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Behavior Principles

Behavior Principles: Increase or maintain adaptive behaviors, transfer or generalize learned behaviors, and reduce or eliminate maladaptive behaviors.  Basic principles include the following:  function, Prevent-Teach-Reinforce, ABC’s, reinforcement, consequences, consistency, data-based decision-making, supportive strategies, measuring behavior

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis is a scientific discipline that includes systematically teaching students new skills using specific instructional procedures to improve academic, social, communication, behavioral, and adaptive skills.  The discipline also aims to reduce and or eliminate problem behaviors to improve quality of life. Behavior is changed first by assessing its functions using objective measures and then developing a function-based treatment plan to intervene.

Here at Synergic Therapy, evidence-based applied behavior analysis strategies are synergically used in all therapy sessions to varying degrees. For example, one of the most widely used strategies during therapy sessions is positive reinforcement. Learning does not come easy for all students.  Some students need external sources of reinforcement in the form of rewards or time for preferred activities to motivate them to respond effectively and efficiently. External reinforcement can be faded over time when necessary or can be internalized as self-motivation.


Another consistent technique readily utilized is training for generalization. Generalization occurs when the individual utilizes skills taught in one learning environment in a different setting.  Practical skills are generalized across different settings, materials, people, terminology, and varying instruction.  

Through assessment, consultation, and training in the schools, I work with school staff in treating social, behavioral, communication, academic, and learning challenges.  

The Four Functions of Behavior

Socially Mediated Positive Reinforcement


Something delivered by another person following a behavior that makes the behavior more likely to occur again. Gaining: attention, access to preferred activity, access to preferred tangible. Ex: Parent gives you a hug and says, "I love you." or teacher calls your name and says, "Great work."


Socially Mediated Negative Reinforcement


The removal of something following a behavior that makes the behavior more likely to occur. Escape or removal of a less-preferred demand, avoidance: Postponement of a less preferred demand. Ex: only completing 3 of 5 math problems, not having to do the dishes.


Socially Mediated Positive Reinforcement


Movements or activities [physical stimulation] that produce an internal state of pleasure without the involvement of another person and that make the behavior more likely to occur again. Self-stimulatory sensations. Ex. Tying your shoelaces, watching a movie you really enjoy.


Socially Mediated Negative Reinforcement



Movements or actions that removes an internal state of displeasure [aversive stimulation\ without the involvement of another person and that makes the behavior more likely to occur again. Pain/discomfort attenuation. Ex: Washing your hands to remove the dirt or scratching the inch caused by a bug bite.

ABC Data Collection

ABC data collection charts can be a useful assessment tool that can be used during an observation to:

  • Identify potential events that precede the problem behaviors or the nonoccurrence of the problem behaviors (antecedents),

  • Help specify and define detailed actions that occur as part of the problem behaviors, staff and other students that may be involved, and other environmental conditions including noise and visual distractions.

  • Assist in recognizing events immediately following the problem behavior or the nonoccurrence of the problem behavior (consequences).

  • Supports the development of a hypothesis statement identifying the maintaining function/s of the problem behaviors.

Adaptive & Maladaptive Behaviors 

Adaptive and Maladaptive Behaviors Intervention at Synergic Therapy aims to increase a student's independence in school, the home, and in the community by using adaptive skills training. 


Adaptive skills are essentially functional life skills such as communication, personal care, self-skills (self-advocacy, self-management, self-esteem, self-awareness), executive functions, functional academics, social responsibility, play/leisure, health & safety, behavior modification, daily living skills. 


The process of teaching these skills begins with a task analysis, and then teaching the individual competencies, chaining the steps together, and finally generalizing the entire skill. 


Maladaptive behaviors are problem behaviors that prevent functional and socially appropriate participation.  These behaviors can range from mild (non-life threatening) to profound (life-threatening) and include noncompliance, hiding, elopement, avoidance, verbal aggression, physical aggression, self-injurious, withdrawal, emotional outburst, ritualistic/compulsive, tantrum, and stereotypy.  

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Behavioral challenges may present as:

  • Being sent to the principle regularly

  • Frequently impulsive and quick to apologize

  • Assumes the role of "class clown" often

  • Frequent calls from the teacher regarding behavior problems

  • Frequent unfinished classwork being sent home to finish

  • Not following directions, he understands

  • Schoolwork is difficult

  • Communicates through physical behavior instead of using words

  • Avoids homework

  • Not wanting to go to school

  • Getting into physical altercations at school with peers

  • Frequent verbal altercations at school with peers and staff

  • Difficulty paying attention in class

  • Challenges thinking about how his behavior affects others

  • Blurting in class

  • Engaging in excessive distracting behaviors in class

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