two bi-products of an extinction are intensity (more of the same behaviour, at a higher intensity) and variety (some challenging behaviour you haven’t seen before). An example of this is the classic ‘child trying to get mums attention scenario’.
Mum is talking, and the child comes up and says ‘mum’, the mum ignores, the child persists ‘mum, mum, mum’ (this is the intensity; more of the same behaviour), but the mum continues to ignore, so the child pulls on mum’s arm (variety, a new behaviour).
Your consultant should have a good chat with you about this, because if you ‘give in’ and reinforce the challenging behaviour during the extinction burst, you are likely to make the whole thing worse in the long run. You’re better off not working on it at all if you think you can’t manage the extinction burst, so think carefully. If you reinforce during the extinction burst, you’re essentially encouraging the learner to engage in more intense problem behaviour, sooner.
So here are some of the key tips to remember when dealing with problem behaviour;
- Remember, as hard as it might be initially, keep calm, think about the antecedent (why the problem behaviour occurred), and what consequence you should deliver. The better your analysis becomes, the calmer you will be during incidents of problem behaviour.
- Make sure you are reinforcing appropriate behaviours, and your reinforcement is being delivered well.
- Don’t get caught up talking during the incident, it’s consequences that will shape behaviour.
- Don’t negotiate during problem behaviour; nothing positive should occur in the learner’s environment until problem behaviour has ceased.
- You could also try video the problem behaviour, so you can watch it back to analyse the situation.
This concludes the 3 part challenging behaviour posts, I hope you found it useful!