Addressing Challenging Behavior - Part 5
Hello again everyone. I'm still Chris Filler, and we are still talking about behavior. And this is webcast five. By this time in the series, you know that you need to have completed webcast one through four before beginning webcast five. Today we will be discussing reinforcement, and if at any point the information moves too fast, just pause the video to give yourself time to review before continuing.
For those of you that are working through the process with someone you know or support, since that last webinar you filled out Setting Events and Triggers that occur prior to the targeted behavior. In this section, we are going to break down the consequence area to better understand what is occurring and where interventions need to target. When attempting to understand challenging behaviors of individuals with more complex needs, it is often necessary to look even more closely at factors surrounding the behavior.
Important information may be buried very deeply below the surface. Much like the bottom of the iceberg that we are comparing the behaviors to in previous webinars. Remember when we talked about consequences? Those are the things that happen after a behavior and maybe influencing the behavior. They have a connection to the behavior. Sometimes the word "consequences" is only used to refer to negative or undesirable results, like losing free time or having to redo an assignment, but in this process we refer to anything that happens after the behavior that has an effect on the behavior as a consequence.
So let's look further under the surface to consider what impact the reinforcing consequences have on the identified behavior. Reinforcement can be either purposeful or unintentional events that encourage a person to continue or repeat a behavior. They reinforce or encourage the behavior to continue.
Here's an example. Maybe you have a system for earning time on the computer, or earning money to increase homework completion without a fight. That would be a purposeful designed reinforcement plan. Fairly common. Most people easily recognize this type of reinforcement. But what about the unintentional reinforcement?
Think about this example. A student wants the teacher's attention and wants it badly, raising his hand jumping up in his seat, making a little noise does not work, but when he shouts out "teacher. I need help!" she quickly comes to his side to not only assist, but also to quite him down. This shouting seemed to work really well for the student the first time, so he tried it again the next day and the next day there were similar results.
In this case, although she does not approve of his methods to gain attention, the teacher has inadvertently reinforced the shouting behavior by giving him the attention he wanted. So sometimes reinforcement is an effective and positive predetermined process, but sometimes we need to look closely for those events that may be unknowingly providing the person with the reinforcement and thus maintaining that challenging behavior.
Once those are identified, we are able to teach and reinforce new skills and desired behaviors. That is part of the intervention plan we will be developing. So keep in mind these features of reinforcement. It maintains a behavior, helps it to happen again, gives something desirable or allows the avoidance or escape, and might be planned or unintentional. Is that making sense for you? Reinforcement can be discussed in two ways in relation to behavior.
The first way is as part of the assessment process. We identify the reinforcement that is occurring that increases the challenging behavior intentionally or unintentionally. The second way to refer to reinforcement is as part of the support plan. Reinforcement can be a powerful tool that the behavior team intentionally includes in the plan to teach a new skill or behavior. We are going to focus on the first way now, the assessment process. By identifying the reinforcing consequences as part of the assessment you can better understand why the behavior has continued or possibly increased. Let's examine a few situations that demonstrate how we might unintentionally reinforce an unwanted behavior.
For instance, remember the student who screams or yells to get the teacher's attention? The teacher goes to the student and helps with the works so the class is not disrupted. It's likely the student will resort to screaming the next time he needs help, since it worked so well and so quickly the next time. But how about the student who bangs his own head on the desk and is removed from the class by an adult? Again, he maybe also repeating the behavior of head banging in the future. But this time to escape work, not to get attention. There may be a student who learns that she will be sent to the office for cursing in class, and doesn't have to do the assignments then. If this happens a few times she may continue cursing in class because she finds it to be a very effective way to avoid doing the work.
None of the adults in these examples want these behaviors to continue. We never intend to reinforce such actions or reactions, but we do inadvertently reinforce behaviors all the time, which encouraged them to continue. It just happens. So being aware of how this unintentional reinforcement is impacting the behavior is the first step to using reinforcement intentionally as part of the intervention plan.
A word about punishment. In this process, we do not endorse punishment. Punishment is a consequence, as it follows the behavior and can have influence on a behavior. It is meant to decrease it. However, research shows that while punishment may work for a short time, it will not have lasting effects. Punishment also makes it difficult to form a trusting, respectful relationship. For individuals with complex needs especially, punishment does not make change in a meaningful way because it does not teach new skills that are needed.
The behavior process we are teaching is proactive, positive, and does not include punishment. In the packet you downloaded, there is a form that offers guiding questions to help think about and identify potential consequences. These questions, as part of the assessment portion of this process. As you work through possible antecedents and take a look at consequences, always remember that adults and peers often unintentionally influence the challenging behavior. What the people around an individual do before, during, and in response to a behavior can cause it to happen or make things worse and ongoing. We cannot stress it enough. Behavior teams need to carefully examine what others are doing and not just look at the individual.
Let's move on and look at Molly's ABC, with the addition of reinforcement on the consequence side. What do we see that reinforces the challenging behavior? We see that when Molly screams people move away from her. She gets take a break. And she might get to return to the work she was upset about leaving unfinished earlier. There is a good chance Molly will continue to scream, because it functions to give her something she desires or escape something.
We will be talking about the function of behavior very soon. If you are working on this process with an individual, here's your next step. Fill in the reinforcing consequences on this form using the guidance document for identifying consequences and the information in this webcast. Once you work through these steps, you will be ready for webcast six. We hope these beginning steps of the process are making sense as you work through the webcast. When you're ready, Wendy will see you in webcast six.
Look under the surface to better understand factors surrounding the behavior. Consequences happen after and influence the behavior. Understanding consequences helps the team to see what might be reinforcing the target behavior.