Reducing Challenging Behaviors

Dr.-Doreen-Granpeesheh-300x300Attended an excellent presentation by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh of the Center for Autism & Related Disorders. The subject? “Using ABA to Reduce Challenging Behaviors.” Among much wisdom, here are three takeaways:


1)All challenging behaviors are, in essence, communication. Not functional communication, but communication nonetheless. The challenge? To figure out what children or students are “trying to say” through these challenging behaviors.


2) The two main areas of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy: Provide reinforcement to increase skill deficits, and remove reinforcement to decrease behavior excesses.


3) How do we change behaviors? By changing the antecedents (What comes before the behaviors) and the consequences (What comes after the behaviors.)


One more? ABA works, but that does not mean “easy.” Parents, teachers, and therapists should be on the same page. Hours of consistent work. However, as Dr. Granpeesheh pointed out, it should ideally be provided as part of a day that includes fun.


Which triggers the realization that 123TokenMe uses ABA methodology to assist in reinforcement of skills and behaviors. With a touch of fun. Perfect.


Communication before Escalation

IMG_0670-300x225┬áTemper outbreaks, including hitting, are brought on by Trevor’s antecedent of too much input. Once the outbreak has started it is too late. Reason does not work during tantrums, but this is quite often when intervention is attempted.


What about introducing functional communication when the input overload first begins? Before escalating into the problem behavior? “Please turn down the music.” “Back off.” “That bothers me.”


Trevor’s ongoing situation is being addressed by a therapist in conjunction with 123TokenMe. Tokens, starting with just three, are awarded to Trevor for every verbal response to antecedent situations that would have usually produced an eruption. His reinforcement, computer time, is a powerful motivator.


After many weeks Trevor is understanding that the consequence he was obtaining with his violence- a quieter atmosphere with less conflicting demands- is achieved much easier through simple communication. The therapist is working 1) To help Trevor recognize potentially escalating situations, and 2) To introduce appropriate verbal responses. Real life? It is slowly looking more welcoming.

Collaboration with his Teacher Worked!

Chart for BehaviorLast year was an unusually stressful school year for my little guy!! There were several things that occurred that added to his usual school stress. Health issues ,which called for many doctors appointments which meant missed school. The passing of a Grandfather. As if life isn’t already stressful enough for a little guy with ASD, all these added transitions. To say that this created a struggle is an understatement! By the time mid year rolled around we were in a tail spin! Nose dive skidding across the tarmac is a great description! My little guy began making negative comments which led to mild self injurious behaviors. We as parents became increasingly concerned. Our little man while still in primary grades, we felt was getting older. As parents we had moved away from visual schedules and token systems. We thought that this wasn’t necessary any longer. What we didn’t realize was that with all these hurdles/transitions our little guy was struggling to know which way was up. After school he became nearly impossible. Simple tasks led to tantrums. After exhausting him and ourselves, we consulted with his teachers and worked toward a solution. He had a chart in place in the classroom that had simple faces that showed different emotions: happy, angry, sad that were being used throughout his day.

The goal, to help him become more aware of his moods and actions. It also served as a daily report card so that I could have an idea of how his day had gone. His teachers suggested that we do a similar chart at home with three tasks on it. “Do your homework” , “Lay out clothes for next day” “Practice piano” with emotional icons at the end of each task. Each day he would bring the chart home from school. I would ask him to complete each task and record the appropriate icon. The next day he would return his chart to the teacher. If he got all smileys his reward was either playing with lego’s or free computer time. It made all the difference in the world! We went from tantrums to “Mom I have to get my things done before bed.” The chart helped him to manage behaviors, emotions and encouraged independence and accountability. The key was giving him structure while rewarding him for independently maintaining appropriate behaviors and emotions. Within a week we saw a significant change in his demeanor. Within two weeks we saw a positive change both at home and school. Sometimes we underestimate the power of a simple chart and the structure that it brings. Three cheers for great teachers and visual charts!

One Year- One Amazing Difference

One Year- One Amazing DifferenceWe read Curious George Goes to School.We went to meet your teacher.We talked to you about school.But truly, nothing could have prepared me for your first day.Getting to school, fighting the chaos of minivans, strollers, kids of all ages, and excited parents was crazier than taking you to an amusement park! But with every trial, there is the opportunity to learn something new.Within a few weeks, I had figured out the best route to take you to school. I had to shed (or try to stifle) any concerns about what any of the typical kids and parents were thinking of us, and I created the same routine (as much as possible) for getting to school. It was not always pretty. You ran away from me, you screamed, tantrumed and aggressed, but I learned that by creating a routine, I was able to try and support you in the best way possible. After that, I could only hope for the best results.

This year, you were a jumping bean upon arrival at the same school on the first day. You looked at me and said; Bye mommy, See you later’s and practically leaped into your teachers arms.I never could have imagined the progress you have made.Words! Excitement!?! Non-traumatic transition!!!

If I could do it all over, I would have labeled all of your clothes before the first week, I would have tried to figure out the best route into school sooner, and I probably should have taken you to the campus one more time before the start of school. But the most important thing I should have tried to do would have been to remain hopeful, and not worry quite so much about how bad things got before they got better.Certainly easier said than done, and I suppose that is one of my great struggles in parenting you. But the more progress you make, the easier it is to have hope, to keep perspective, and to grow a thicker skin to the challenges that come our way.