Utilizing a Behavioral Definition

Behavioral definitions clearly define a behavior in detail. It tells you want you can see or observe. Not what you think or assume is going on. What you can physically see. A behavioral definition gives you examples and non examples. It tells you how to count one instance of the behavior – which is key! I implore you to write out the behavioral definition! Actually write it out. Now what the heck do you do with that piece of paper? File it away and never think about it? Heck no! That behavioral definition will be key in the next step of reducing problem behavior – taking baseline data. You’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about that next week but there is one more quick thing you must do before that.

Share the definition with your team. Print out copies. Post it in the room. Go through it. Let me them ask questions. Ask them question. Ensure that everyone is on the same team. And I mean everyone. Include your therapists, case manager, social worker, etc. Two years ago we were knee deep an intensive planned ignoring procedure and it was working! Bah success! Then the OT walked and immediately said, “Jack, honey, stop yelling.” Well great lady. You just threw my past 4 painful days in the trash. Guess that migraine didn’t even result in some reduced behavior.

Point out the behaviors and non-behaviors in-situation. Be discrete. When a student engages in the response, whisper to you para, “I would count that as two behaviors.” “Or that something we wouldn’t count.”



This post is part of Summer Series: Reducing Problem Behavior. Click here to see more in this series!

The Autism Helper - Summer Series


  1. The staff component is key. I’m always forgetting about explain things to the aides. Great point.

  2. Hi Sasha! Could you provide us with some more information on behavioral definitions? I’m looking for examples and non-examples myself. 😉 I’m trying to determine what I should focus on first – I don’t want my definition to include three problem behaviors, even though they often happen simultaneously (ex. hitting, kicking). Thanks in advance!


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