Saturday, October 20, 2007

Education Technique #1

This is the first installment of a series I will run every Saturday through November. The series will be on educational techniques that have used in the past.

Education Technique #1: High Probability Response

I am philosophically committed to trying to minimize the use of exclusionary or aversive techniques to the extent reasonable in a child’s life. I offer this technique as an alternative to “time-out”.

The use of a high probability response uses the idea of behavioral momentum. This is the general observation that the types of behavior we engage in tends to continue in the same direction for a time. Off task or inappropriate behavior tends to precede more off task behaviors, and on task behavior tends to precede more on task behavior.

The technique here, involves the attempt to disrupt the chain or hierarchy of inappropriate behaviors and start a new chain of appropriate behaviors. The teacher/parent would deliver rapid instructions using a lesson or modality the child has already shown mastery of. The moment the child in only engaging in appropriate behavior, they are redirected back to the task. Skillful users of this technique can usually have a child back into the regular activity in less than a minute, although that is not always the case.

The activity should be something the child has mastered and that can be done quickly. But it should not be a highly preferred activity. It not supposed to be reinforcing or soothing, or aversive for that matter; it is supposed to be neutral. The idea is redirection. The idea is catch the child as they head “downhill” in terms of behavior and quickly build up some momentum in a positive direction. And then to get them back into their regular activity as quickly as possible.

7 Comments:

Blogger Schwartz said...

I'm interested. Can you give an example of an activity you would use?

11:14 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

It has to be something the child knows very well.

Let's say a child knows her colors very well.

Interverbal: Look,what color is it?
Sue: Green

I: Ok, what color is this one?
S: Red

I: And this one?
S: Blue

I: How about that?
S: Yellow

I: Way to go! Let's go back to math group. (It would be longer than this in real life)

This type of technique doesn't even have to involve another person per se. If there is an independent activity the person knows how to do, it could fulfill the same function.

I once saw something analogous to this with a typically developing teenager in a shop class. The student was just about to lose his temper with another student and the teacher told him to go sort wrenches for a few minutes.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Another Autism Mom said...

I agree that positive redirection is better than time outs. But I confess I'm not always successful at this strategy, in situations when my son is extremely engaged in repetitive behaviors that are a lot of fun for him (e.g., spitting all over the place while re-enacting a Thomas the Train crash scene, or falling hard on his head and back on the floor to impersonate Captain Feathersword doing "blow me down"). Sometimes it also seems easier to redirect him at home (where I can think of many other things that he'd like to do) than at a library, restaurant or playground...

What I've found out is that we need to be very resourceful and creative while raising an autistic kid!

On a side note, the Autism Hub has gone crazy - older posts on top of newer ones. It took me a while to realize you'd updated your blog.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Schwartz said...

I'm going back in my head to all the different things I've tried. For my 2 year old, I can easily see having naturally used this type of approach, although it doesn't always work and I never thought specifically about the neutrality of the task.

It's my 5 year old that introduces a lot more of a challenge. There appear to be a growing number of instances where the consequences of an action have to be startling enough to induce a better choice/decision the next time around. I have to think carefully to try to find an activity that will make an impact of consequence while at the same time remaining neutral.

3:02 PM  
Blogger KeithABA said...

This is a great recommendation, interverbal! No, using momentum won’t always pull a child back on track, but it is sure worth a try considering some of the alternatives. Another thing to mention is that this doesn’t have to be used only when the individual is going off task. Momentum can also be used with new acquisition response. For instance, if you were working on gross motor imitation, and the individual is already really good at imitating a clap and tapping their head, but never has done tapping the table. A good use of momentum would look like this. Please note that the word therapist could be interchanged with parent, teacher, brother….. (let’s not get nit picky here!)

Therapist: “Do this,” claps hand. (high p)

Individual: Claps Hand.

Therapist: “Do this,” taps head. (high p)

Individual: Taps head.

Therapist: “Do this,” taps table (low p)

Individual: Taps table.

I am currently working with a speech therapist on cotinuing some research to determine if high probability sequences of an instruction to eat preferred foods will increase acceptance of non-preferred foods.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great advice! I've done the same type thing w/ each of my 5 (NT) kids.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though the technique you mention can be a very useful tool for dealing with problem behavior sensitive to escape as a reinforcer, there is no real relation to the behavioral momentum metaphor. BMOM is a model of operant behavior and the variables that determine its rate (velocity) and strength (mass). One interesting aspect of this model is an analysis of how a single response gains (or loses) response strength. Nevin (1996 - JABA - available through PubMed) discusses why this "Hi-P" technique is not accounted for by BMOM. Essentially you have (at least) two response classes, compliance and non compliance. Each has their own momentum and they may be and often are wholly independent of each other.

Your blog is very informative and I've sent many a caregiver to this site for sound information about autism.

2:07 PM  

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