ABA - Choices

Autism: Fostering Positive
Behavior Through Routines and
Kristin McCoy, MS, BCBA
Stephanie Shrock, MA
Autism Basics
• Neurodevelopmental Disorder
• Includes 3.5 diagnostic areas
• Communication
• Socialization
• Repetitive pattern of behavior/interests/activities
• Sensory needs
• Affects 1 in 68 (1 in 42 boys; 1 in 189 girls)
• No cure
• Affects all races, religions, socioeconomic status
Applied Behavior Analysis
• ABA is the use of behavior analytic methods and research findings to change socially
important behaviors in meaningful ways. ABA breaks a task down into its smallest
components, builds each component then chains it all together.
• Discrete Trial Training (DTT)-a clear instruction is given to a child and the child is
reinforced for the completion of this instruction. Every instruction is broken down
into steps so that the child is being taught the basics of an instruction. This type of
training is most often used in a classroom setting.
• Incidental Teaching—aka Natural Environment Training—takes the same concept as
DTT but applies it to moments throughout the child’s day. Doing laundry, washing
dishes, hygiene, etc.
Applied Behavior Analysis
• Pivotal Response Training—teaches children with autism behaviors that are considered
‘pivotal’; responding to cues, motivation, initiating and responding appropriately to
social cues, self-direction of behavior.
• Verbal Behavior—uses concepts of reinforcement, prompting and fading to increase a
child’s communicative repertoire.
• Fluency building—takes the information learned from each of the different
intervention models and repeats the learning until the behavior being taught becomes
second nature to the child.
Behavior Analysis Asks the Question:
Why is this child
engaging in this behavior,
in this setting,
at this time?
Functional Behavior Assessment
• EVERY behavior has a purpose; an FBA helps us to determine the purpose.
• Any attempt at the appropriate behavior must be reinforced, which increases the likelihood that
the appropriate behavior will recur.
• Behavior management focuses less on consequences to negative behavior and more on positive
response to appropriate behavior.
• Because children with autism have difficulty with communication, we have to be detectives to
figure out what the child is trying to tell us.
• A behavior plan must be followed across all environments: in the home, school
setting, community, etc.
4 Most Common Functions of Behavior:
• Attention
• When I hit myself in the head, an adult comes over and asks me if I’m okay.
• Escape
• When I punch an adult, I get sent to my room and don’t have to do my chores
• Tangible Reward
• When I throw things, staff give me my favorite food to get me to stop.
• Sensory Stimulation/Automatic Reinforcement
• When I scream really loud, I like the way it sounds.
• NOTE that EACH of these functions also includes communication!
The Art of Doing Nothing
• Often, our reaction to the child’s behavior is the most reinforcing thing they
• If we don’t react, they aren’t getting what they are looking for.
• It is against our nature, but very important.
The ABC’s of Behavior
• Antecedent
an event, action, or circumstance that occurs before a behavior.
• Behavior
• any observable and measurable act of an individual
• Consequence
• any action or response which follows a behavior
• What is it?
• Discontinuing of reinforcement of a behavior that was previously reinforced
• EXAMPLE: Every time Johnny screams, staff says, “STOP IT, JOHNNY”, reinforcing
his screaming with attention. Staff stop responding at all.
Extinction Burst
• The behavior increases temporarily.
• Johnny has grown used to staff saying, “STOP IT, JOHNNY” when he screams.
When this doesn’t happen, he tries harder to get the response that is reinforcing, so he
yells more often and louder.
• It gets worse before it gets better.
“Do you want to….”
“Can you……”
Forced Choice
Choice = Control---reduction of possible power struggle
Visual Schedules
• These can be done through pictures, written words or symbols.
• The schedule is set up so that the child’s day is laid out in a visual format.
• The components of a visual schedule are symbols or words, something on which to present
the symbols/words, and all “ALL DONE” area to indicate that the task is over.
• The schedule should begin when the child wakes up and should be broken down so that
there are not too many symbols that will overwhelm the child.
• Visual schedules help kids know what to expect and help relieve anxiety related to “what’s
• The last picture should be something that is preferred, so that the child is motivated to get
to the last step. For example, picture 1 is math, picture 2 is reading, picture 3 is cleaning and
picture 4 is computer time.
Social Stories
• A social story is a way of teaching new rules about social situations to
a person with autism.
• Social stories can address a wide variety of topics such as hand
washing, bathing, raising hand in class, waiting in line, following
directions, etc.
• A social story should be phrased in a positive manner so that the child
is taught what they are allowed to do rather than what they shouldn’t
• For example, it should say, “we use nice hands when we are at the
store” rather than “we don’t hit people at the store.”

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