Typically, when we address the display of an inappropriate behavior, we whine/complain about it, penalize it, tell the student to stop it, or attempt to reduce it with contracts or differential reinforcement procedures (for more on DR procedures, go to: http://www.behavioradvisor.com/…/DifferentialReinforcement.… ). We’re typically focusing on the behavior and the consequences that follow it.
But remember the A-B-C analysis in which we note the Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence in order to determine what is sparking action and what is maintaining it? What would happen if we focused moreso on the antecedent? What might be the outcome if we address A before B and C?
With the youngster (or with the addition of other professionals when a student is a persistent offender), we identify the stimulus, both the most recent one (the antecedent) AND the ones that led up to the antecedent (the “setting events”). We then discuss what can be done to better handle those stimuli in a more productive manner.
It is essential that the student be actively involved in the session so that we adults don’t make wrong assumptions about feelings, setting events, and the antecedent. This process also helps the student to be motivated to take positive action.
Here’s an example of the process as described by one of my valued grad students who is studying with me in our behavior disorders program at Hunter College in NYC: “During the beginning of the year the more questions a teacher asks and conversations he or she has with students about the antecedent to the behavior, the better the instructor will understand them. Then, once the teacher has an understanding of when a particular student is being behaviorally challenging, the teacher can be proactive.
Being proactive can look different under varying circumstances. If the teacher doesn’t know why the student is acting in that manner, s/he only knows when, then s/he can change a lesson to target the student’s interests, trying to distract the errant learner from the antecedent. For example, if the antecedent is the anxiety-causing beginning of ELA lessons, then the start of the lessons can include a “hook” such as a video of a favorite game or character. If the teacher is fortunate enough to know why and when the behavior is occurring, s/he can devise solutions for dealing with the antecedent. Sometimes, it will be done by simply removing the antecedent or helping the student cope with it in a more socially appropriate way. An antecedent can be removed if the problem is as simple as not being able to see the board or it is too distracting in the area where they are sitting.
An antecedent needs to be addressed on a deeper level when it is a problem that will transfer to multiple parts of their day and life. If the behavior is the frequent calling out of the answers (behavior) to teacher questions (antecedent), and the motivation attached to the antecedent is that s/he knows the answer and really wants to impress others, the student can be given an index card or small erasable white board on which s/he can write this information. If not called upon by the teacher, s/he can hold up the board after another student offers an answer.”