Friday, October 11, 2013

PREVENTING Problem Behavior: FCT

This week, I am discussing antecedent interventions.  These are strategies you can use to prevent problem behaviors from occurring in your classroom.  Check out my posts on this topic all week long! Today, I will be talking about Functional communication training!

Lack of communication skills can be a huge part of why problem behaviors occur for kids with autism.  To prevent these behaviors from occurring, we need to pro-atively teach communication skills.  This is called Functional Communication Training.  Again, with this type of training, knowing the function of the behavior is essential. 
Below, I have listed the 3 main functions of behavior along with an example of an appropriate communication skill you could teach to help reduce that problem behavior!

ESCAPE: If the kid engages in the problem behavior to get out of work or get away from people, you can teach them to request a break instead of engaging in the problem behavior.  You can offer a limited amount of breaks per day (start with the amount you think they would actually request), then slowly decrease the number of breaks they can request each day until it is more fitting to what they actually need.

ATTENTION:  If the kid engages in the problem behavior to get attention, provide them a way to ask appropriately for attention.  Give them an "I need help" card or an "I want to play" card that is easily accessible.  Teach them to hand this to the teacher when they want attention.  This choice board is located in my work station area.  Since this is an independent station, when kids need help, they have easy access to a "help card" which they bring to an adult.  There are also some reinforcers listed on here which students can choose from after completing their work.

AUTOMATIC: This can take a lot of forms…and it definitely requires a deeper understanding of the type of automatic reinforcement going on.  If someone is throwing their body to the ground because of the sensory input to their body, you may teach them to request a sensory ball or trampoline time that can give them the same input in a more appropriate way.  A visual like the one below, can help students describe when they are feeling pain or discomfort in a certain area, which may allow you to better help them relieve that pain.  

There are a lot of other general ways to have your classroom set-up to decrease problem behaviors on a classroom-wide level.  

I keep visuals available by the door for students to request bathroom and/or water.

I also keep visuals posted in problem areas.  For instance, my class has a hard time sharing technology.  Having the visuals below posted in that area can help prevent fighting, because children are given an easy and convenient way to engage in an appropriate alternative behavior.

Incorporate communication lessons regularly into your schedule to work on communication skills.  We incorporate PECS into some of my kids favorite activities like cooking and art projects to make them more motivated to use the pictures to communicate.  Also, keeping your students' PECS books in a convenient location for them to access is important.  If they have to go all the way to the opposite side of the room to get their book (meaning the appropriate behavior is more work than the inappropriate one), they may be more likely to engage in the problem behavior.

Another way to aid in keeping visuals for requesting in convenient places, would be to post choice boards in convenient areas of the room.  This one hangs right by my break area.

I don't know about you, but lunch time can be a time where I see the most behavior problems with certain students.  They get to the cafeteria expecting pizza, and when they see some plain burrito, they are pissed.  Why not have a visual available in the classroom that helps explain what the choices will be each day.  Have your kids practice requesting before they go to lunch (and, if you can, bring the visual with you to lunch and have them request there as well)!  Then, you just have to make sure your cafeteria actually serves what is on the menu!

With your higher functioning students, you may still want to use some of these ideas.  Even if our students are verbal, it doesn't mean that when they become stressed or frustrated, they can always come up with the appropriate language on their own.  In my class, I also do some targeted social skill development with kids who have more advanced language.  We do a lot of role play and games to work on social skills.  For instance, to work on "personal space," we practice standing too close to someone and asking them a question.  That person has to say, "please get out of my personal space," and the other person has to comply by taking a step back and repeat their original question.

Most of these interventions work because they provide an appropriate alternative behavior to help the student get what they want/need.  These can be used to replace the problem behavior.  All of our interventions will be different based on the needs of our students and functions of their behaviors.

To wrap up this novel of posts on preventing problem behavior, I also wanted to provide you with some general other ideas for arranging your classroom.

Use CHOICES: I offer choices for lots of things throughout the day.  From asking a student what color marker they want, to asking which worksheet they want to complete first.  This helps students feel like they have some control over the situation and helps work to be a little more engaging.  This also helps with working on those communication skills.  I also have a few choice boards posted around the room for convenience sake.  This makes it much more likely that my kids will use them independently instead of waiting for someone to prompt them to make a choice as well!

Use HIGHLY PREFERRED topics to engage children in troublesome subjects.  If a kid loves DESPICABLE ME, but hates writing…why not use pictures and names of characters to practice writing.  If puzzles are aversive, buy puzzles of the kid's favorite cartoon character.  You get the idea…make learning fun and engaging…based on your individual learners.  I had a student who loved a Dr. Seuss computer game, but HATED independent work.  So, I made him this super lame matching file folder using pictures of "Green Eggs and Ham," and all of a sudden, independent work was no longer a big deal.

I also believe having some visuals posted in your room about behavioral expectations can be a helpful preventative measure.  A visual like the one below shows kids EXPLICITLY what you mean when you say "you are being good" or "you are having bad behavior."  Without this explicit teaching, a lot of our kids would have no clue what we were talking about.  I also am a firm believer in telling kids exactly what you want them "to do" instead of what "not to do."  (i.e. Say "walk in the halls"  Don't say "no running.")  

Well, I hope you got something out of this week long series of posts on preventing problem behavior.  If you saw an idea you liked or you think would work in your classroom, please let me know by commenting below.  Or, if you have other ideas you have used, I would love to hear them as well.  We all gain so much by sharing and collaborating and I LOVE hearing what you all have to say!  Thanks for reading!  Next week, I will be back sharing some activities we have been up to!


  1. Loved all of your suggestions this week. I have REALLY been lacking in this area and I know this would really help. It is just so hard to find the time.

  2. I have loved all of your suggestions and are using many of your strategies. Even though I am lucky so far this school year to have only 6 students (I am full at 8), and students with minimal behaviors, I don't take it for granted and am prepared. The few behaviors I have seen so far are social skill related, and have been handled with a reinforcement schedule and social stories. Love your blog and look forward to it every day.

  3. I enjoyed reading your blog and you gave me some great ideas to do in my classroom. I have 9 students and they are all over the place on the spectrum. So many of your tips will help a lot! Thanks again!!!

  4. a great resource. thank you so much! the only critique i have, and this has to do with a personal preference (I counsel families with autism And with a collaborative approach use ABA structure for skill acquisition and behavior modification)... anyway... the only thing i would change is the language of "bad behavior" versus "good behavior"...... using good and bad to qualify behavior can promote insecurity and negative self esteem. Language be powerful and influences us deeply. All Excellent resources ! :)

    1. In my classroom we tried to adjust for that stating good choices and bad choices, I could not come up with a way to make it less wordy otherwise. We try emphasize it is the choice they make