You want to know what’s awesome about being a behavioral guru? Sometimes you can prevent problem behaviors before they even occur. Kinda makes you feel you like you are playing some high-powered mind games and all uber powerful but it’s just a little Applied Behavior Analysis at work. Escape behaviors are used to get out of something. There are some tricky manuevers you can utilize to tweak the environment and make the work a little less aversive for your students. And viola – maybe it’s no longer worth escaping.
Make Tasks Easier
Maybe the tasks are too hard? Maybe the student is trying to escape the tasks because they simply can’t do them. Hard work is aversive. I get it. I am way more likely to throw a tantrum over algebra than I am writing the alphabet. You can build up to more challenging work. Reduce the challenge.
Shorter Work Sessions
Include more work sessions – just shorter ones. Instead of having 20 minute blocks of work with 5 minute breaks have 3 minute blocks of work with one minute breaks. Use that baseline data to get these numbers. In the end you will get more work done because you won’t be spending half of the time dealing with problem behavior and you will have much more quality work time.
Consider how quickly you are presenting tasks. If you are anything like me – you are in a race against the clock. I have so much I am trying to fit in, half the time I am literally throwing work at my poor kiddos. That might just be dang aversive. Trying to resent tasks less quickly. Our kids need processing time.
I truly believe that there could be a potential control function of behavior. Sometimes our guys just want to be the one calling the shots. Can you blame them? Who doesn’t like to be in charge sometimes? Wouldn’t you get sick of everyone picking everything for you all the time? Relinquish a little control. Let your student make some of the choice. Provide a choice for tasks. Provide choices for task order. Sometimes I overload with choices. “Do you want to sit here or here? Do you want a pencil or pen? Do you want to do reading or math? Do you want to do this worksheet first or this one?” They feel so in control, they don’t even realize they are doing work.
Complying with requests can be the escape. Start small and gradually increase demands. Example: Today provide reinforcement for checking your schedule. Tomorrow provide reinforcement for sitting at the table for 1 minute. The next provide reinforcement for opening your binder. The next reinforcement is for completing the first page.
Easy, Easy, Easy, Hard
Start with several easy tasks and then switch into the hard task, delivered in rapid succession. The student gets caught up in complying with the easy requests and then comply with the difficult request.
Breaks/Less Work Based on Work Completion
Provide breaks or less work when specified tasks are completed. This intervention uses the exact reinforcer (getting out of work) as the reinforcement for work completion. Tricky! For example – If you complete these two worksheets, you don’t have to have to do these few worksheets.
This post is part of Summer Series: Reducing Problem Behavior. Click here to see more in this series!