Frequently Asked Questions

Many people write to Behavior Doctor Seminars seeking advice on aggressive behaviors like hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, and throwing objects. How can we eliminate or control those behaviors?

The first agenda item for determining what to do when a child is physically aggressive is to determine the pattern. There is almost always a pattern to this type of behavior. You might have to keep notes for a week to see the pattern, because when you are the target of aggression it is easy to forget what was going on right before the attack. Here are some things to think about:

  • time of day
  • activities that were occurring
  • noises prior to behavior
  • changes in routine prior to behavior
  • who was present or absent when the behavior occurred
  • condition of the child: sick, angry, tired, hungry, scared
  • location
  • specific foods ingested prior to the behavior
  • access or denied access to preferred items
  • transition or change going on

These are just a few of the things you might consider when determining the trigger of a behavior. Knowing when a behavior is most likely to occur helps us to be proactive rather than reactive. The next step is to determine what happens when the child engages in this behavior? We are looking for what they are receiving or escaping by having this behavior. Here are some things to consider:

  • gaining attention from adults or peers
  • escaping attention from adults or peers
  • gaining access to preferred items
  • escaping a task, chore, or assignment
  • gaining access to sensory stimulation
  • escaping too much sensory coming at them (buzzing of lights, squeaking of floors in gym, fans blowing, etc)
  • escaping physical pain (headache, stomach aches, etc.)
  • escaping emotional pain (not having to read in front of peers and embarrass self by reading poorly etc.)

These are just a few of the things that might be feeding a behavior. We always ask ourselves, “What are they getting or what are they avoiding by having this behavior?” For instance, I worked with a young man who bit himself when three conditions occurred: 1) being told no, 2) having a loud sudden noise occur, and 3) having to wait for a preferred lunch item. We collected one week of data and found that these were always the triggers to his biting himself. The second week, we collected the same data and found that those three conditions occurred; however, he did not bite himself. We knew this meant there was something else pairing up with the three conditions and so we began a several month data collection journey. We determined that he would bite himself under the three conditions if he also had a runny nose. If his nose was clear, those three things could happen and he would not bite himself. We shared this information with his mother. She took the information to the doctor and the doctor said, “He has allergic rhinitis” and put him on preventative medicine. He stopped having as many runny noses and therefore stopped biting himself. He was sixteen when we discovered this and he is now in his thirties and his scar from biting himself the first 16 years of his life is barely noticeable.

The thing I love about this whole process is that there are no two children exactly alike and so it is like being a detective. It is thrilling when you discover the cause of a behavior, put a plan in place, and watch the behavior disappear.

I have a student who is cussing. I have tried taking away things, assigning detention, and calling the parents. I don’t know what to do.

Cussing can be disruptive in the classroom. There are many different things that might be feeding the cussing behavior. Your first line of defense is to look at when the behavior shows up and what happens right after the student cusses. What is the student trying to get or get out of by cussing? Does it always show up at a certain time? These are the questions you need to answer and then you can put a plan in place. Check out this blog for a deeper response to this question.

I want Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports in my School. How do I get my principal or staff onboard?

School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a research based systemic change that decreases discipline referrals, increases morale of staff and students, increases parental satisfaction and increases appropriate behavior in schools. The best way to sell your staff or principal on the effectiveness is to share the statistics with them. Here are some links that will help you:

Success sells. Contact your state connection and ask them for schools that are implementing near you. Take an explorer group and visit with the school. Take pictures and bring back to share with the rest of your staff. It takes a three to five year commitment to put PBIS in your school with fidelity.

My two year old is having tantrums. I don’t know what to do.

The reason two year olds tantrum is because their brains are further along than their vocabulary. Your best defense is to help your child by turning the bottom of your refrigerator into a communication board. Take pictures of all the things your child might want: drink, cookie, hug, teddy bear, doll, kiss, apple, graham cracker, etc. Laminate the pictures. You can laminate pictures at a copy center or print shop. Put large magnets on the back of the pictures. Teach your child to go get the pictures and hand them to you when they want something. When they hand you the picture, say the word and get the item for your child. If your refrigerator is stainless steel and the kind that magnets don’t stick to you can also use an oil drip pan as a communication board in your home.

This oil pan is available from discount stores for less than $15. When you go shopping or out and about, you can take a second copy of the pictures and put them in a picture book (the kind you used to get when you took your pictures to be developed). If you ask, most photo labs still have them for you for a minimum cost. Your child can flip to the picture they want and it will help them communicate.

I downloaded the FBA Data Tool. I love it, but I don’t know how to take the graphs and put them into my own report? Help.

The FBA Data Tool is an Excel program which graphs antecedents, behaviors, consequences, setting events, and student reactions. It calculates frequency, duration, and gives a baseline for comparing once interventions are put in place. Microsoft Office changed a few versions back and it stopped us from being able to click on the graphs and clicking “control C” and “control V” to move graphs from the file to our reports. The best work around is to click above the Windows logo in the lower left hand corner and typing the words “snipping tool”. This will give you a tool which will allow you to outline anything in the graphs and cut and paste them into your reports or PowerPoints.

I entered data into the FBA Data Tool, but it is not calculating correctly. What is wrong?

The FBA Data Tool typically has issues when the time is input incorrectly. First check to make sure you have colons instead of semi-colons where you entered your time the behavior occurred.

The second mistake people make is not entering a letter in each square. Make sure every single row of your behavior chains has only one letter in each box.

The next thing that might be causing a problem is that you entered the wrong start date. Make sure when you put in the start date, you follow the example on the tool.

The final item that causes some people problems is the start and end time of the day. Sometimes, students get into trouble before school starts or after school lets out. If any time is input before or after the start and end times, the data will be incorrect. Just go in and change the start time and end time to include the time the students could possibly get into trouble. If you are still having problems, please download the direction program and follow the instructions in this PowerPoint. (insert PowerPoint link here).

I can’t get my teachers to use the FBA Data Tool. How can I get them to see the power of using it?

Data is always the best answer. If you put the wrong intervention in place, the student’s behavior can worsen. Success sells. Choose a student that many people are familiar with who has behaviors you would like to target for change. Get those teachers to collect the data you need and then put interventions in place based on the function of the behavior. When other teachers see the success in this one student, they will ask you how you did it. That’s when you can convince them to help you collect a few days of data.
I also offer a six month course on collecting data using the FBA Data Tool. Three to five people from each school in a district come to the training. We meet once a month for six months. The team learns how to use the FBA data tool and also gains valuable information to take back and share with their staff. By the end of the sessions, each team member will have conducted 5 full functional behavior assessments using data to make decisions. That is 15-25 FBAs in each school. The final presentation of the class is the participants presenting their own presentation they will give to their staff using the data they collected on students in the school. This is the best way to sell your staff on using the FBA tool.

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