In this edition of ABA Behind the Scenes, Jami Hardy, MS, BCBA, LGPC, talks about replacement behaviors and their integration into the ABA process
Replacement behaviors are used to substitute behaviors that limit learning and inclusion, with behaviors that help promote success in the classroom and across daily-living tasks. Developing replacement behavior is a three-part process:
- Find the reason for the inappropriate behavior
- Determine a replacement behavior that serves the same purpose
- Place the inappropriate behavior on extinction.
There are four basic functions that describe why behavior occurs: 1) Escape or avoidance of something or someone; 2) Attention from another individual; 3) Tangible, or access to something enjoyable; and, 4) Automatic, or stimulation that is self-satisfying and does not require other people or items for its effect. We are going to discuss how to replace inappropriate behaviors with alternatives that have the same functions as above.
Let’s imagine a student throws items (inappropriate behavior) in the classroom whenever she is asked to read more than one page during reading time. A Behavior Analyst (BCBA) observes the student in school and records her observations. When asked to read, after 2–3 paragraphs the student begins to slouch in her chair and whines right before throwing items, which is followed by the teacher sending the student out of the classroom. After several days, the BCBA noticed a recurring pattern—an increase in throwing items and leaving the classroom during reading time—and determined that the student throws items to escape reading. That is, an Escape function.
Using this information, the BCBA will teach the student to ask for a break to escape reading—replacement behavior. In order to intervene prior to throwing items, the BCBA would help the student ask for a break when the student begins to slouch or whine. Once the student has been taught this replacement behavior, the BCBA will discuss with the teacher the most practical way to ignore throwing items in the classroom—extinction—while keeping everyone’s safety in mind, and only allow escape from reading when a break is requested. After the student has grasped the idea of asking for a break, the BCBA may then increase the amount of reading required before a request for break is honored. For example, the student will be taught to request a break after reading a quarter of a page, then a half page, and eventually a whole page.
|Inappropriate Behavior||Function (reason)||Replacement Behavior|
|Throwing||Escape||Asking for a break|
|Pushing peers||Attention||Tapping friend on shoulder|
|Crying||Tangible (access to something we enjoy)||Asking: using words, point gesture, picture visuals|
|Squeezing peers arms during circle time||Sensory||Providing squeeze ball during circle time|
If you have questions regarding your child’s behavior, your BCBA will be your best resource. If you’re interested in receiving early intervention services, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see if there is a provider in your area.
By Jami Hardy, MS, BCBA, LGPC