Children are like Fingers-Each One is Different

Today, our focus was on the functions of behavior and on helping teachers and families understand children’s behavior.

Parents did an excellent job of identifying challenging behaviors and discussing how to address them. Tala’s mother shared that when her daughter wants to get out of a situation, she will break things. When hearing that the function of this behavior is to escape, Oli’s mother told Tala’s mother that she should make Tala pick everything up when she breaks things so that she learns that she can’t break things when she wants to get out of something. When other parents mentioned that their children also break things sometimes, but for different reasons, Oli’s mother responded by saying: “Children are like our fingers. Just like our fingers are all different from one another, our children are all different. They have different behaviors and the reasons they do them can be different too.”

One common behavior that we have seen in Hartha is that children cry when they want money from their parents to buy things at the store. The parents get annoyed and give them the money. While our teachers and parents all said that they do not do this (one said she lets her child cry until she falls asleep or forgets and another stays firm saying that “you bought something already and can’t buy anything else,” they were quick to identify that giving the child who was crying the money they wanted would teach them to cry the next time they wanted money.

During the conversation, the group started discussing the strengths of people with autism. One mother shared that she believes that children with autism are very smart and another teacher noted that some children with autism have special talents. We were excited to see parents taking pride in their children’s skills and to see teachers’ supportive affirmations of the parents’ observations.

After discussing behaviors, we taught the group about the ABC data collection method, which can be used to help parents and teachers identify the functions of behaviors. This strategy focuses on a particular behavior and has the observer take data on the antecedent (what happens right before) and the consequence (what happens right after) that particular behavior. We went over an example for a child yelling and screaming. One mother identified that a possible antecedent could be: The child’s siblings went to buy something at the supermarket but he was forced to stay home. Another mother noted that the consequence in this situation might be the mother telling the child that she will take the child to the supermarket later.

A: Other kids went to the supermarket and left one child behind

B: Child who was left behind yells and screams

C: Mother tells the child who was left behind that she will take him to the supermarket later

Can you tell us what this child might do next time he wants to go to the supermarket?

Later in the training, we discussed scripting behavior. One mother (OAO) shared that her son always used to script (repeat) the things he heard on CNN. Her husband addressed this by engaging her son in a conversation and redirecting him from the scripting behavior. Dana offered some additional examples of ways that a parent could intervene when this behavior is preventing learning or social engagement.

When discussing antecedents to behaviors, we discussed changes to the environment that can decrease the likelihood that a behavior occurs. Oli’s mother mentioned switching schools, traveling and moving houses as some ways that changes in environment can affect behavior. We have a number of families who have had significant changes in their lives recently and hope that reflecting on some of these changes might lend some insights into their children’s behaviors.

We look forward to starting cooperative sessions later this week.



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