Behavior Strategies and Solutions – by Brandon May, MSW, BCBA, LBA

Expanding skills and improving behavior are goals for many families caring for an individual with a Developmental Disability. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) provides a structured approach to improving challenging behaviors and promoting skill acquisition in the home, school, and the community. In this blog Brandon May, President of Elite ABA Services, provides his personal experiences with Developmental Disabilities as well as an overview of ABA including defining the approach, the causes of behavior, and outlining basic behavioral principles to change behavior. For more in depth information or to schedule a FREE consultation, please visit Elite ABA’s website or contact Brandon at bmay@EliteABA.com.
Background
Being the father of a son with a Developmental Disability, as well as a Board Certified and Licensed Behavior Analyst, gives me a unique perspective on treating behavior challenges and skill deficits in a family setting. I understand the challenges families face because I have experienced them first hand. I know what it is like to have a child who did not speak until the age of 3. I know what it is like to have my child cry for hours and not know why. I know what it is like to have my son struggle to socialize with other kids. But I also know the joy of hearing my son say, “I love you,” for the first time. These moments led me to establish Elite ABA Services. I want to use the skills I have gained through my personal experiences and 11 years working with individuals with Developmental Disabilities to help other families experience success.

About Our System
Elite ABA Services is an agency providing family focused behavior support and skill building to individuals of all ages. We use a 10-step method for creating behavior change that is based in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Our Behavior Specialists use an approach that has proven to be effective through decades of research and has helped our clients become more successful at home, school, and the community.

ABA is a treatment that utilizes the principles of learning to create meaningful and sustained behavior change. It creates behavior change through positive reinforcement and environmental modifications. Children, adolescents, and adults participating in ABA therapy show an increase in skill acquisition and a decrease in challenging behaviors. ABA has been shown to reduce challenging behaviors such as:

  • Tantrums
  • Aggression
  • Self-injury
  • Inappropriate Vocalizations
  • Property Destruction

It has also been shown to effectively promote skill acquisition in areas such as:

  • Communication
  • Daily living skills
  • Eating programs
  • Academic skills

ABA has been endorsed as an effective treatment by, The American Medical Association, The American Psychological Association, The National Institute of Mental Health, and The Center for Disease Control.

Causes of Behavior
All behavior happens for a reason. Behavior is created and maintained by environmental events that surround it. There are 4 functions or reasons for behavior:

  • Attention-kid screams, mom checks to see if she is ok.
  • Tangible-child throws a temper tantrum in the candy aisle. Dad buys him a candy bar.
  • Escape-student makes inappropriate joke during math. He is sent into the hall.
  • Automatic-rocking back and forth, hand flapping, etc.

Creating Behavior Change
Because behavior happens for a reason, we can teach more appropriate alternative behaviors that serve the same purpose.

For example:

  • A child who screams and cries to get his mother’s attention could be taught to raise their hand to more appropriately request attention.
  • An individual who becomes aggressive during chores to escape this task can be taught to appropriately request a break.

Reinforcement is the key to promoting behavior change! Positive reinforcement is providing something contingent on behavior that increases the future likelihood of that behavior. If behavior change is not occurring assess the effectiveness of the reinforcer. You may need something more valuable. There are many strategies used to create behavior change. The key to any system is reinforcement.

Success Stories
Our Behavior Specialists will help identify the causes of behavior and develop customized programs to change it. Some examples for how we have created behavior change include:

  • When treatment began with a 4-year old boy, his vocabulary was 1-2 words. In the first month of treatment he began spontaneously requesting items.
  • An adolescent diagnosed with Autism, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder increased his independence in showering while decreasing the time necessary to complete this task.
  • An 8-year old boy decreased his levels of inappropriate language from 15 incidents per day, to 0 over a 30-day period.
  • An adult in a Day Services Program has gone from complete isolation and engaging in no skill programs to working on functional skills with his peers for an entire 6 hour day.
  • An adolescent in an Independent Living Center increased the frequency he completed hygiene tasks and cleaned his room.