Meme Hieneman, Tracy Raulston, & Laura Strobel 2017-12-15 10:40:51
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AUDIO VERSION OF THE ARTICLE Once broad goals and behaviors of concern are identified, an assessment has been completed to determine the patterns affecting your child’s behavior, and the overall plan has been designed to include proactive, teaching, and management strategies, we turn our attention toward using the plan. Using the plan involves teaching your child skills and other approaches to ensure implementation, which we are calling “Making it Work”. This article will focus on teaching. Teaching involves defining skills you want your child to develop, arranging the environment, prompting behavior, and providing consistent reinforcement. PROACTIVE STRATEGIES When deciding what skills to teach, consider the routines you most want to improve and the functions your child’s behavior may be serving. Skills include replacement behaviors and desired skills. Replacement behaviors give your child more appropriate ways to meet his or her needs for attention, tangible items, sensory outcomes or for escape or avoidance purposes (these are described more fully in the previous article). Desired skills allow your child participate successfully in routines. These skills are often more complex, involving multiple steps. It is important to define skills clearly. Describe behaviors in terms of what you expect your child to say or do, creating step-by-step “task analyses” for more complex skills. Here are some examples: REQUESTING HELP Hand “help card” to adult or point to the area of concern TAKING TURNS Roll the dice Move game piece the correct number of spaces Complete action required on game card Hand the dice to sibling Wait quietly for next turn WASHING HAIR Wet hair thoroughly under stream Step back from stream of water Pick up the shampoo bottle Pour shampoo into palm of hand Rub shampoo throughout hair Rinse hair until suds are gone Turn off the water In this video, the parent talks about her concerns regarding the variety of foods her child will eat and his willingness to sit at meals. Her goals might be for her son to sit at the table when asked, eat the food provided (i.e., including meat, vegetables, fruits and healthy carbs) and remain seated until finished. Once you define the skills, think about whether you should teach the entire skill at once or break it down by step. For example, you might require your child to begin learning how to play a game by only taking three turns before leaving the game. Or you could start teaching washing hair by only working on having your child learning the last steps of hair washing, such as rinsing out the shampoo and turning off the water. Once your child masters these steps, you could then work on shampooing. ARRANGING ENVIRONMENT Next, arrange the environment to help your child be successful in learning. Consider when, where, and with whom the skills are needed – what items are available and challenges you may face. Set up the surroundings and work with others to prepare for teaching. Using the previous examples, you would want to make sure the help card is available and clearly visible when starting a task. You might use a play mat to remind your child where to sit when waiting for a turn. And you could turn on the water and adjust the temperature beforehand, provide a pump bottle to control how much shampoo your child uses, and have a wash cloth handy in case shampoo gets in your child’s eyes. Having everything you need handy and using visual reminders is always helpful. PROMPTING BEHAVIOR Once skills are defined and the environment is arranged, begin teaching the skill to your child. You may prompt your child’s behavior by describing the behavior expectation, showing your child how to do something (i.e., modeling), using gestures such as pointing or moving your body to reorient your child, and physically guiding your child. Provide the least help necessary for your child to succeed, gradually increase your expectations, and reduce your prompts as soon as you can. PROVIDING REINFORCEMENT For new skills to develop, you must provide reinforcement immediately following desired behavior. In teaching replacement behaviors, provide your child with what is requested (e.g., attention, items, breaks – and in the example above, help). When teaching desired skills, use other rewards that you know to be highly motivating. For example, in the examples above, , you may provide descriptive praise for handing over the dice and waiting during turn-taking and completion of each step of the shower sequence. At the end of the task, a more valuable reward is warranted. For example, you might offer a preferred snack or access to the iPpad® after challenging tasks. When teaching new skills, it is important to reward every success. Over time, you can reduce extra rewards and shift to more natural consequences. Part of effective reinforcement is withholding rewards for mistakes, resistance, and after problem behavior. When your child makes an error or acts out, redirect him or her to the task and withhold your praise and rewards until your child is cooperative. In this video, you will see the parent teaching her children to cooperate and communicate when playing cars together. Notice how clearly she states her expectations and prompts and rewards positive behavior. Using effective teaching strategies is an important part of parenting. When you identify important skills to teach and define them clearly, set up the environment for success, and use effective prompting and reinforcement, children will gain competence. If you are not making the progress you had hoped, reconsider these elements of teaching. In the next article, we will provide more tips for using your entire plan consistently and focus on making adaptations to the plan and over time and in different contexts. Meme Hieneman, has a Ph.D. in Special Education and is nationally certified as a behavior analyst. She has published a variety of articles, chapters, and books including “Parenting with Positive Behavior Support: A Practical Guide to Resolving Your Child’s Difficult Behavior.” In her professional career, Meme has worked with children with severe behavior problems for more than 20 years. LISTEN TO AUDIO VERSION OF ARTICLE
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