Parent Tips To Determining Why Behavior Problems Happen

A helpful way to effectively tackle a child’s problem behavior is to figure out why it is happening in the first place.  To implement an intervention without this important information may produce no results or even make the challenging behavior far worse than it was before implementing the tactic you’ve chosen.

To figure out a behavior’s possible function, first we have to look at the antecedent—whatever it is that happened right before the behavior. And secondly, we also have to pay attention to the consequence that happens while or after the behavior happened.  This relationship between antecedent àbehavior ß consequence over time may contribute to why a child does the problem behavior.

There are four likely reason “why” a behavior may happen: for access, to escape/avoid, for attention, and for self-stimulation.

  1. Access

A problem behavior can be strengthened or reinforced when it produces a consequence that increases the chance of the problem behavior from happening again over time.

Example

A child is told he cannot have his tablet to play video games on which results in the child engaging in tantrum behaviors.  The parent does not want to deal with the tantrums so the child is given the tablet.  In this example, tantrums after being told “NO, you can’t have ____” resulted in the child getting what he cannot have.

A B C
Told no tablet/video games Tantrums Got tablet video games

 

  1. Escape/Avoidance

A problem behavior can be strengthened or reinforced when it produces a removal of something a person does not like (Escape).  The same strengthening of the behavior may also happen if the behavior prevents something that a person does not like from happening at all (Avoidance). Providing the behavior with either consequence may strengthen the behavior over time.

Example 1 (Escape)

A child is asked by his parent if there is homework for the day.  The child says yes and with her parent, starts working on the homework.  As the work becomes more difficult, the child starts complaining to the parent.  The parent instructs the child to continue working, but the child just continues complaining and eventually starts throwing pencils towards the wall. Unsure about what to do, the parent takes the homework off the table and tells the child that she doesn’t need to work on it anymore.

A B C
Instruction to continue with school-work Continual complaints, throwing pencil at wall School-work removed

 

Example 2 (Avoidance)

Upon getting home, the parent asks the child if there is homework for the day.  The child replies, “No homework today, yay!”  There is homework for that day.

A B C
Parent asks about homework Lies about having no homework Homework avoided
  1. Attention

A problem behavior can be strengthened or reinforced when it produces any response from another person that leads to the likelihood on the problem behavior from happening again over time.

Example

A family is having dinner at the table.  The elder child starts playing with her food and manages to flick a pea from her plate across the table with her fork.  The younger child starts laughing at his sibling being funny.  The elder child then repeats the behavior which makes the younger child laugh hysterically.  The parent asks the elder child to stop, but to no avail—peas scattered all over the dining table.

A B C
Other people at the table Flicking pea across the table (elder child) Younger child laughing

 

  1. Self-stimulatory

A problem behavior can also be reinforced automatically by the pleasant sensations the action produces. Parents can have an idea if a problem behavior may function for self-stimulation if the child performs the behavior regardless whether the child is around individuals or—and most especially—if the child is all alone.

Example

A child watching a video on her tablet “rewinds” the video to a specific scene, watches the clip for a few seconds, then rewinds the video once again to watch the same scene.  This chain of behaviors may repeat for an indefinite length of time.

A B C
End of favorite clip (and “desire” to watch again Rewinds video to the beginning of favorite scene Watching favorite scene again

Although there are now many tools that we can use to figure out the specific function of a behavior, parents and caregivers can still use A-B-C data analysis to help them find out the function(s) of a problem behavior to help determine the best tactic to use in addressing the behavioral difficulty.   For complex or intense problem behaviors that can pose a hazard to a child’s and others’ safety, it is highly advised that parents/caregiver seek assistance from a qualified behavior analyst.

What is Autism?

Heartbreak and Help. No parent is fully prepared for the diagnosis of Autism. Some react with denial, others with fear. Most are confused. “What is Autism?” “Is there a cure?” “ What will our lives be like?” “Why my child?”

Let’s start at the beginning. What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Behavior (ASD) is a disorder that usually appears by age 2 to 3. It cannot be defined in one tidy box but rather in a range of non-norm behaviors that involve social skills, repetitive actions, speech and nonverbal communication, and often difficulty coping with sights, sounds and other sensations. The intensity can be from mild to severe.

It’s overwhelming to realize that life with a child impacted with Austin will be very different than had been expected. Around the clock, a special-needs individual presents many challenges, the biggest of which is making sure your child lives up to his or her potential. What to do? Let’s start with…

A basic toolkit for parents:

  • Learn to be the best advocate you can be for your child. Be informed. Take advantage of services in your community.
  • Feel. Yes, it’s okay to express your feelings – be it anger, grief, or guilt. The key is focusing the pain towards the disorder and not those you love.
  • Do NOT allow autism to take over your life. Create quality time with your loved ones and…
  • Appreciate the small victories your child achieves. Love your special needs child for who he or she is rather than what others think they should be.
  • Get involved with the Autism community. Don’t underestimate the power of “community”, the comfort and support of others who face similar obstacles.

LeafWing Center: For over a decade, LeafWing Center has provided services for individuals with disabilities. We combine the expertise of Behavior Analysts, Marriage and Family Counselors, and Family Therapists, and Behavior Therapists, to help those in need, and their families, to live a fuller life.

The LeafWing Center blog will provide regular features on Autism – ranging from research developments, to treatment methods, to family survival strategies. Our purpose? To let you know you are not alone. Hope is within reach.

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Parent Tips To Determining Why Behavior Problems Happen

World Autism Month

April is World Autism Month

Every April, Autism Speaks kicks off World Autism Month beginning with UN-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.Joined by the international community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world, light blue in recognition of people living with autism. Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month to increase understanding and acceptance and foster worldwide support.