The ABCs of Behavior Intervention

Children who have received an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis (ASD) sometimes have a hard time coping. CryingThey might feel sensory overload in bright, loud rooms or get frustrated when they’re trying to communicate but it’s not working. This can lead to behaviors like aggression, excessive crying, meltdowns, self-injury, fixation, and self-stimulation. These behaviors can get in the way of daily routines, social activities, and being out in the community.

Parents and teachers need tools to help children with ASD to learn to communicate, and to engage in family and community routines, and that’s where Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) comes in. A behavior analyst assesses each individual’s need, creates a learning plan, and monitors progress. Research studies have shown that ABA has great promise for teaching skills to people with ASD.

The ABC method is one part of the ABA intervention. Here’s a quick look at how the ABC method works and how it can help parents and teachers understand and create a plan for an individual with ASD.

How the ABC Method Works:

ABC arrowsABC stands for ‘antecedent’, ‘behavior’ and ‘consequence’. An antecedent is an event or situation that leads to a behavior or makes it more likely to occur.  A behavior is also strengthened or reinforced by the event that happens immediately afterward, the consequence. All behaviors, positive or negative, occur in the presence of antecedents and are followed by consequences.  But it’s not always so easy to figure out what’s leading to a behavior or what’s reinforcing it.

SunnySide6For example, you might want to teach a child to brush his teeth. Look at the antecedents, what comes before the behavior. How do you ask or tell the child to go brush his teeth? What about the environment in the bathroom – is the sink area cluttered or is it easy to find his toothbrush? Is the lighting harsh? Does he like his toothbrush and toothpaste?

Then observe what happens during the behavior – what are the steps that are necessary to brushing teeth? Break it down into steps if that makes it easier for him. Does he get distracted by the running water or stop brushing halfway through?

Bedtime4Continue on to look at the consequence – what happens after the behavior. Does he get a reward for brushing, like a story at bedtime or a sticker? If he learns that he will get a reward, he will be more motivated to complete the routine another time.

Watch the short video below about how to use the ABC method. And if you have a child with ASD, please consult a trained ABA therapist for best results.