Pigeonholed, Tearing Off Some Labels

Thinking back on a recent social skills lesson from Why Try? (www.whytry.org), I talked with a group of students about “tearing off your labels”. We all are identified by others by how they view us, their perceptions of who we are. For many reasons, be they right or wrong, those perceptions also indicate to them how they think we should behave and interact with others, basically what we can and cannot do. Basically you can end up being pigeonholed into serving only function in the opinion of others. People then treat you in accordance the label they associate with you. During our lesson we created posters of ourselves, artistically writing down the labels people use to identify us. We then wrote how we want people to learn more about us so they might then identify us with new labels. This was one of my ways, to blog about it. Hopefully this would clarify one, what I do and can do, and two, to show I’m more than what I do as a professional.

For many years now, most people at work have referred to me as a “behavior guy”, as if all I can and am able to do is work with behavior. But what exactly does that mean? According to my training, everything we do is behavior. Think about it, outside of death, is there a time that our bodies are not doing anything? (But that is really a topic for another blog post)

Most people associate the word behavior with misbehavior. I don’t usually get contacted if things are going well, I get contacted when things aren’t going well at all. Yet, I see myself as a person who can use behavior analytic principles to not just work with treating misbehavior, but as someone who can use the same principles to make improvements in all aspects of life. It’s not just about making the bad good, but also about making the good even better, and easier, sort of like an efficiency specialist. That being said, although that is much of what I do, it isn’t ALL that I do.

So although much of what I end up discussing on this blog is behavior, there is so much more to me than the ABC’s of behavior. I also enjoy spending time with my family, running trails, brewing beer, admiring art, reading history articles and shows, endlessly pursuing my perfect backyard, blogging, tweeting, drawing, graphic design, meditating, watching movies, composting, playing mindless games on my phone or iPad, getting hooked into a game of tennis ball fetch with my Matilda (my Yorkie), training my fish to do stupid tricks (okay, bad example), providing silly third party commentary during old Star Trek Next Generation episodes just to name a few.

What are some labels people use to refer to you? Do you like your labels? Do you feel pigeonholed by them? What have you done to overcome those labels?

The CAMI Tests: Reinforcement in the Classroom


We need to be aware that too much or too little of a good thing can make reinforcement more or less effective.

After seeing some trends over the past year in regards to reinforcement, I presented a quick reinforcement segment during a recent in-service specifically to address some common mistakes made by teachers (and support staff who help them). Some common issues I’ve seen include continuing reinforcement procedures long after they had been shown to not increase behavior, choosing rewards that were excessive in cost (effort, time, and money), or choosing rewards that are not easily accessible and therefore not appropriate, and finally recommending rewards that teachers and parents did not agree were appropriate.

Here is a quick summary that I handed out to attendees. Recently this was updated in order to be more consistent with behavior analytic principles. Please feel free to give me feedback.

The CAMI Tests

In a school setting, we use prizes and other positive events in an attempt to reinforce the behaviors we would like to improve. However, these consequences for behavior will most likely not be successful as reinforcers unless they pass the four-part CAMI tests:

Conveniency Test. Is the reinforcer typically available in a school setting? If not, can it be obtained with little inconvenience and at a cost affordable to staff or parents? A reward system is less likely to be maintained if the cost of obtaining items creates too much of a strain of time, effort, or funds.

Acceptability Test. Do the teachers approve of using the consequences with this child? Do the parents approve the use of the reinforcer with their child? Philosophical differences can create disagreement and therefore inconsistency between implementors.

Example: Janie loves sugary foods and will do just about anything to get them. However, Janie’s parents are using a low sugar diet with Janie. Therefore using food, especially those with high sugar content, might be unacceptable to use. Also, the school has now implemented minimal nutritional value standards. The teacher checks school policy and seeks approval from administrators and the general education teachers before proposing the use of edibles.

Motivation Test. How much access does the student have to the reward? Too much or too little access to a reward will affect the child’s motivation for it. A child who gets too much will have little desire to earn more. A child who gets too little can have strong desire to earn more or give up because he feels he will never get any. When it comes to motivation, be aware of the following 4 conditions that influence reinforcer effectiveness.

1. Deprivation/Satiation: Often referred to as not getting enough or getting too much of a good thing.

Deprivation: Not having access to something that is highly desirable (hungry, thirsty, tired, etc.). This is often used to make an item or activity more valuable or desirable to someone

Example: Joey hasn’t played with his favorite stuffed animal since last yesterday. Because he hasn’t played with his stuffed animal today, he is deprived, therefore, he wants to play with his favorite toy.

Satiation: Satiation refers to having too much (like the full feeling from eating too much pizza). If the same reinforcer is used over and over again, it will lose its reinforcing value.

Example: If Joey played with his stuffed animal when he got to school today, then again before and after lunch and now his teacher offers playing with his stuffed animal to get him to work he may say, “No!” Because his is satiated with stuffed animal play. (it’s a stretch I know, but work with me here)

2. Immediacy: A reinforcer must be delivered as quickly as possible following the target behavior that we are looking to increase, especially on newly targeted skills. The longer the amount of time that lapses between the behavior we want to see increase and the time the reinforcer is delivered, the less valuable the reinforcer will be, and the less likely that a connection between the behavior and its resulting consequence is made.
Example: We’re trying to teach Shaley to raise her hand to get the teacher’s attention. She spontaneously raises her hand to get the teacher’s attention in class, but we don’t respond to this until 5 minutes later, we’ve most likely lost the reinforcing value of whatever we’re delivering for that target behavior. We are now reinforcing whatever Shaley is doing, 5 minutes after hand raising.
3. Size: This refers to how much of the reinforcer you get/are giving.

Example: If Shawn reads 1 sight word card, and he earns a cup of popcorn, we will quickly satiate him and have to look for new reinforcers. A better way to reinforce might be a small cup of popcorn after reading 15 to 20 sight word cards, or completing all his reading work.

4. Contingency: Reinforcement delivery must be contingent, meaning, access to a reinforcer only occurs after the target behavior has been demonstrated.

Example: Brandon’s mother tells him he can read his book after he finishes his chores, Brandon proceeds to get out his book and read on the couch. Although the contingency is stated, it is not being enforced. Until the mother can limit and then provide access to the book provided that chores are complete

Improvement Test. Does the behavior improve or increase as a result of obtaining the “reinforcer”? Just because we think an item, activity, or praise is positive does not mean it works as a reinforcer. What makes an event a reinforcer is that it is successful helping to increase the frequency of the behavior. So if it is consistently not working, it’s time to change.

Example: Thomas rarely completes his multiplication quizzes. You decided to let him play a math game on an iPad when he finishes his multipication quiz. You follow this procedure and you see an increase in how often he completes his multiplication quizzes. Due to the improvement in desired behavior, you might be able to assume that playing math games on the iPad is indeed a reinforcer for quiz completion.

Please note that this is only a guide for implementing reinforcement procedures in the classroom or at home. It is not intended nor shall it be misconstrued as specific advice. Before engaging in any major behavior change program you should consult an expert or highly trained professional such as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

ABAchat: Transition Planning

Below is the transcript from ABAchat on Wednesday February 13, 2013 on Transition Planning. This session was hosted by Tricia Lee Keller (aka @behaviouratplay on Twitter). Please feel free to add comments in regards to this chat in the comments section below. If you’d rather download the Excel format of this chat click the link below.

2013_02_13 Transition Planning (Excel)

From User Tweet
behaviouratplay What is #ABAchat?  http://t.co/83hjcQQi  And the scheudle?  That’s right here:  http://t.co/Iztc5Yx5
behaviorbabe #ABAChat starts on #Twitter in 8 min! Join the discussion on #transition   planning. What role can #behavioranalysis play?
behaviouratplay Family-Centred transition process for youths with #autism spectrum   disorder.  http://t.co/vyRv1hSJ  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay I’ll be participating in #ABAchat for the next hour or so.  Please join in on the discussion.   http://t.co/52uHBNL5
behaviouratplay Welcome to tonight’s #ABAchat. Please introduce self and role with #ABA.   I’m Tricia, work as consultant in a school board. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Housekeeping: questions will be presented in Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. format;   please reply with corresponding A1, A2 etc. and hashtag! #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Discussion is generally informal. We welcome participants to ask other   questions, reply to colleagues, keep conversation going.  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Tonight we’re focused on transition planning; specifically supporting   youth with DD and their transition into adulthood. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Related articles were posted earlier and can be found under the   hashtag:  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay I must say, does not seem to be a lot of #behavioranalysis specific   research on transition planning.     #ABAchat
srmccoy @behaviouratplay Some colleagues and I have toyed with the idea. Though   for now we are just working on improving the tools we have. #ABAChat
behaviouratplay .@srmccoy That’s a good lead-in into discussion.  Q1: What tools are (you) we relying on for   transition planning? #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A1: Recent focus on person-centred planning, involving students in the   development of their IEP goals. Increases self-determination #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior @behaviouratplay I agree, so much work on early intervention and   transition into school, but more needed in post-school life. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @BarefootBehvior What has your experience been so far with transition   planning, interventions to set-up successful transition? #ABAchat
srmccoy A1: Working on developing better tools to identify barriers to transition   for adults in Intensive Behavioral facilities. #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior @behaviouratplay tbh, most of my experience has been elementary level,   just now getting into secondary ed world, learning as I go. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @srmccoy I think we can all share anecdotal observations of what barriers   a student might have. Be nice if we had a checklist. #ABAchat
srmccoy A1: Many facilities minimize transition planning or only look at rate of   problem behavior as criteria. Looking to improve that. #ABAChat
behaviouratplay Q2: What are some common barriers presented to students with DD   transitioning out of high-school?     #ABAchat
srmccoy @behaviouratplay That is exactly the tool we are developing/testing in   our area, custom tailored to each person. #ABAChat
behaviouratplay A2:  Need to look at pivotal skills   of adulthood.  What skills does our   student need?  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @srmccoy Sounds exciting. Feel like I’m still grasping at straws for   goals. Long-term planning, vision not always happening (cont.) #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior A2: need to focus more on what student can do or can learn to do, instead   of what he can’t do. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @srmccoy (cont’d) mainly because we’re dealing in the short-term with   challenging behaviours. #ABAchat
srmccoy @behaviouratplay Also need to look at what environments they are moving   into and what is necessary there. #ABAChat
behaviouratplay A2: And while it’s difficult to operationally define, measure quality of   life, barriers to achieving QoL must be addressed. #ABAchat
Behaviorhal A2: We need to teach skills that are socially valid… e.g. ADLs, job   prep — not Candyland #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A2: Though, I suspect QoL alligns itself well with breaking down   barriers. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Q3: What are some of those pivotal skills?  What goals might we target in a transition   plan? What’s important to teach? #ABAchat
srmccoy A3: Goals need to be tailored to the person, their abilities and what   they will need in their new setting. #ABAChat
BarefootBehvior A2: Sometimes difficult finding natural environments beyond classroom to   teach essential skills, programming for generality #ABAchat
srmccoy A3: I find students coming into ADT/work settings lacking basic skills   such as writing name, personal care, etc. #ABAChat
zachikkanda A2:Lack of appropriate/functional vocational training & too much   focus on academic training in H.S. not enough on adaptive behavior #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A3: Big, ever-learning goals I always come back to: functional   communication skills, self-regulation skills, independent leisure  #ABAchat
srmccoy @zachikkanda This, very much this! #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @srmccoy We’ll often work on establishing personal-ID program.  Name, address, phone number, parent’s   name(s). #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Q4: Have you participating in person-centred planning sessions?  How has that gone?  What outcomes came of it? #ABAchat
zachikkanda @BarefootBehvior Totally agree. I’m always looking for activities outside   the classroom for my learners. Community often resistant. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @zachikkanda @barefootbehvior At times we do some outreach, mini PD   session on needs of our classes to be out in their community.  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @zachikkanda Many times I’ve handed out business cards in the moment,   invite our neighbours to learn more about what we’re doing.  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A4: participated in a couple person-centred planning sessions. Saw family   shift focus on academics to “I want my son to be happy”. #ABAchat
zachikkanda A3:Programming that addresses service coordination (e.g., addressing   employer concerns) as well as promoting family involvement. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A4: Some of the outcomes identified was a need to continuously expand   student’s communication; give him skills to “talk” …. #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior @behaviouratplay Good idea. Inform, reduce stigma, invite collaboration   and assistance. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A4: (cont’d), from there we broke down skill into its individual parts   and each took a role in teaching a skill.    #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Transition to adulthood for learners with #ASD with @PeterGerhardt1:   http://t.co/154f62ow  #ABAchat
zachikkanda Has anyone had any success with locating volunteer opportunities for   adolescent learners? #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @zachikkanda start in the school – work in the library, office. Have a   great Work Experience prgm that sets up plcmnts in community #ABAchat
behaviorbabe #ABAChat – The Infamous “Dracut Case” -shaping laws in #MA   & other states re: #transitions #transitionplanning   http://t.co/7zPgtfd6
behaviorbabe RT @behaviouratplay: Transition to adulthood for learners with #ASD with   @PeterGerhardt1: http://t.co/154f62ow    #ABAchat
zachikkanda Links to a couple abstracts for   Gerhardt articles re: transitioning http://t.co/mxD8CHDY http://t.co/TV5Lasto #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Think we need to get the behaviour skills training model out there: job   coaches and potential employers doing it #behavioranalysis #ABAchat
behaviorbabe @zachikkanda I had a student obsessed w/letters, so we took his   hyperfocus on this & taught him to file.  He got a paid job at MIT #ABAChat
zachikkanda @behaviorbabe That’s amazing!  Love   to hear outcomes like that. #ABAchat
zachikkanda @behaviouratplay You’re onto something.    #ABAchat
behaviorbabe Familiarize yourself with the law #neverhurts #oftenhelps #ABAChat   #behavioranalysis #FCSN #transition planning http://t.co/mLOLOrYx
behaviouratplay Q5: What role does #ABA have in transition planning. How can our   practices be used?  #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior @behaviorbabe Great example of building on what student CAN do, shaping   into an employability skill! #ABAchat
behaviorbabe A5: Social validity #transition #planforfuture …this is a socially   significant area where change is needed #behavioranalysis #ABAChat
behaviorbabe A5: Focus on student strengths, help program for sR+ likely to be found   in natural environment, measure change #ABAChat #pivotalbehaviors
zachikkanda So grateful that this discussion is going on! Such an important issue.   You are all awesome. Unfortunately, have to bid adieu. #Work #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A5: Task analysis and chaining of specific work skills; use of BST model   for soft skills needed on the job, post-secondary #ABAchat
behaviorbabe @behaviorbabe @behaviouratplay – what are the laws surrounding   #transition planning in #Canada? #behavior #ABAChat
NataliJewel @zachikkanda Contact local colleges, churches, synagogues, &   organizations. Start w/ a small task with built in reinforcement. #ABAChat
behaviorbabe Sorry I could only stop in for a few –down to the wire w/final   dissertation revisions #behavioranalysis #funNEVERstops #ABAChat Good night!
behaviouratplay A5: Interesting caveat on person-centered planning. Still a need for   stimulus preference Ax in environment person transitioning to  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Q6: Work placements: what are people’s thoughts on paychecks, earning a   livable wage? Do you advocate for $$ being paid out? #ABAchat
jimmyJJbond Join the convo! RT @behaviouratplay: Q5: What role does #ABA have in   transition planning. How can our practices be used?  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Thanks for joining in @zachikkanda and @behaviorbabe.  Agreed – an important discussion.  Small changes now…  #ABAchat
jimmyJJbond @behaviouratplay I’m curious, what would be the alternative? #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A5: My thought is that the job experience should be authentic. Person is   contributing to organization’s success; therefore $ earned #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @jimmyJJbond I worry some placements may be “charity case” and   “make work project” therefore no wage to be offered. #ABAchat
jimmyJJbond @behaviouratplay I absolutely agree! Otherwise, in my opinion, it’s   basically free labor. We don’t want to go down that road. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @jimmyJJbond But since the goal might be to have place to gain   experience, maybe take it w/o expectation to get paid. #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior A6: If worker not compensated for work done then they’re being taken   advantage of, and shame on us for not advocating! #ABAchat
jimmyJJbond @behaviouratplay ah, I see your point. I didn’t think about that aspect   #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior A6: although I’ve seen programs where student gets school credits for   learning work skills on site, internship of sorts. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @BarefootBehvior Agreed. Much more work on our part to make these   opportunities available with compensation built in. #ABAchat
jimmyJJbond @BarefootBehvior I’m with you on that. My thoughts exactly. I think that   opens the door to an entirely different set of problems #ABAchat
NataliJewel @behaviouratplay I agree! Client should be paid for their work like   anyone else. Do you have client and employer sign a contract? #ABAChat
BarefootBehvior A6: student then has potential for long term hire in which monetary   compensation is given. #ABAchat
jimmyJJbond @behaviouratplay maybe it doesn’t have to be money, but some form of   payment should be given. School credit, or something maybe. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @NataliJewel Hope we get to that point. Not sure what our Work Experience   placements arrange since its education-system based. #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Okay #behaviouranalysis tweeps!    I’ve been on Twitter all evening.    Time for a rest.  Thanks for the   chat this evening!   #ABAchat
behaviouratplay If you’re just joining the discussion, please  feel free to weigh in a response with   hashtag  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Our next #ABAchat is on Monday. @JHyfler is hosting a discussion on use   of praise – what does the research say? #ABAchat
BarefootBehvior @NataliJewel Our transition dept. has been using employer/employee   contracts this year, establish all parameters before start. #ABAchat
jimmyJJbond RT @behaviouratplay: Our next #ABAchat is on Monday. @JHyfler is hosting   a discussion on use of praise – what does the research say? #ABAchat
behaviouratplay Transition Planning Resource Guide for identified students in Ontario:   http://t.co/8jPexAdR  #ABAchat #Sped
NataliJewel @BarefootBehvior Exactly! That’s great! #ABAChat
globalautism Sorry we missed you at #ABAchat tonight. Had a Supervision Q&A   call at the same time!  #poorplanning   #nexttime #greattopic Thank you!
behaviorbabe @globalautism You can contribute after the fact by replying to Q’s with   your A’s and using (hashtag ABAChat) #ABAChat #behavioranalysis
puzzlingalong @zachikkanda @BarefootBehvior    #abachat our community open to it! just takes a few contacts w/civic   assoc, like-minded leaders/biz owners
puzzlingalong @zachikkanda @BarefootBehvior    #abachat exactly our spec ed lead, pupil pers director attended civic   assoc meeting & recd numerous ops
puzzlingalong @behaviouratplay #abachat maybe in high school years mostly   internship/occ skills. then after transition and aging out, paid jobs?!
puzzlingalong @behaviouratplay #abachat A5 goals of increasing time on task, checking   schedule, & completing tasks independently shaped with ABA
puzzlingalong @zachikkanda #abachat our #kpsd district started w/in house historical   museum then went out to diner, hardware store in our town.
puzzlingalong @behaviouratplay A3 #abachat time on task w/o prompts, checking schedule,   following schedule independently, completing work tasks indep
puzzlingalong @behaviouratplay @srmccoy A1 #abachat #jobcoach is key and opportunities   in community for lifeskills students before they age out.

ABA Chat: ASD Symptomology vs Behavior History

Click the link if you prefer to view the transcript in Excel format. 2013_02_04 ASD Symptomology vs Behavior History, please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below.

From User Tweet
jawsers #behavioranalysis #someecards #ABAChat http://t.co/Ecq5pJII | Twicsy, the   Twitter Pics Engine
Behaviorhal #ABAchat tonight, 9pm est! @JHyfler leading discussion on ASD   symptomatology vs. behaviour history #behavioranalysis via @behaviouratplay
behaviorbabe RT @Behaviorhal: #ABAchat tonight, 9pm est! @JHyfler leading discussion   on ASD symptomatology vs. behaviour history #behavioranalysis via   @behaviouratplay
welchmj RT @Behaviorhal: #ABAchat tonight, 9pm est! @JHyfler leading discussion   on ASD symptomatology vs. behaviour history #behavioranalysis via   @behaviouratplay
WisconsinABA RT @Behaviorhal: #ABAchat tonight, 9pm est! @JHyfler leading discussion   on ASD symptomatology vs. behaviour history #behavioranalysis via   @behaviouratplay
behaviorbabe If you could spend an hour with a (living) leader in our field, who would   you choose to meet? Why? #behavioranalysis #ABAChat
JHyfler Excited for tonight’s #ABAChat @behaviorbabe @behaviouratplay
think_inclusive RT @behaviouratplay: #ABAchat picks up tomorrow 9 pm EST! @JHyfler is   leading a discussion on ASD symptomatology vs. behaviour history.   #behavioranalysis
JHyfler Welcome, esteemed colleagues, to this night’s #ABAChat. Tonight, we will   be discussing ASD symptomatology and learning histories.
JHyfler Why don’t we start off with a some quick introductions. Just the basics,   who you are, what you do, anything else pertinent… #ABAChat
abirchmeier Hi, I’m Angela. Work in a center based ABA program, working toward BCaBA   certification. #ABAChat #ABAchat
JHyfler Hi, Angela. Welcome. We started   right on time, and expecting some intermitten participation at the front end.   #ABAChat
Behaviorhal Hi, I’m Hal, working on board certification, among other things 🙂  #ABAchat
JHyfler I am Joshua, currently a front line therapist at a pediatric clinic, M.Ed   candidate, and looking for BCBA cert. after my ed. progrm #ABAChat
JHyfler Welcome, Hal. #ABAChat
JHyfler While we wait for trickle in, I’d like to preface that this isn’t lit.   based per sey. It’s meant to be more discussion/conceptual #ABAChat
JHyfler And then hopefully leading to some applied compentencies #ABAChat
JHyfler *competencies #ABAChat
JHyfler Ok, well, why don’t we just start right in. The beginning will be the   normal Q&A — please respond as such — Q1 –> A1 #ABAChat
behaviouratplay Hi everyone!  Tricia-Lee, working   towards board certification. Currently consult in #sped classrooms.  #abachat
JHyfler Hi Tricia-Lee — our intrepid organizer! #ABAChat
JHyfler Q1: Are we all familiar with the three core deficits of an ASD? #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @JHyfler thanks for the welcome! #abachat
abirchmeier A1: communication, social skills, restricted interests/repetitive   behaviors  #ABAchat
JHyfler @Abirchmeier — Exactly, thank you. #ABAChat
JHyfler Q2: What are some common symptoms you see in your clients as they relate   to those core areas? #ABAChat
behaviouratplay A1: If referring to DSM criteria: 1) communication; 2) social skills; 3)   repetitive restrictive behaviors. #abachat
JHyfler I am thinking along the lines of stereotypies, lack of joint attention,   seemingly endless stacking, etc. #ABAChat
JHyfler Let me rephrase, what are some of the atypical behaviors you commonly see   in your clientel? #ABAChat
abirchmeier A2: Delayed verbal skills, lack of eye contact with/awareness of peers,   repetitive manipulation of toys/objects in lieu of play #ABAchat
JHyfler Perfect, definitely common. #ABAChat
behaviouratplay A2: rituals, insistence on sameness, idiosyncratic language, maladaptive   coping behaviours. #abachat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay For sure, #ABAChat
JHyfler Q3: If we can agree that the brain of a child with an ASD is atypically   wired, where does learning history start to play a role? #ABACHat
JHyfler Re: Q3: no right answer, we’re getting into the discussion groove at this   point #ABAChat
JHyfler I think that the brain of a child with an ASD increases a probability of   atypical behaviors but that it’s still a result of history #ABAChat
JHyfler When we consider the plasticity of the brain, it seems more to do with   the history of SR at a certain point than “symptoms” #ABAChat
behaviouratplay A3: learning history in the maintenance and generalization of responses   with particular Sds #abachat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay especially as it relates to automatic functions #ABAChat
abirchmeier A3: Learning history still applies. Although learned responses and   reinforcers may be atypical, they still come from somewhere. #ABAchat
JHyfler e.g., the common symptoms #ABAChat
JHyfler excuse me, the common manifestation of “symptoms” #ABAChat
JHyfler Incidental learning seems to play more a role in the maintenance for   these learners – I flapped, it felt good AND someone ran over! #ABAChat
JHyfler It would also seem that these histories are harder to “undo”   because so many see it as merely something that “they do” #ABAChat
behaviouratplay A3: the brain wired to attend to certain stimuli over others; preference   for certain reinforcers  #abachat
JHyfler Respect automatically maintained bx that appear atypical but don’t be   resigned to the fact it needs to be a HUGE part of life #ABAChat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay Great compliment to the point. We know the brain is   different, but the brain is a muscle, something we can work #ABAChat
JHyfler Q4: thinking about whose society is deeming what is socially valid where   do we draw the line in programming v. deprogramming skills #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @JHyfler can’t possibly account for every bit of learning that occurred.   Make data-informed guess re: response chains, functions. #ABAchat
JHyfler Many self-advocates will tell you to celebrate stereotypy, I agree, in   some instances #ABAChat
abirchmeier A4: Target reduction of behaviors that actually interfere with learning   or are highly disruptive; others may not be such a big deal #ABAchat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay I tend to agree. Also adding that learning history which   leans towards maladaptive BX needs to be stopped. #ABAChat
JHyfler I get people who wil ask “Oh, a child with autism, so they don’t   speak and they bang their heads” #ABAChat
JHyfler @abirchmeier I agree with that, too! Is it causing harm, interfereing, or   unnecessarily discrepant from their peers #ABAChat
JHyfler Q5: In respecting certain typical BXs of ASD, if I can teach you a faster   more acceptible functionally equal replacement, should I? #ABAChat
abirchmeier A4: Sometimes we expect too much of our kids with ASD.   “Typical” children wiggle, are loud, have occasional quirky   behaviors, etc #ABAchat
behaviouratplay A4: socially valid behaviour to target = skills that provide community   access while addressing the barriers to this access. #ABAchat
JHyfler When do I recognize that you have been practicing atypical BX for 11   years now, is that because of your ASD or contingent learning #ABAChat
JHyfler Now, this is hard stuff! I need to be a competent AND compassionate   professional #ABAChat
behaviouratplay A4: and of course anything that is unsafe to self or others (which   usually results in restrictive, intrusive practices). #ABAchat
JHyfler We know that there is increase myeleinated matter in the brain, maybe the   route for MO to provide eye contact SUPER long! #ABAChat
Behaviorhal @abirchmeier absolutely agree! #ABAchat
JHyfler Learning in this population very sensitive — may only take a single   instance for inadvertent SR to cause a spiral #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @JHyfler I agree. While a diagnosis may explain why, it does not explain   how and therefore what details of response chain to change #ABAchat
JHyfler In trying to teach replacement for toe walking, learner accidentally   bumps into a wall and I stop yelling at them for toe walking #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @JHyfler multiple exposures to the same Sd–>bx–>Sr and we   now have an individual “insisting on sameness”. #ABAchat
JHyfler Or, I make eye contact with you, and 10 of my favorite teletubbies come   barging into the room #ABAChat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay Next to competeing stereotypies, rigidity equally as   difficult — need to REALLY think hard on programming #ABAChat
JHyfler i’d follow by asking, where does rigidity come from Is it a symptom that   I get stuck in wanting sameness where does that come from? #ABAChat
JHyfler Theoretically, SDs as signaling SR available, should be potential SDs   during learning phases, otherwise, they’d already be BXing #ABAChat
JHyfler Shouldn’t I just be able to SDelta and the rigidity goes away? #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @JHyfler I’ve often wondered if impaired joint attention results in lack   of learning flexible, alternative uses of common stimuli. #ABAchat
JHyfler Then DRO a little, and we’re all cured?! #ABAChat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay — Interesting point re stimulus/JA Maybe ASD causes   stimuli to share formal similarities that we don’t see #ABAChat
abirchmeier Sorry all, time for me to duck out. Thanks @JHyfler for moderating   tonight. Good night! #ABAchat
behaviouratplay @JHyfler except are we sure we achieve an Sdelta? What aspect of stimulus   has the control? Does that aspect show up elsewhere? #ABAchat
JHyfler @abirchmeier — Thanks for participating! Hope to see you again soon!   #ABAChat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay maybe lack of training with conditional discriminations   — back to learning history! #ABAChat
iSolutionsASD @JHyfler Have you been successful w/ reducing and/or eliminating toe   walking that is automatically reinforced? #ABAChat
JHyfler @iSolutionsASD Never. #ABAChat.
behaviouratplay @JHyfler yup! Issue not on the autistic brain to change but for us as   teachers/therapists to create optimal learning enviro. #ABAchat
JHyfler Most interventions never get close to teaching a faster functionally   equivalent alternative – would probably need some UR to happen #ABAChat
JHyfler In absence of toe walking #ABAChat
JHyfler I think in hitting automatic stuff, the faster part is the key — hand   flap waaayy faster than saying “Yippie” for limited vocal #ABAChat
JHyfler The main point of this all, for me, that we need to respect the   manifestation of ASD symptoms, but know that the brain is a muscle. #ABAChat
JHyfler I don’t need to “cure” autism, but I do need to provide a   quality of life across the life-span #ABAChat
JHyfler If symptoms are interfereing, we can use strengths to decrease deficits   #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @JHyfler and unless person will participate in their own self-mgmt,   establishing alt. contingencies, likely not going to change. #ABAchat
JHyfler @behaviouratplay If you try to deprogram some of my quirks, I’m gonna get   real pissed real fast 🙂 #ABAChat
JHyfler Respect the DX, but work towards meaningful BX #ABAChat
behaviouratplay @jhyfler …assuming using reinforcement based strategies (no   punishment).  #ABAchat
behaviouratplay RT @JHyfler: Respect the DX, but work towards meaningful BX #ABAChat
iSolutionsASD @JHyfler Minimal success w/ students who toe walk -verbal cues and shoe   weights. More concerned w/ my 5 yr old who toe walks. #ABAChat
ajpetralia RT @JHyfler: I don’t need to “cure” autism, but I do need to   provide a quality of life across the life-span #ABAChat
JHyfler Well. I think that we’ll end here. Getting late. Hope it was fruitiful. I   know I got a lot out of it! Thanks! #ABAChat
behaviorbabe Q1: 3 Core deficits of #autism @abirchmeier: A1: comm, social skills,   restricted interests/repetitive bx    #ABAchat #behavioranalysis
behaviouratplay Thanks for the chat @JHyfler. Good discussion, chat about our   science!  #ABAchat #behavioranalysis

Question of the Week: Essential Skills for Parents and Teachers

Parenting or teaching a child with emotional and behavioral deficits can be challenging on many levels. What 3 essentials skills (or group of skills) are necessary to be an effective parent or teacher of students with emotional behavior disorders?

Back it Up: Positive Practice in Action

20130104-162714.jpgUnder most circumstances, I recommend positive reinforcement strategies to foster behavior. Punishment is the application of or the removal of an event or stimulus that reduces the future frequency of a behavior. It has been used to reduce disruptive, annoying, and self-injurious behaviors. The term punishment has come to take on a negative connotation due its misuse over the years. However, when used correctly and ethically, certain forms of punishment have been shown to be very effective changing behavior.

Today I’m going to talk about what I call “Back it Up”. This is a term I use when I want a student (or my own kids) to “fix” a problem behavior, usually one that creates a problem for others. It is based on a behavior analytic procedure called overcorrection. Overcorrection consists of restitutional overcorrection and/or positive practice overcorrection. It combines the reductive effects of punishment and the educative effects of positive practice. I’m sure many of you have heard the stories of the child caught smoking and then having to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes. The difference here is that you want the person to practice the correct behavior. Clearly they already know how do it incorrectly, so I wouldn’t have the child practice the incorrect one.

“Back it Up” can occur in several forms. One form is restitution, which is having the person do what a normal individual might do to correct a situation. A child knocks over a another child’s toys, he picks them up. Restitution is intended to help the individual experience the effort needed to restore the damage and may cause them not to repeat the behavior because of the inconvenience of correcting or rectifying the situation. This may cause the person to realize that time and effort are needed to correct irresponsible action. Combine this with a caring atmoshpere and the person may decide to take responsibility for his/her actions. This makes this form of punishment better than other forms because of the intention to teach appropriate behavior and responsibility for ones actions. This is more of a treatment package because it’s not solely a punishment procedure, rather it’s a combination of positive punishment and positive reinforcement. You’re adding an aversive event, having to clean up the toys (punishment), but also providing positive feedback for doing it correctly (positive reinforcement). In Love and Logic terms this is referred to as the Energy Drain.

Another form of “Back it Up” is restitutional overcorrection, where the person corrects the product of their misbehavior by restoring the situation to not just as-good-as, but a better state from before the event. If student were to write on his desk, cleaning the desktop would be considered restitution. However, having the student clean all of the desktops in the classroom is restitutional overcorrection. During a tantrum a student might knock over a chair. Restitutional overcorrection would be that the student would then have to straighten all the chairs in the classroom. If the student yells an insult, he may then have to give a compliment to everyone in class, or give several compliments to the offended person.

The third form of “Back it Up” is positive practice overcorrection. In this situation, the person practices an activity using the appropriate desired behavior. Repeatedly placing trash into the trash container. A student who repeatedly enters a classroom loudly might be required to practice the appropriate steps of entering the classroom and being seated. Part of the intervention is predicated on having the person do what a normal individual might do to avoid the situation. As part of a debrief, I might say, “We could do it this way once, or we can practice doing it many times” (notice I don’t say how many times, this is a deviation from the literature which supports setting a number or length of time). A student who repeatedly hugs people without consent, might need to practice asking and accepting being told no.

Recommendations for implementing a “Back it Up” intervention:

1. Continuously and systematically monitoring in order to provide prompts during restitution or positive practice. When behaviors occur at a high rates, differential reinforcement procedures such as DRO, DRI may be a better option, instead of overcorrection. Whenever possible reinforce incompatible behavior, or behaviors that cannot occur at the same time as the problem behavior. (i.e. having hands in lap cannot happen at same time as scratching you)

2. The person may, and can often times be expected to, refuse to cooperate at first. They may be disruptive such as cry, scream, and whine or even escalate to physically aggressive behaviors. This can be reduced by being prepared, offering limited structured choices, or having students setting overcorrection as part of a goal for changing their behavior. The use of positive verbal prompts and authority statements as well as providing time-out first or during overcorrection helps to minimize disruptions. Consistently applying the intervention helps reduce problems in the long term.

3. Selecting and implementing restitutional and positive practice activities can be difficult at times. Considerations must be made for the behavior of concern, the environment, time, availability of staff, materials, etc.

4. If not careful, overcorrection procedures can inadvertently increase the frequency, duration, or intensity of an inappropriate behavior as well as collateral behaviors. An initial increase of behavior or other similar behaviors is sometimes likely due to reinforcing effects created by the amount of attention associated with these interventions. Make sure to provide minimal positive feedback and attention during overcorrection. Also, be sure that this is not the only opportunity the person has to access social forms of reinforcement.

5. Make the practice as closely related to the type of misbehavior as possible. A child may break an item in the classroom and may not be able to replace it, but he could pick up the pieces. He doesn’t just sit against the wall at recess to “think about it”.

6. Keep observation notes and records, data is essential to determining the success or failure of your intervention.

7. Have I mentioned the word positive (not to be confused with reinforcing)? An intervention that is negative and aversive may reduce problematic behaviors. However, the chances of teaching new replacement behaviors are less likely since punishment procedures alone do not teach behaviors. There is also a risk of new misbehaviors or an increase escape/avoidance behaviors as a result of aversive interventions. Remember our interventions should never cause harm.

I have used positive practice to train students to use their calming strategies. For example, when they practice using their strategies in a contrived “time out” or self initiated break situation, they receive acknowledgement and positive attention for doing so. A student might use this as they feel a problem is about to occur or they might use it to stop a violent behavior. This strategy could be used prior to an event and help prevent other, and possibly more aversive interventions. It’s also great as a follow up to an apology. An apology is more readily accepted when you “Back it Up”!

This is not intended nor shall it be misconstrued as advice. As always, before engaging in any any major behavior change program you should consult an expert or highly trained professional such as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.


Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., &; W. L. Heward. (2007) Applied behavior analysis Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Education Inc.

Love and Logic http://www.loveandlogic.com