Excerpts from chapter two of the new ebook I am writing entitled: Top ten strategies to help your high functioning autism spectrum child flourish.
Once we better understand the function (meaning or purpose) of the old problem behavior, we can either make antecedent changes (change the situation, demand or event) so that the problem behaviors are no longer triggered, or we can create a plan that promotes socially acceptable replacement behaviors. Let’s start with antecedent changes.
Antecedent changes means that we make changes in the situation, demand or event that happened right before the problem behavior so that it is no longer triggered. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 plans in public school settings (more on these in a later chapter), often involve antecedent changes. For instance, the antecedent (A) of doing every problem in the math homework may trigger a problem behavior (B) of not completing homework. The consequence (C) for this may be a low grade that does not truly reflect how much the student knows about math. The function of the behavior is to avoid a demand that seems too difficult. The antecedent might be changed to allow the child with a disability, in this case an autism spectrum disorder that impacts executive functioning, to do every other math problem. This is designed to increase the chance that the child completes the math homework. This is an antecedent change. The demand to do every math problem, the antecedent (A) that triggered the problem behavior (B) of not completing homework, is changed to accommodate the child’s disability. Antecedent changes involve redesigning the environment so that that the old problem behaviors are no longer triggered or become irrelevant. The focus is on changing the environment or what the others in the situation do, rather then on focusing on changing the child’s behavior.
Closely related to antecedent changes, is the strategy of replacement behaviors. Many behavior change plans incorporate both of these ideas. The basic way to think of a replacement behavior is to consider: “What do I want my child to do instead of the problem behavior?” We shift our focus from getting a child to stop the old problem behavior to teaching him/her a new socially acceptable alternative behavior, and then creating motivation to use the replacement behavior. That is, we shift our focus from “what not to do” to “what to do instead.” However, our focus is on changing the child, rather then solely changing the environment or what others do, as in antecedent changes. That being said, replacement behaviors usually include methods of teaching the replacement behavior and motivating the use of the replacement behavior that are generally accomplished by others or by environmental changes, so these teaching and reward strategies can end up being similar to antecedent changes.
I go on from here to give several examples of antecedent changes and replacement behaviors, and to talk about how to design your own for your child’s problem behaviors.
Copyright 2012 Barbara R.Lester LCSW