Applied Behavior Analysis and Reducing Problem Behaviors

Categories: Interventions

Now before we delve into this month of problem behavior fun, let’s scale back and give you some background and context. As a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), there is a specific and systemic way I approach behavior reduction. I use the strategies of Applied Behavior Analysis to identify the reason the behavior is occurring, look at environmental variables, find an appropriate replacement behavior, and provide reinforcement for prosocial behavioral choices. I want to share an article written a few years ago by one of my amazing interns that gives some great background on ABA related to behavior reduction.

This month we will be delving deep into the problem behavior challenges. We will be looking at different function based strategies, tips and tricks, and how you can utilize these interventions in your classrooms. Stay tuned! 


  1. ABA was used on my son after entering the world of adult care. He’s blind, autistic and has Tourette’s. Maintaining the consequence for shouting worsened the behavior, but not just for the moment. He began biting himself and withdrew from all activities, even basic hygiene. Prompting him to complete simple tasks he’d previously performed resulted in more self-injury, increasing to 5-6 times a day. The agency demanded a behavioral evaluation, where, within the first 5 minutes, he opened the back of his hand exposing ligaments & tendons. Surgery was required and a cast placed on his entire arm. He broke it off and ripped out the stitches. He spent months in restraints, arm splints and protective mitts. Be cautious about advising caregivers that the behavior will worsen before it gets better because for some, it gets worse and stays that way.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Karla. I am so sorry to hear about the situation with your son. With any extreme behaviors, interventions should be done under the expertise of a BCBA as well as medical professionals. Behavior Analysts are under a strict code of ethics according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board in order to maintain the safety of all clients. Depending on the individual, when removing a reinforcer for a behavior, sometimes behaviors will increase before decreasing (extinction burst) – which I was referring to here. But of course, every individual and situation is different so that is not always the case. Again, I am sorry to hear about your son and hope is completely healed now. Thank you for sharing your valuable story.

  3. I am currently a special education teacher who is in the process of becoming a BCBA. I am completing my coursework now. Do you find it difficult to teach an autism class and still wear the BCBA hat? For instance, are you still able to observe your students and determine functions as well as design interventions while teaching them?

  4. Definitely not, actually. I think becoming a BCBA made me a much better teacher, allowed me to more thoroughly analyze behaviors, and more efficiently and effectively teach new skills. Hope this helps!

  5. Where can you print out the boards and pictures to use?


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