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Part Two: Managing Problem Behaviors in the Community (Reinforcement & Function) | Trumpet Behavioral Health

Part Two: Managing Problem Behaviors in the Community (Reinforcement & Function)


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Managing Problem Behaviors in the Community is a 3-part series focused on providing resources for families of an individual with special needs. 


Click here to read Part One! 

Step 3 – Understanding Reinforcement & Function

Reinforcement immediately follows a behavior and increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur in the future. Think of reinforcement as “strengthening” the behavior.

Two Key Points

1) Reinforcement occurs for desired behavior and challenging behavioriStock_000015071320_XXXLarge

2) It does not matter if YOU think the consequence is desirable or undesirable; only what the individual presenting the behavior thinks


Four main functions for a behavior are as follows:

Why not just guess the function?

If we don’t know the function, we might respond in ways that make the challenging situation even worse! Example: the function of the child’s behavior is to get attention. As a parent, you sit down and discuss the situation with the child, thereby giving them the attention they seek. In this example, you’ve accidentally reinforced the function, making it more likely for the situation to reoccur in the future!

Step 4 – Identifying Ways to Prevent the Challenging Behavior from Occurring

Below we will offer a variety of strategies for each of the functions of behavior.

Be sure to start out by using antecedent information to come up with strategies. General strategies include:

Strategies for Attention/Tangible Maintained Behavior:

Strategies for Escape/Delay Maintained Behavior:

Stay tuned for Part Three of ‘Managing Problem Behavior in the Community’ which we will share on the TBH blog Wednesday, July 1st.

Written by Joshua Sleeper, MBA, BCBA

Joshua Sleeper, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Trumpet Behavioral Health, started in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) over 20 years ago. In college, he began working as a part-time therapist for a school district in California. There, he...

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