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Teaching Skills using Positive Behavior Strategies
The individuals we work with not only need to learn new skills (how to brush their teeth, plan a nutritional
meal, wash their clothes, etc.) but also need to develop more positive attitudes towards the people around
them. They must learn to like themselves, develop a feeling of self confidence. They need to know that someone
likes and cares about them. They must feel successful and be able to say, "Hey look what I did!" If they do not
feel good about themselves, then teaching them new skills will seem to be nearly impossible.
The responsibility for helping the individuals
we work with develop good feelings about themselves lies with the people who support them. "As
a person who provides direct support," you can accomplish this responsibility by developing a positive
relationship with the individual by your words and actions, "I like you", "You are a worthwhile
person", " I know you can do it."
We need to RESPECT AND
VALUE the individuals we work with. They have likes/dislikes, needs, wants, etc. just like anyone else. In order to
identify these and help that person learn to fill them we must develop a relationship with that individual. Remember--We
are here to help "each person" develop their potential as an individual (i.e., We don't build products.
We build relationships and relationships build people!!) Some of the tools we can use to do this are:
1. CONCENTRATE ON THE INDIVIDUAL'S STRENGTHS:
a. When you are with the
individuals, talk about what they can do, don't dwell on
what they cannot do.
are their positive points?
c. What can you and the individual do to further develop these positive points?
2. PRAISE THE INDIVIDUAL
Praise the individuals for the good things they do. Do not assume they know what
they are doing is correct. Praise builds self-confidence. The more things they know they can do, the more they will try. Don't
forget to praise attempts even if they are not successful--praise the fact that they tried. Use the individual's name when
praising him/her. Let them know it is they, as individuals, you are praising. When you praise someone base it on his/her likes.
Likes are the things a person chooses to do or have, that they are willing to work for, and will get obvious pleasure from
(places, events, people, food, objects).
3. BE AWARE OF YOUR VERBAL AND NON-VERBAL ACTIONS:
Some of the strongest communication we give is through our non-verbal
actions, (eye contact, gestures, body language, looks, expressions and body contact). People will pick up on these things
and act accordingly.
a. Are you warm, friendly, and interested?
Do you yell at the individual?
c. Do you look angry?
Are you afraid of the individual?
e. Do you look bored?
4. TREAT THE PERSON AS A PERSON:
How many times do you find yourself giving orders saying, "Do this, Do that." or, maybe
more frequently, "don't do that." Each time you do this, you are really telling someone they cannot do
anything for him/herself and you are talking that person's control from them. No one can learn independence or self-confidence
or trust if someone continually orders them around. It takes away the opportunity to build relationships with people.
b. Try saying, "Could you help
me with this? "I think this a good idea, how about you?"
c. Give choices whenever possible. Don't we all like to have some control over
our own lives?
d. Never talk about an individual in
front of him/her as if he/she isn't there. If you must discuss a person, involve him/her in the conversation with you.
e. Never talk
about an individual's shortcomings in front of other individuals present. Reserve any discussion for a time when others are
not around or when the person can be involved in the discussion (problem solving)
f. Never talk about an individual's problems or
shortcomings you work with/for to any person who is not professionally involved with that person.
Use these tools to positively build relationships and
you may be amazed at the outcome!
What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?
ABA uses positive reinforcements to increase desired
behaviors. A main componet of ABA is breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable components, which promotes increased
success. Following are teaching techniques that can facilitate ABA in teaching new skills.
or Pairing is what the teacher does at the beginning of the time with the child. The teacher
would start by engaging in an activity that gets the child's interest and enthusiasm and then gradually move to other
anything a person is willing to work for such as privileges, a treat, awards, and especially praise. Having
a reinforcer can motivate the person and help them focus on the desired behavior. Typical children often do
chores to earn allowance or privileges. Things such as talking, dressing and eating that would not be "work"
for a typical child can very hard work and stressful for a special needs child. When these basic skills are being
introduced to the child, reinforcers are used. The reinforcer should be given immediately following a desired
behavior to increase the likelihood of the behavior occurring again. A variety of reinforcers should be used. Over
time the frequency of receiving the reforcer can fade once the desired skill becomes mastered.
Prompting is any additional stimulus
that increases the chances of a correct response.
Types of prompts: modeling, physical (pointing or gesturing), verbal, voice inflection, position proximity,
or visual. When introducing a new task, begin with the most obvious physical prompt. Eventually scale the prompt
down to more of a "hint" after the task has been practiced. Always prompt well before the frustration level.
Be careful to give the child opportunities to answer without the prompts to avoid the child becoming prompt dependant.
Fading is a teaching technique
that gradually reduces or withdraws the amount or method of assistance or prompts given to an individual. This
gives the individual the opportunity to become independent.
Discrimination is a strategy that teaches a child to discriminate when
and where an event should happen and what the appropriate environment would be.
ex: The caregiver is teaching the child to properly introduce himself
to people. The caregiver would want to also teach that the child does not introduce himself to strangers without the
Economy is a strategy where "tokens" are used as reinforcers/rewards. Tokens may be check marks
on a board, poker chips, points, stickers or small items. After earning tokens they may be exchanged for items, activities
or privileges. Token economies should never require an individual to earn money or basic necessities that they are already
entitled to receiving.
Errorless Teaching is used when
introducing a child to a new concept. An example would be; after teaching a child the color red the teacher would
show the child the color red and ask, "What color is this?" Then the teacher would immediately say "Red".
Over time the teacher would delay saying the answer to give the child a chance to respond.
Hand-over-hand is used when the
teacher is helping the child get the concept of what is wanted. If the goal is for the child to put one block on top
of the other, to introduce the goal, the teacher would cup the child's hand in hers and with the child, place the block on
top of the other. If the goal is for the child to pick up the toys and the child understands what is wanted but is reluctant
the teacher could do the same technique. If the child physically resists then another method should be used. This technique
as well as any technique can never be done with anger or force on the part of the teacher.
Graduated Guidance is a teaching technique that "fades"
the guidance of a task as the ability to perform the task increases.
ex: The child is learning to sweep the patio. Physical guidance was needed.
The caregiver physically guided the child be providing a constant touch to his elbow. As time went on, the caregiver
used less and less touch. Soon the child would sweep the patio without assistance.
Modeling is when the teacher demonstrates
what is wanted. The expectation is that the child will imitate what was done. The provider's enthusiasm can help
gain the child's interest.
Chaining is a teaching technique
that breaks a task into very small steps. Each step is then taught in sequence. Forward chaining teaches the steps
from beginning of the task to the end. Backward or reverse chaining teaches steps from the end of the task
to the beginning. This technique is good for repetitive tasks that can be worked on over time.
ex: Child is learning to brush
his teeth, but he shows frustration trying to remember everything. The caregiver breaks down the task into steps, such
as picking up the toothbrush, wetting the brush, putting toothpaste on the brush, etc. The caregiver starts with having the
child pick up the brush. When this is mastered, the next step is taught. Then as step one and two are put
together the child is ready to add step three. Giving positive reinforcement will add encouragement and increase the
child's interest in learning the task.
Shaping reinforces efforts to get closer to a desired response. When the task
is introduced, any response that even vaguely resembles the desired response is reinforced. After the response occurs
with regularity, the expectation is stepped up to be closer to the desired response.
ex: The child has a difficult time being in the same area as a group
of people while learning new things. Each time the child walks towards a group of people, positive reinforcement
will be given. Once he is doing this regularly, the child will need to get even closer to the group before the positive
reinforcement is given. Over time the child will be expected to get closer and closer to the group before he is given
is a strategy that is usually the least aversive. It involves taking clues from the environment and modifying the environment
to resolve the current issues and prevent future occurrences of the same issue.
ex: The child cries every time his mother prepares a meal making a stressful
situation for both the child and his mother. After some observation, it is noticed that the child's frustration
seems to happen when his mother leaves his sight. The living room sofa blocked the child's view of his mother.
With some rearranging of furniture, the child can see his mother, his crying stopped and he is able to play in the living
room while his mother prepared meals.
helps with expression of thoughts and feeling productively, avoiding inappropriate verbal or physical actions. When
a person is frustrated or mad (and expresses it physically or with yelling), this strategy may be effective. The
caregiver would engage the individual in conversation and actively listen to the feelings and thoughts being expressed.
The caregiver paraphrases back using action verbs. Expression, empathy and validation of feelings make this a good initial
is a strategy to bring calmness to a situation. This ideally is done more as a preventive measure rather than after
a difficult situation arises, but can be used for both. The caregiver should include discussion of the situation, the
option/alternative choices the individual can make and the positive outcomes that come from the choice made.
Redirection redirects a person
to a variety of options and choices and the person becomes involved in one of the choices. Redirection can be helpful
when a behavior needs to be changed.
Attention is a strategy that minimizes the attention given to undesired behaviors and gives attention to functional
behaviors. This is very powerful. By giving attention to a behavior it can be reinforced. The first step
is to recognize desired and undesired behavior. When a desired behavior is occurring the caregiver should reinforce
with verbal praise and acknowledgement that specifically addresses the behavior. When an undesired behavior is occurring,
the caregiver should give no attention to the individual, turn away and give attention verbally to someone or something else.
The caregiver should be aware of the reaction by the individual. If this method is working, the caregiver may see the
individual looking at or approaching the caregiver and decreasing the undesired behavior. When any of these happen,
the caregiver gives attention again to the individual by telling them that their current specific behavior is good.
Another strategy that works with this is modeling the desired behavior.
Bridging is a strategy used to move from one behavior to a
more positive behavior.
The child flaps his hands when listening to music. The caregiver teaches the child to clap his hands when listening
to the music. The caregiver is giving the child opportunities to move or bridge from one less desirable activity to a
more acceptable activity. For an undesirable behavior to be successfully terminated a replacement
behavior must be taught to take its place.
Voluntary Time Out or Quiet Time is a teaching technique and strategy that either
by request or choice an individual will go to a less reinforcing environment to relax or settle down. After the child
has calmed down for a few minutes, he/she should be ready to return to the original situation. It also provides time
to think about good choices. No forced time outs are ever allowed. This strategy is not used for a punishment,
rather it is used to give the child the chance to redirect his energy and reflect on more positive behaviors.
Situational Support is a strategy
to get the desired behavior by changing the environment. By making elements of the environment conducive to the desired
behavior, the better the results will be.
The child needs to clean his room. The caregiver sits on a chair giving the child verbal direction and prompting him
to pick up the toys. The child does not respond until the caregiver joins the child in picking up the toys.
Generalization Activities is a
strategy to develop activities that require little or no supervision or direction. This gives the individual freedom
to choose an activity when no structured activities are occurring.
ex: The child is pacing around the room, twirling and interrupting others. The
caregiver tried to redirect the child, but his behavior soon started again. The caregiver realized that the child needs
an activity that he could enjoy that did not need direct supervision. A shelf with books and magazines was set-up.
The child now goes to this activity when the caregiver is busy. His pacing, twirling and interrupting others has stopped.
The child seems to enjoy is freedom.
Relaxation Teaching is a
teaching technique to teach relaxation. This typically may involve:
* Teaching to tense and relax muscles and muscle groups in an orderly manner.
* Verbal instructions given in a calm and soothing
* A quiet environment
away from the other people and distractions.
increases the child's knowledge across a variety of different environments and approaches.
Maintenance After the individual
has learned a skill it is important to continue to review the skill regularly to keep up their knowledge of the skill.
Incidental Teaching makes the most
of opportunities in a natural setting.
*Disclaimer: The above collection of information is ACCENT on Family
Care Services' interpretation of information that has come from experience, training and research. Most
of the information comes from The State of Arizona's Division of Developmental Disabilities' Home and Community
Based Skill Building Training Manual. This information is intended for the use of ACCENT and those associated with ACCENT. This
information is not conclusive and is not meant to take the place of information from professionals.