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Managing Behavior in Speech Therapy





If you work in the world of special education, I’m sure you’ve heard of the ABC’s of behavior.
A-Antecedent
B-Behavior
C-Consequence
The ABC’s are important to remember when you are evaluating the behavior of your students. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t take a single behavior course in grad school. Not one. That is why I heavily rely on the BCBAs available to me. I also don’t know about you, but not every BCBA and SLP agree 100% of the time. With that said, I hope to bridge the gap a tiny bit and use evidence based practices from both fields!
First, we must remember that there are typically three functions of behavior…
1) Escape/Avoidance
2) Attention Seeking/Seeking access to tangibles
3) Sensory Stimulation
And when establishing the ABCs isn’t obvious, a BCBA can be a huge help when completing a functional behaviors analysis. Our main role as the speech expert of the team is to create a means of functional communication for our students. We can do this by going through a simple step-by-step process.
-Find out what their present level of communication is.
-Reflect on what the best functional and meaningful form of communication would be for that student.
-Build rapport.
-Errorless learning techniques (For Example: Discrete Trial Training)
-Reinforce.
-Prompt.
With our more complex learners, a tool called the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Program Placement) can give us great information on where to begin therapy. Are they requesting? Are they labeling? It can tell you their functional level of communication, provides a scoring guide so you can give multiple times to see the progression of treatment, and provides a developmental sequence of what to work on next in the therapy room.

Functional Communication Training (FCT) can help reduce behaviors by providing an alternative response form that results in the desired behavior. It basically helps them communicate in a more appropriate way. For example, when I have a student that swipes at me when we’ve been working for 30 minutes straight I can implement a visual break card and prompt him/her with, “It seems like you want a break. You can say, “Break, please.” Or touch the break card that is on the table. The steps to establishing a positive behavior support system include…
1) ID the function of the behavior
2) Match the function of behavior to the message of alternative communication that will be taught.
3) Prompt the use of the communication and reinforce the desired behavior with the desired outcome.
4) Ignore the problem behavior and prompt the appropriate communication.

Easier said than done, am I right? I’ve found that if I always have a way for the student to use their response form (PECS, choice board, AAC device, verbal, etc) and I give them some power, my sessions go over much smoothly compared to when I don’t give them some “out” if you will.

Some quick tips about behavior management in the speech room.
1) Errorless learning increases confidence and decreases frustration
2) Reinforcement should be immediate and consistent
3) Use the prompt hierarchy when teaching a skill

I hope these tips help you out with those kiddos with tricky behavior! What are some things you do in your therapy room??
Lacee Johnson
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