Tara Zombres, M.Ed.
Tara Zombres, M.Ed., is an Education Specialist at the Diagnostic Center-North. She is a special education teacher who has taught students with a wide variety of disabilities. She has a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Special Education with the Moderate/Severe population. Her areas of expertise are providing engaging and appropriate instruction for students with complex needs, developing educational programs for students with severe emotional and behavior disorders, teaching students with Autism using Evidence Based Practices and designing comprehensive programming for students with Emotional Disturbances. At the Diagnostic Center, she provides trainings in Behavior Basics, and in Creating Student Success: How to Provide Meaningful Access to the CSS for Students with Moderate/Severe Disabilities. She is a BCBA candidate and a member of PENT (Positive Environment Network of Trainers) and CAPTAIN (California Autism Professional Training and Information Network).
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Why Are Replacement Behaviors Not Working?
Can you provide some tips on how to identify and teach replacement behaviors that will work?
Effectively identifying and teaching replacement behaviors to student who struggle with problem behaviors is an integral part of the behavior change process. While each student’s identified replacement behavior should be highly individualized, to address their specific behaviors, here are a few steps and tips to consider.
Tip 1 – A replacement behavior is a functional equivalent of the problem behavior. This means that the replacement behavior has to get the student the same thing (i.e., to escape or attain) that the problem behavior gets the student when they engage in the undesired behavior.
Tip 2 – Replacement behaviors should be easier than the effort needed for the student to engage in the problem behavior.
Often this step most significantly affects the success of a replacement behavior. If the skill that the student is asked to engage in is difficult, the likelihood of the student using the problem behavior instead increases.
Tip 3 – Replacement behaviors should not be contingent on a student performing target skills before accessing desired response.
Keep in mind that another component of a behavior plan is to identify a skill to increase. This is the appropriate place to identify the behavior that the team has identified for the student to learn so that the problem behavior is no longer needed.
This is a place to start! For more information and examples, check out California’s Positive Environment Network of Trainers (PENT) website at www.pent.ca.gov
Behavioral teaching strategy for the non compliant student
Can you please provide an example of a teaching or learning strategy that can be used with a student who has high rates of noncompliant behavior? This student has an intellectual disability and has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We use reinforcement systems, but they don’t seem to be highly effective, especially when trying to get her to learn new skills or engage in novel activities.
Thank you for your question. This is a very helpful subject area for so many teachers and parents struggling with students who engage in difficult behavior when exposing them to new learning activities.
A best practice behavior intervention that targets compliance, completion of task, and builds behavioral momentum is high probability instructional routines. When a student struggles with noncompliance and refusal to engage in tasks and demands, using a high probability instructional sequence will increase the motivation for the student to comply with given directives. This strategy can be used across all aspects of a student’s day. It is especially effective when a child is being asked to engage in a request that is less likely to produce a compliant response. The theory behind the strategy is that providing requests that are more likely to produce a compliant response (high p) before introducing the less likely request (low p), the student will gain positive momentum towards compliance and, thus, increases the likelihood that the low p will occur.
An example sequence is provided below
- Identify high probability tasks – These are tasks that the student is likely to engage in when asked. The tasks can be academic in nature, but can also be “silly” and/or kinesthetic.
- Examples: sit down, spell your name, touch your nose, spin around, etc.
- Identify the low probability (low p) task – This is the task that the student is unlikely to engage in.
- Examples: time to come in from recess, beginning academic tasks, etc.,
- Present multiple high p requests followed by the low p demand – The process of presenting several tasks that the student will more likely to engage in builds behavioral momentum and increases the likelihood that they will complete the task they are less likely to engage in. These tasks should be presented in fast succession (within a few seconds of each other).
- There should be 3-4 high probability tasks followed by verbal praise
- Present only 1 low probability task
- When the low probability task is completed, the student should earn immediate reinforcement that is highly motivating and desired.
See example below:
Resources for teaching replacement behaviors to young children
I have recently been looking for resources that can help me teach young students replacement behaviors for when they are engaging in unwanted behaviors. Any suggestions would be helpful! Thank you!
Teaching young students to effectively use identified replacement behaviors and coping strategies for when they are experiencing distress and engaged in unwanted behaviors is difficult. The success of behavior intervention strategies can hinge on whether or not a replacement skill becomes a part of a student’s behavioral repertoire. In order for this to occur, students’ needs to be directly and explicitly taught how and when to use the skill. I would recommend using visual depictions, videos and best practice strategies when designing replacement behaviors. There are so many resources out in the world of positive behavior support that it is overwhelming. I have listed a few simple and usable resources below. Use these resources to build regular use of positive replacement behaviors.
- Teaching breathing: Sesame Street: Believe in Yourself Song (Michael Bublé & Elmo)
- Teaching waiting: Sesame Street: Me Want It (But Me Wait)
Visual supports with accompanying programs:
- The Alert Program: How does our Engine Run
- The Incredible 5 point Scale