Many of the clients we work with at MTCCA participate in multiple therapies on a weekly basis. This provides us the opportunity to co-treat and work on similar goals in a variety of ways. Recently, we observed a presentation by ABA therapist, Brittany Monclus, which shed light on the different behavioral techniques many of our clients utilize on a daily basis. Brittany works for The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), one of the worlds largest applied behavioral analysis organizations.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) refers to a systematic approach to the assessment and evaluation of behavior and the application of interventions that alter behavior. Many of the interventions used in ABA therapy utilize a reward system, largely based around the methodologies of operant conditioning.
During the presentation, Brittany covered topics ranging from reinforcement to scaffolding strategies. One of the favorite things I learned from the presentation was how to use rewards to benefit therapist and client as much as possible. It is important to set up expectations first so the client is aware that if he or she does not complete a challenging task, he or she will not get the reward. At first I thought this was simply bribing the child to do something undesirable, but Brittany emphasized that if the reward is set up before an intervention, it is positive reinforcement, not a bribe.
Since then, I have incorporated the challenge-reward strategy with numerous clients. With one younger client, I began using a two-step “first, then” schedule. I present the client with a list of unfamiliar or challenging interventions he can choose from for the “first” section, then I present him with another set of preferred interventions for the “then” section. This gave us the opportunity to broaden the list of interventions he chose to do in a session and has reduced the clients challenging behaviors throughout difficult interventions.
I have utilized the challenge-reward strategy in other ways, such as: a point system, where the client needed to reach a certain number of points in order to participate in a preferred intervention at the end of the session, and a timed activity, where I challenged the client to participate for a specific amount of time before moving onto a reward activity. Again, the importance of preparation and setting appropriate expectations for the client are incredibly important. Overall, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to observe the presentation and apply some of these techniques to my own work.
For more information on CARD and ABA therapy please visit:
MTCCA Senior Intern