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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question comes from Dawn who asks:

“I have 3 situations that I need help on. My daughter is 2 and some change.

  1. She insists on turning the lights off and on repeatedly
  2. She throws her toys
  3. She tried to run out in the street

What do you recommend?”

Lights and Toys

Because I see so many children with autism, I always have my “A-dar” on. By that, I mean that I screen every child that I see by running down the red flag checklist in my head. Once I realized that Dawn’s little angel did not have any of the red flags, I recognized that the light switch game had actually become just that–a game. Dawn’s little angel learned that when she flipped the lights off and on, that Mommy instantly gave her attention.

Please know that Dawn provides her little angel with loads of attention. However, for a toddler, being able to control Mommy’s behavior is extremely powerful (and quite fun). The same holds true for toy throwing. When little angel throws toys, she is instantly reminded that only balls can be thrown. Again, instant attention from mommy. Look at my “Toddler Power”! I will also recommend that you check out our cartoon from last week. See PJ? He is up to the same old tricks. He wants his Mommy’s attention!

So, for those two behaviors, do your best to refrain from attending to the behaviors.

A) If you can tolerate the disco effect in your living when the lights are going off and on repeatedly, simply sit on the sofa and continue watching TV or reading or cooking (or whatever you may have been doing). If you have migraines and the disco lights send you over the edge, simply walk over to the light switch (without looking at your child) and cover the light switch with your hand. Do not say anything and do not look. If possible, continue the activity you were doing when the disco started (e.g., keep reading your book). As soon as your child begins an appropriate activity, count to 10 and then join her in the activity. You can tell her how happy you are to see her reading, playing, or whatever she is doing that is appropriate.

B) For the toy throwing, create a box and label it timeout. Sit your daughter down and show her the box. Explain to her that if she chooses to throw her toys, each thrown toy will be placed in timeout for the rest of the day. Every time she throws the toy, simply walk over to the toy, pick it up, and place it in timeout. Do not look at your daughter, do not say anything to her, and then return to your previous activity as if nothing happened. Repeat as often as necessary.When she is playing with toys appropriately, take a couple of minutes to sit down and play with her and tell her how you like the way she is taking care of her toys.

If your child asks to have one of the toys from timeout, simply remind her that it is in timeout for the day because she threw it. Tell her she can have it back tomorrow.

Running in to the Street

While this behavior may also be attention-seeking, a two-year-old lacks the understanding of the dangers associated with street crossing and various forms of vehicles. So, separate from an incident, be sure to begin teaching your child about street-crossing rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways). There are some great children’s books that can help you with this. Road Safety, Policeman’s Safety Hints, and Be Careful and Stay Safe.

If your daughter runs in to the street, get her as fast as you can without over-reacting. Bring her back to a safe place and remind her of the rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways).

When your daughter follows one of the rules, tell her how happy you are to see her use her rules or how smart she is for remembering her street safety.

Thanks for contacting us Dawn. Please let us know how it goes with these behaviors!

If you have questions about behavior, email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. The title of today’s article is State Special Education Laws for Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans. Perry Zirkel authored the article and Behavioral Disorders published it in August, 2011 (Volume 36, number 4).

Purpose

The author set out to analyze state laws regarding Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP). For background information related to federal requirements for FBAs and BIPs, read Dr. Zirkel’s introduction. He provides information regarding the law, regulations, and federal interpretations of the law.

Method

The author searched  for state laws regarding FBAs and BIPs. Keep in mind, states may only add to federal legislation, not take away from requirements. Then he tabulated the information adding a “when”, “who”, “what”, and “how” column. Specifically, the “when” column identified if a state identified when the FBA and BIP were required. The “who” column indicated when a state identified the parties responsible for completing the FBA and developing the BIP. The “what” column indicated when a state defined the FBA and BIP. Finally, the “how” column identified when a state included information about how to complete an FBA and BIP.

Results

Key finding #1. Thirty-one of the states have requirements regarding FBAs and BIPs.

Key finding #2. Twelve of the 31 states fail to identify both the “who” and the “when”.

Key finding #3. Zero of the 31 states require both an FBA and a BIP when a child’s behavior interferes with the child’s learning or that of others. May we note that this seems absurd to us? How can a BIP be developed without an FBA? And how could an FBA not result in a BIP? We are terribly saddened by this finding.

Key finding #4. Only 2 states provided information about how to complete both an FBA and BIP. Meanwhile 12 states provided some information about how to complete a BIP.

Key finding #5. Seventeen states define FBAs and BIPs with only 14 of the 17 mentioning “function” with regards to FBA.

Conclusions

As parents, teachers, behavior analysts, and/or advocates for children with behavioral challenges, we have a duty to make changes at the state level to ensure that students are protected with policies that will result in appropriate assessment and intervention. Protective policies regarding FBAs and BIPs will most likely prevent the use of scream rooms and other inappropriate behavior reduction techniques.

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question actually comes from a list serve rather than an actual email to me directly.

A number of parents have been discussing the issue of scream rooms or seclusion timeout rooms. If you are interested in reading about this more, please check out our previous posts on the topic here, here, here, and here.

As part of the discussion about these rooms, a number of people mentioned the importance of having a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) done combined with developing an appropriate behavior plan. Other people then posted about the importance of a functional analysis. That is when a parent asked,

“Could you please explain the difference between an FBA (functional behavior assessment) and a Functional Analysis?” “Also, please explain who can do a functional analysis and why it’s important you get a qualified person to do it.”

We have written about FBAs on this blog before. We described an FBA here, we described when to do an FBA here, and we reviewed some legal cases on FBA here.

So, for a recap, remember:

The FBA is a multi-step process that may include some or all of the following:
A good FBA will include a graph summarizing the observations and/or functional analysis.
The FBA should result in a statement or statements that tell you WHY the child is engaging in the behavior.
Additionally, according to federal special education law, an FBA must be completed under these conditions:
  • If, during the IEP meeting, the team determines that the child has a behavior that is impeding his/her learning (or that of others)
  • If the child’s placement needs to become more restrictive because of the challenging behaviors
  • If the child’s behavior has resulted in an emergency change of placement
  • As part of the initial and full evaluation if necessary
What is a Functional Analysis?
 The functional analysis is one step or possible component of the FBA. The functional analysis is a manipulation of events to PROVE why the behavior is happening. For example, if the assessment data suggests that a child may be attention seeking with his/her behavior, then the functional analysis will be implemented so that in one condition, the child is given a toy immediately following the challenging behavior but in the comparison condition, the child is given attention immediately following the challenging behavior. Then, the behavior analyst will count and graph the number of times the child engaged in challenging behavior in each condition. If the child is truly attention seeking, the rates of challenging behavior will be higher when the child receives attention for his/her behavior when compared to rates when the child received a toy following his/her behavior.
I have simplified the description of the analysis in order to show readers the difference between an FBA and a functional analysis. Many functional analysis conditions can be completed and they may be quite complicated depending on the child’s behavior and other relevant information.
By definition, a functional analysis results in an increase in challenging behavior in some or all conditions. Thus, only appropriately trained people should oversee the design and implementation of such conditions. Additionally, the functional analysis results may be influenced by the implementor, the setting, the language in which the instructions are given, and other variables. Thus, the functional analysis should be completed in conditions that are as close to the natural setting as possible (including people, materials, and location).
Finally, the functional analysis ALWAYS results in a graph depicting the results of the analysis.
I hope this helps clarify the difference between the two procedures.
If you have questions about behavior be sure to email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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We had to dig deep in our files to find this one! It is perfect given all of our recent discussions on timeout. If you missed them, you can read more here, here, and here.

This is a Nancy cartoon with an original publication date of 1993 (c) Jerry Scott you are simply brilliant!

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question comes from Jillian and J.D. who ask,

“We have 2 children ages 2 and 4. They are driving us batty with their crying, whining, and tantrumming! Seriously, I cannot even get in the shower without one of them having a major meltdown. Please help us before we go crazy!”

I replied to Jillian and J.D. and said,

“I wish I could solve this problem for you but I do need a little bit more information. Tell me more about when these behaviors happen. You mentioned being in the shower. Can you tell me some other times these behaviors happen? Also, tell me how you react when your children engage in these behaviors. What do you say? How do you handle it?”

Jillian and J.D. wrote back almost immediately. They noted:

“The behaviors happen:

  • When Jillian is on the phone
  • When Jillian is cooking
  • When Jillian has a neighbor over
  • When Jillian is doing laundry

They also noted that when one of the kids whines to get something:

  • The child does not get what he wants
  • The child must ask using a “big boy” voice

Jillian and J.D. noted that when the children tantrum:

  • The child is first told “no!” so that they can learn not to do the behavior
  • After Jillian tells them no, she walks away unless someone is hitting
  • The child is put in 2 minute timeout for serious offenses (e.g., hitting brother)
  • When the child is calm, his needs are addressed

Now I have something I can work with! The first pattern that I noticed is that the behaviors seem to happen when mommy is busy (on the phone, cooking, laundry, etc). This means that the children have learned how to successfully divert mommy’s attention away from other important activities. I am certain that, as a mommy, you give your children ample high quality time (e.g., playing together, reading books together, etc). However, your children want even more of your time.

Antecedent Changes

Thus, before you begin one of your busy activities:

  1. Spend time playing with them
  2. Tell them that you are going to be busy for 15 minutes (or however much time you need–I recommend no longer than 30 minutes)
  3. Set the timer so they can have a clear signal when the activity is over
  4. When the activity is over, tell them they can have mommy time and praise them for letting you do your house work so that…..(e.g., we all can eat, or have clean clothes)
  5. If a child interrupts you during the work time, point to the timer but do not give any attention
  6. If a child tantrums, wines, or screams during the work time, do not “rush” in to save him

Consequence Changes

Once you have the antecedents taken care of, then you will need to change some of the ways that you respond to their behaviors.

  1. Refrain from stating “no!” after a behavior that has been reprimanded in the past. The children know they are not supposed to hit, scream, etc.
  2. Refrain from giving the child what he wants immediately after timeout
  3. When the child comes out of timeout, be sure to review what he did wrong and what he could do “next time”
  4. Remind your child that he cannot have X, Y, or Z because he _______ but that he can have it later
  5. If a child whines, remind him to use his big boy voice but do not give him what he wants right away. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when the timer goes off, he can ask using his big boy voice

I know this sounds like a lot and once you practice it a few times, you will get the hang of it. And not matter how much work it is, when those behaviors stops, it will be well-worth it. Please let us know how it goes!

If you have a question about behavior, email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, we try to review a research article on a hot topic for our readers. Because a timeout room procedure in Connecticut has received quite a bit of attention lately, it seems timely to review another study about timeout.

Christine Readdick and Paula Chapman authored the article called, Young Children’s Perceptions of Timeout. The Journal of Research in Childhood Education in 2000. If you want to read the article yourself, you may find it here.

Purpose

Because timeout has been such a widely used procedures in both homes and classrooms, and because researchers have never paused to ask children how they felt about being placed in timeout, the authors hoped to learn how children understood timeout. They stated that the specific study purpose was to learn how young children felt about being placed in timeout and if they understood why they were placed in timeout.

Participants

The authors studied 42 young children ages 2, 3, and 4 years old who attended child care centers that were willing to be included in the study. Parents consented in writing for their children to participate in the study.

Methods

Immediately following a timeout, the researchers interviewed the child asking a series of 17 pre-determined questions. These questions included things like:

  • do you like school?
  • when you are in timeout do you feel lonely?
  • when you are in timeout do you feel sad?
  • when you are in timeout do you feel that the teacher disliked you?
  • when you are in timeout do you feel that you dislike timeout?
  • do you think you need to be in timeout?
Results

More children reported feeling alone, yet safe while in timeout. More children also reported that they disliked (rather than liking) timeout. Sadly, more children also reported feeling that their peers did not like them when they were in timeout.

More children than not could identify what they were doing that led to timeout (e.g., I wasn’t playing the right way). More children reported being in timeout “a little” rather than “a lot”. Most children reported that an adult told them why they were in timeout. Interestingly, most children also indicated that they deserved to be in timeout.

Teachers placed most children in timeout for being non-compliant (N=27). Sixteen children were placed in timeout for aggression.

When the authors compared the answers between children who were placed in timeout “a little” to those of children who were placed in timeout “a lot”, the authors noticed that their negative feelings were more intensified (e.g., more alone, more sad, more disliked by friends).

Interestingly, only about 50% of the children correctly identified the reason for being placed in timeout. Observers recorded behaviors prior to timeout and those records were used to verify if children’s responses were correct.

Summary

The authors noted that timeout, in this study, was being used for minor offenses (e.g., non-compliance in most cases) and that timeout should be reserved for the most severe and dangerous behaviors.

We want to hear from readers. For those of you that have verbal children, have they shared their thoughts about timeout? Are your children being placed in timeout for minor offenses?

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Hi and welcome to “What Works Wednesdays” where we share a success story from one of our clinical cases.

Our intent is to show readers how successful ABA can be. Today’s success story is not about a clinical case but rather a personal case.

As some of our readers may know, Missy has a brother with autism and intellectual disabilities. Mac is also non-verbal which complicates the intervention process.

When Mac was in his early 20s, he moved in to a group home with 5 other men. Mac engaged in inappropriate touching during mealtimes. He touched their plates, he pushed their drinks, and he touched his roommates. When he did this, staff put Mac in timeout until the end of the meal and then Mac was allowed to eat his meal alone.

After several weeks, the staff called Missy to report that the inappropriate mealtime behavior had become a serious problem and that state rules required roommates to eat together. Thus, they needed an intervention so that Mac could eat with his roommates. They had concern that their timeout technique was not working.

Missy provided them with some important background information. When Mac was very young, like many children with autism, he engaged in challenging behaviors during mealtime. To decrease family stress, their mother fed Mac separately from the rest of the family. Thus, Mac had developed a strong preference for eating in isolation with abundant space on either side of him.

Missy explained to them how to develop an appropriate behavior intervention plan: a) modify antecedents to prevent challenging behavior; b) teach appropriate/replacement behaviors; and c1) modify consequences to stop reinforcing challenging behaviors; and c2) begin or increase reinforcement for appropriate behaviors.

Modify Antecedents to Prevent Challenging Behaviors

Staff planned to do a variety of things to prevent Mac from touching his roommates, their food, and their drinks.

  1. At the beginning of the meal, they asked Mac where he would like to sit. He often chose to eat at the bar adjacent to where the rest of the roommates were eating.
  2. Chips (a highly preferred food for Mac) were offered at the table. Mac could only have chips when he sat at the table with everyone else.

Teach Appropriate/Replacement Behaviors

The staff also taught Mac to communicate instead of using challenging behavior to get his needs met.

  1. They taught Mac to ask (using gestures) to sit in a different place.
  2. They taught Mac to ask for additional space (using gestures) when he felt crowded.

Reinforce Appropriate Behaviors

Staff also focused on reinforcing Mac for engaging in good mealtime behaviors.

  1. They provided him with attention (praise and high fives) when he was eating appropriately.
  2. They provided him with chips when he sat at the table with everyone else.

Staff stopped reinforcing Mac’s challenging behaviors.

  1. When Mac touched other people, their food, or their beverages, staff did not allow Mac to eat alone.
  2. Staff did not allow Mac to leave the area when he touched other people or their food and drink.
  3.  Staff only allowed Mac to leave the table when he asked to move or when he asked to sit somewhere else.

Follow-Up

Mac now lives in a home with 2 other roommates. He eats at the table with his roommates. The table is large so that Mac has ample space. When Mac comes to visit Missy and her family, he eats at the table with the children but he asks them to make extra space for him. When Mac eats out in restaurants with Missy and her family, they always ask him where he would like to sit before the meal begins. If the table is large enough, he asks to sit at the end. If the table is small and he feels crowded, he asks to sit at an adjacent table so that he can interact with his family but still have ample space to feel comfortable.

Summary

Staff originally tried to use a timeout procedure to address Mac’s inappropriate mealtime behavior. Staff failed to notice that Mac wanted to eat alone. When they used the timeout procedure it actually had a reinforcing effect: Mac’s inappropriate mealtime behavior increased because they gave him what he wanted when he misbehaved. Additionally, the timeout intervention did not teach Mac any new skills. He still prefers to eat alone or with ample space around him but now he has learned how to communicate his preferences so that he does not have to engage in challenging behavior to get his way.

Thus, when addressing challenging behavior, we must first understand why the behavior is happening. It is then, that an appropriate intervention may be developed to effectively address the behavior.

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