Teaching Replacement Behaviors | ABA Therapy Chicago

In ABA therapy Chicago, therapists help children decrease challenging behaviours by implementing numerous interventions. The challenging behaviour the child is displaying, may be their way of communicating to get or communicate what they want. However, challenging behaviours needed to be replaced by more appropriate and acceptable ones, which are called replacement behaviours, in such cases.

This article will tell you all about replacement behaviours, and how you can teach those to a child.

What are Replacement Behaviors?

Replacement behaviours are behaviors in a child that a therapist might want to replace an unwanted target behaviour with. 

In simple words, they are inappropriate behaviours that take the place of interfering behaviour in a child. Thus, focusing on the problem behaviour might only reinforce the behaviour in the child, especially if the consequence is attention. 

When we want to decrease an interfering behaviour in a child, it is highly crucial to remember that we can’t just expect the child to stop acting in a certain way, without giving the child something else to do, or in simple words, a substitute.

A replacement behaviour can either be a new behaviour or behavior the child already performs. The whole purpose of the replacement behaviour is to show that the child can get what they want more effectively and efficiently. Thus, it is crucial to identify the function of the interfering behaviour first so that you can choose a replacement behaviour of less effort.  

For instance,  a child is seen smacking his head with his hand whenever his tooth hurts. In this case, it is utterly important to figure out the function of the behaviour. If the child smacks his head to deal with the tooth pain, the replacement behaviour in such a case would be to help the child learn how to tell you his mouth hurts more appropriately and acceptably, so that you can deal with the tooth pain.

Another example can be Target Behavior: a child does not like the shirt he is wearing as it might be uncomfortable or unclean. Because of this, he tears his shirt off. In this case, this is the target behaviour. However, the replacement behaviour will be that the child will be taught to ask for another shirt that is more comfortable and clean. He will rip his shirt if he doesn’t get a clean shirt after lunch or a messy art project.

How to Teach Child Replacement Behaviors?

If you’re wanting to teach a child replacement behaviours, we have you covered with the following steps:

Identify and choose the replacement behaviours

First, you will need to ask yourself why the particular challenging behaviour is occurring. To do this, you might want to focus on what happens immediately before the behaviour (A-antecedent), what the behaviour generally looks like (B-behavior), and what happens immediately after the behaviour (C-consequence).

When we talk about Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, there are four main reasons why behaviour happens:

  • Because the individual is trying to gain attention from someone
  • Because the individual is trying to escape or avoid something or someone
  • Since the individual is trying to gain access to a tangible item or activity
  • Due to sensory stimulation

Then, you need to choose only one behaviour to replace. You should consider starting with that specific behaviour that has the most impact on the child’s learning, and one that will also serve the same function as the behaviour you want to eliminate. 

Then, you should try to choose a replacement behaviour that is not compatible with the specific target behaviour. For instance, if you want to replace the behaviour of the child not sitting in his seat. The replacement behaviour of keeping his or her knees under the desk is incompatible. This is because the child cannot do both things at the same time.

Teach the Replacement Behaviors

You need to teach the child replacement behaviours the same way you teach everything else. You first need to plan, explicitly instruct, model, and last but not least, make the child practice.

Should you need to remember, however, that the more opportunities you present to the child to practice the specific replacement behaviour. They are more likely to use that particular skill more often when the antecedent to their behaviour happens.

I should keep in mind 4 important factors when teaching replacement behaviour to the child. The replacement behaviour should be:

  • Functionally equivalent to the challenging behaviour
  • As easy to perform as the challenging behaviour
  • As efficient and fast as the challenging behaviour
  • While effective as the challenging behaviour

It is very important to allow for independent practice as well, and also provide feedback and positive reinforcement. You can also make use of the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) method. Which is an ideal instructional strategy when teaching social skills and behaviour in children. This instructional strategy basically moves the responsibility of learning from the teachers to the students. First set up a scenario where the child will more likely have to use the skill and remember to have them observe you. Then, have the child talk you through using that specific replacement behaviour. Third, have the child walk through using the replacement behaviour with you available to provide corrective feedback if needed.

In case the child is nonverbal, you can opt for setting up a scenario where the child is more likely to use the skill. You can have another adult assist the student in using the replacement behaviour through their preferred means of communication so that you can easily and immediately honour the communication.

Provide Reinforcement

ABA therapy wholly encourages positive reinforcement in its therapies. Therefore, reinforcing the replacement behaviour is also highly crucial. 

Whenever a replacement behaviour you are teaching a child occurs, you should immediately provide a high degree of reinforcement. 

This will not only motivate the child to display the replacement behaviour again but will also notice a drastic decrease in the challenging behaviour as well. Hence, the reinforcement should give the child the same reinforcement as the challenging behaviour did earlier.