The first step in changing problem behavior is to determine why the student is engaging in it. Behavior cannot be changed until the WHY is discovered. If you do not know why a student is engaging in a specific behavior, you will never be able to decrease it or replace it with a more appropriate one. Taking data on what happens directly before and directly after a behavior is imperative in determining the function. We call this type of data collection ABC data. Before we get into data collection, lets quickly review the possible functions of behavior.
There are 5 main types of behavior functions. I always remember them by using the acronym MEATS.
- M- medical- The first function you want to rule out is a medical condition. Maybe your nonverbal student is crying and scratching you because they have an ear infection. A medical cause needs to be ruled out or not even the most perfect behavior plan will be effective.
- E- escape- This could mean escaping a task that is too hard or too boring or escaping a location.
- A- attention- The student is trying to obtain attention. This one is pretty self explanatory.
- T-tangible- The student is trying to obtain an object, food, or activity.
- S-sensory- The student is engaging in a behavior to fulfill some type of sensory need. This is the hardest function to come up with a replacement behavior for.
Now that you have a handle on the different functions of behavior, you can start taking your ABC data to determine which function is reinforcing the behavior in your specific student. Below is an example of an ABC data form. I like to take data for 1-2 weeks. It is important at this stage of the game to record exactly what you observed. Avoid subjective terms like “upset” “sad” or “didn’t want to work. This might be how you perceive the student to be feeling, but many times your perceptions are not accurate.
If you would like to try to take ABC data electronically, check out this post here. If you enjoy the old school way, here is the blank ABC data collection form for you to download.
Happy data collecting 🙂 Check out next week for Part 2 of developing an appropriate behavior intervention plan.