Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Simple Question To Ask When Challenging Behaviors Occur

by Making Room on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 23:58

“He falls to the ground and starts screaming whenever I ask him to come in from recess!”  The teacher was exasperated, I could tell by the look on her face.  Something needed to be done and that’s why she had invited me to her morning staff meeting.   As a Behavior Analyst one of my primary responsibilities within my school district is to “problem solve” behavior problems.   I wanted to share with you the first step that I take in that process in the hopes that it may give you another way of problem solving challenging behaviors or allow you to ask better questions (which usually result in better answers!) of people who are responsible for your child’s challenging behaviors at school or in a community setting.

The first step in problem solving a challenging behavior is to ask yourself (or others), “Is this a CAN’T DO problem or a WON’T DO problem?”  It is very very important to answer that question before attempting to implement a solution.  Failure to do so will often result in more problem behavior!

“CAN’T DO” problem behaviors.  These are behaviors that are due to your child’s inability to perform a specific skill.  Because your child cannot perform the specific skill, s/he will engage in whatever behavior is necessary in order to communicate this fact to you!  In the above example, the learner may have been engaging in a tantrum because he did not have the ability to say, “I don’t want to stop swinging and go back inside.  Can I stay outside a little bit longer?”  The solution for CAN’T DO problem behaviors is to TEACH the skill that is needed.  In this case, the learner, if not able, should be taught a more appropriate way (words, sign language, pictures) to be able to communicate his desire.   If the only way he has is to communicate is through “body language” then that’s how he’s going to get his point across!

“WON’T DO” problem behaviors.  These are behaviors that are due to your child’s lack of motivation to want to follow an instruction.  S/he knows how to do what you are asking, but does not want to do it!  In the above example, the learner had the ability to say, “I don’t want to go inside” (and in fact DID say this!).  His issue was that he simply was not ready to come back inside!  The solution for WON’T DO problem behaviors is to create MOTIVATION.  In this case, we needed to find a way to make following directions more beneficial from his perspective, and if successful in doing this, he would follow directions to come inside.

The bottom line is this:  you could offer me $100 to solve a complex trigonometry problem and it just isn’t going to happen.  I don’t know how to do it!  You could spend a lot of time trying to teach  me  how to pick up my socks (which I know how to do) and put them in the laundry…but if I’m not motivated to do it, I’m not going to do it!  Solving CAN’T DO problems with motivation and WON’T DO problems with teaching a known skill typically does not work.  CAN’T DO problem behaviors require teaching.  WON’T DO problem behaviors require creating motivation.

No comments:

Post a Comment