Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Behavior Management Tools

Today, I’d like to present an important behavior management strategy that, as a parent or teacher, should be part of your “tool-box.”

Token Economy: A token economy is a system in which an individual earns tokens for desired behaviors. Once he has collected a predetermined number of tokens he can trade them for an item or activity of his preference.

Tokens begin as essentially neutral stimuli, of little significance in themselves. However, as the tokens become increasingly associated with the reinforcers for which they are exchanged, they become motivating in themselves.
Money is probably the token economy system that is most well-known. There is nothing intrinsically motivating about it. However, because we can use those green papers to buy what we need and want, they can become extremely reinforcing.

Token economies can be used to meet a number of educational and behavioral goals for children:

·        Increased ability to delay gratification: Token systems are a great way to build a child's ability to wait for reinforcing items or activities.
·        Lessened satiation: By increasing the number of responses necessary to obtain a reinforcer, token economies can lower the rate at which the child becomes satiated with a particular form of reinforcement.
·        Increased teaching rate: Rewarding a response with a token is quick, and allows for speedy, more fluid instruction. In most school settings, it's uncommon to see teachers walking around handing out Fruit Loops, or passing out raffle tickets after every correct answer. Using tokens to delay the presentation of those more obvious reinforcers can be less obtrusive in the classroom.
·        Increased selection of reinforcers: Because reinforcement is being delivered after several responses rather than after each response, longer-lasting, possibly more reinforcing items or activities could be chosen for reinforcement. As an example, if one were conducting quick verbal drills, it's probably not effective to use a video as a reinforcer for each correct response. But, if a child finds a video especially rewarding, he may be willing to work for several tokens to earn a chance to watch.

What does a token economy system look like?

Token economy systems can take on a wide variety of forms. They can range from very simple, short-lived systems to much more complex systems that require the child to work for days or even weeks before earning his reward. For examples visit: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1242&bih=599&q=reinforcement+charts&oq

Punch card: Cammie was a girl who was constantly talking out and interrupting the proceedings. A punch card was introduced to help address those issues. Cammie was given punches if she was sitting and listening appropriately. After 18 punches she got a piece of candy and moved on to the next activity. As she progressed with the card, the interval between punches was extended, until she was working at five or more minutes between punches.

Puzzles: I've used puzzles successfully with children with autism and typical primary school kids as well. Take a picture of the preferred activity or item, let’s say computer. Laminate, cut in pieces (the number of pieces varies from child to child), and add Velcro. The child gets a piece of the puzzle for each correct response and can earn prizes for completing the puzzle. On top of the final prize, the puzzles are motivating in themselves.

Money: Money can make a very good token system for kids, especially older kids, where stickers and such might not be as appropriate. Working with money is a very functional skill, and using money as a token system lends itself to lots of great math concepts (making change, budgeting, etc.). For instance, you could set the price for a jump on the trampoline at five nickels, but might only hand out pennies as reinforcement. The child needs to figure out when he's got enough pennies to make a nickel and cash them in.

Guidelines for creating and using token economy systems

·        Token systems should clearly provide a visual representation of how much the child has accomplished and how much more he needs to accomplish before reinforcement is delivered.
·        Token systems are most effective at maintaining positive behaviors when they are specific to each child, address specific behaviors, and clearly communicate the expectations and rules to the child.
·        As when using any reinforcement, choice should be as big a part of your token systems. With simple systems have the child choose the item or activity he'd like to be working towards. With more complex systems you may have a "menu" of reinforcement posted along with the prices of various items (bubbles might cost 15 tokens, a video 60, a trip to McDonald's 150).

·        Pair verbal praise with the presentation of the token. Giving a "Good sitting!" or "Great reading!" will remind the child why he is getting the token and, when tokens have been established as secondary reinforcers, can help establish social praise as a reinforcer as well.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Non-compliance Behaviors

Non-compliance is universal and normal. It is a problem when it is excessive and disrupts the daily life. Children have individual personalities and their own likes and dislikes. However, children need to follow reasonable directions from parents, teachers, and other adults. When they don’t it is a source of frustration and stress to adults’ life.

Non-compliance may have many causes. For example:
- Your child may feel that she has little control of many aspects of her life.
- Your child may have a skill deficit and could resist directions because they are difficult or overwhelming for her and so, may not be able to organize herself to begin the task.
- Your child may be experiencing stress at school and then express it through non-compliance at home.
- Your child may be sensing your stress.
- Your child may have a personality that leads her to be non-compliant as an expression of independence. 

Most disobedience can be avoided all together or at least reduced by taking the following steps:
1.     Try breaking down complex tasks into small steps, and ask your child to do one at the time. Cleaning up a messy room, for example, can be overwhelming. By starting with one or two toys or pieces of clothe can be very helpful in achieving compliance.

2.     Give your child choices when possible. For example, instead of telling her what to wear, ask her if she prefers the red or blue shirt.

3.     When giving your child a direction, be sure it is a realistic expectation and not a way of venting your frustration.

4.     Be sure the direction is clear and concise. Establish eye contact first. Start with a positive comment or interaction before giving a direction to perform a non-preferred activity.

5.     Be consistent. If you allowed your child to jump on the couch yesterday do not expect her to stop when you ask her today. If you discontinue the direction because your child throws a tantrum you are teaching her that you don’t mean what you say.

6.     Give your child time to process the direction. Asking your child to stop watching TV right now might be a recipe for disaster. Prime her by telling her how much time is left until TV is over. Tell her it will be time to come to dinner after the video is over. In that way you provide your child with time to prepare for the transition.

7.     Some children may need visual schedules along with verbal directions. In addition having a picture schedule provides predictability and thus, reduces anxiety. Visit your child’s classroom or Google “Visual Schedules” for creative and motivating ideas.

8.     Motivate by making a preferred item or activity contingent on following directions. “First eat your vegetables and then you can have dessert.”

9.     Avoid giving directions when frustrated or stressed. If you are late to school asking your child to put on her shoes is not a good idea. Put them on yourself.

By following these relative simple strategies you’ll make your life easier and have more time to enjoy your kids. And don’t tell yourself you don’t have the time. Dealing with challenging behaviors is more time consuming and damages the parent-child relationship.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

No-Yelling Morning Routine:

Tomorrow is Monday and thus, it’s time to go back to school. To help you get out of the house in the morning without losing your sanity or your temper, follow these suggestions:

- Start a consistent daily schedule. Preparing your children ahead of time and letting them know what is expected of them will make it easier when the day arrives. Having a predictable and consistent daily schedule builds confidence in a child, decreases anxiety, and  encourages cooperation. When a child can anticipate future events it increases his sense of control and independence.

- Using a visual schedule is a great way to demonstrate to a child what is expected of him.  Prepare the chart together with your child using pictures or drawings of familiar activities such as going to the potty, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast. For ideas on visual schedules, visit Google/Images/Visual charts.

- Have a desired activity follow an undesired activity can help avoid power struggles. For example, if your child is allowed to watch TV in the morning, make sure getting dressed and eating breakfast precede the reward.

- It is very important to allow time for transitions between activities. Don’t whisk your child away while he/she is playing and shove him into the car. Never interrupt a preferred activity. Give him/her a 10-15-minutes warning that he/she will need to turn off the TV or put his/her toys away and it will be time to leave the house to get into the car

- Build choices into the schedule so you child can feel some control.  Allow your child to choose between 2 healthy breakfast options, such as cereal or oatmeal,  or wearing the red or the blue shirt.

- Wake up 15 minutes earlier so you are not rushed.

- It is always helpful if you have prepared the backpack and anything else that needs to go to school the night before.

- Be ready for some “hiccups” every once in a while. Think about them as opportunities to teach.  Remain calm and keep consistency. Kids test limits every so often. You just have to get through the storm. Every time it rained, it stopped.

The morning routines should go smoothly most often than not. If this is not the case, revamp the routine. Do not keep doing the same when it is not working and expecting changes. The way we adults interact with our children is the reason they behave how they do. And keep in mind that you have the option to consult the experts. We are here to assist you.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA