Part of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is understanding and determining the functions of challenging behavior and teaching replacement behaviors. It is commonly used as (but not limited to) an effective intervention for autism spectrum disorders. A facet of ABA is determining what is reinforcing the function of the problem behavior and how to shape new behavior with various behavioral modification techniques.
Do you like to reward yourself? I know I do. Once I am done writing this blog, I will reward myself with a nice hot cup of coffee since that is very reinforcing for me. Everyone has different individual preferences and motivators that are reinforcing for their behaviors. Part of ABA is identifying what is reinforcing to individuals and creating behavioral changes with that knowledge (more on motivators and preferences later). You may ask how is it possible to modify behavior? Well, behavior is measurable and observable. Behavior is learned. This can be further illustrated with the ABC’s of behavior.
Antecedent: Student is asked to write a summary on a piece of paper in class.
Behavior: Student rips up the paper, screams and throws unfinished work in the trash.
Consequence: Student is taken to time out and leaves the classroom for a break. Child has avoided the writing task, so the function of the behavior is avoidance.
Here, student was attempting to avoid a non-preferred task. His behavior was reinforced by being taken out of the room which increases the likelihood student will repeat behavior again with more frequency.
Through behavior analysis techniques, we may learn that student really enjoys working on the IPAD. This time, we are asking the student to work towards the reward of the IPAD.
Antecedent: The teacher asks the student to complete writing work.
Behavior: Student completes work as assigned.
Consequence: Appropriate behavior is reinforced with a preferred activity of 3 minutes on the IPAD.
Here the reinforcing value of the IPAD was greater than leaving the classroom for a break. Therefore in example 2 we were able to reinforce the desired behavior vs. the undesired behavior in example 1. Reinforcement is a crucial aspect of ABA and shaping new behaviors.
So put very simply, you now have some knowledge of basic concepts of ABA... and now I am going to go reward myself with a nice cup of hot coffee :)