The top 5 things you need to know about behavior.
There is always a function/reason for behavior. When a student is displaying a behavior, you need to tap into the possible reasons causing the behavior. Students initiate and continue behaviors because they are getting something out of it. What they are getting falls into one or more of the categories listed below.
- Power and Control
- Avoidance or Escape
- Attention Seeking
Any stimulus that causes a behavior to continue is, by definition, a reinforcer. Students will continue a behavior as long as it serves a need. Even if we think that we’re delivering a negative consequence to a student, the consequence may be reinforcing. For example, a co-worker had a student several years ago who was always getting into fights at school. Finally this student was told that if he got into one more fight he was going to juvenile detention. He got into a fight that same day. Although the staff expected this possible consequence to deter the student, he actually acted out because he was trying to escape something. The school counselor discovered that this student was being sexually molested at home and was trying to find a way out of the situation.
Once you have identified the function of a behavior, you can put into place a strategy that allows your student to get what they need only through positive means. If a student is seeking attention for example, you can offer the student a chance to get the attention they need in a positive way so that the pursuit of negative attention is reduced.
Students with autism likewise have a function behind their behaviors, but they are slightly different. According to Crisis Prevention Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders, the top three functions for behavior for students with autism are as follows:
- To obtain something
- To escape or avoid something
- Sensory stimulation
Keep these functions in mind when putting together a plan for aggressive behaviors. Understanding first the function and then that positive rewards must accompany consequences if you want changes in your students.