Tip of the Week: Considerations for Parents on Grounding Kids

Many parents choose to “ground” their kids when they make poor decisions. Maybe they lose access to video games for a week, or can’t watch TV for a month. Grounding in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Here are a few considerations:

  • Considerations for Parents on Grounding KidsIf you keep grounding your kid for the same behavior, then grounding is not changing the behavior. Sometimes grounding your child is a default response, but if it’s not working, you might want to consider some other options. You can take a look back at our series on
    differential reinforcement
    or our post on noncontingent reinforcement.
  • When possible, the consequence should be connected to the behavior. If your child throws a controller, then not having access to video games makes great sense. However if video games are taken away for any infraction, it may not be the most logical punishment and over time, it may even backfire. If the child is losing video games for everything, then he/she might stop trying to earn video games at all.

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Tip of the Week: Using Differential Reinforcement of High Rates of Behavior to Increase Preferred Behaviors

Differential Reinforcement of High Rates of Behavior (DRH) is “reinforcing only after several responses occur at or above a pre-established rate” (Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace, 2013). There are times when a behavior is already in a student’s repertoire, but you may want to increase the rate of the behavior.

Mother Waking SonFor example, let’s say Harold frequently won’t get up independently on weekdays before school. It’s driving his parents crazy, because they have to drag him out of bed several days a week. You may set up a DRH to increase the rate of him getting up independently. Since Harold currently gets up independently at least one time per week, you would set the goal for two times per week. (You don’t want to set the goal too high, because then Harold might not ever come into contact with reinforcement, and his behavior will likely remain unchanged.) Let Harold know that if he gets up independently two days in a row, you will make his favorite breakfast on the second day. Once Harold has met this goal a few time, increase the requirement for reinforcement. You would move from two days in a row to three days in a row in order to receive his favorite breakfast.

You would continue this until you had reached a pre-arranged goal. It’s important to be realistic in our expectations. You don’t want to change the goal to quickly or make it unreachable. You also don’t want to place higher demands on an individual with disabilities than you do the general population (as discussed in our previous Simplifying the Science article). Many people, for instance, hit the snooze button several times before they actually get up, so it may not be necessary to require an individual with disabilities to wake up the very first time the alarm clock rings 100% of the time.

You may discover that your intervention with Harold is working quite well for a couple weeks, then suddenly stops working. You may need to backtrack a bit, and require fewer consecutive days of independently waking up. Or, you may need to vary the reinforcement. It’s possible that having his favorite breakfast has lost some of its power as a reinforcer.

Finally, after the behavior has reached your goal rate, you should begin to fade the reinforcement entirely. Of course, Harold should still have access to his favorite breakfast, but you should not continue to give it to him on the fifth consecutive day of waking up independently for years to come!

DRH is yet another variation of differential reinforcement that can be very useful for you. It’s also provides an opportunity for a much more positive interaction than introducing punishment to Harold for not waking up independently, and can decrease everyone’s stress levels at the beginning of the day.

References

Mayer, G. Roy, Sulzer-Azaroff-B. & Wallace, M. (2013). Behavior Analysis for Lasting Change-3rd ed. Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Tip of the Week: Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates of Behavior

Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates of behavior (DRL) is “a schedule of reinforcement in which reinforcement: (a) follows each occurrence of the target behavior that is separated from the previous response by a minimum interresponse time, or (b) is contingent on the number of responses within a period of time not exceeding a predetermined criterion” (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007).

There may be times when you want to greatly reduce a behavior, but don’t want to eliminate it altogether. Researchers have used DRL to decrease many behaviors, including: stereotypic responding (Singh, Dawson, & Manning, 1981), talking out in class (Dietz & Repp, 1973), and rate of taking bites while eating (Lennox, Miltenberger, and Donelly, 1987).

There are a few different ways to implement DRL. You might select a target number of times the behavior can be exhibited within a full session, then deliver reinforcement to the individual if they exhibit the behavior that number of times or less within the session. For example, Gina teaches in a preschool where they have a 5-minute circle time each morning. During circle time, a boy named Luke raises his hand constantly. Gina wants to reduce the number of times he raises his hand during circle time, but she does not want to eliminate the behavior altogether. She took some baseline data and discovered that he raised his hand approximately 12 times during each circle time. Gina decided that Luke would be allowed to go to the water table, (his favorite activity,) if he raised his hand 10 times or less during circle time. This is called a criterion limit. As his behavior decreased, she would decrease the number of times he was able to raise his hand in order to access reinforcement. Her goal was to get him down to 3 instances of raising his hand during the circle time activity. This procedure for DRL is useful in a classroom setting, because it does not require the teacher to take a lot of data or keep track of intervals, though that might be appropriate in other situations.

Another possibility for implementing DRL is to use an interval schedule of reinforcement. As in the previous procedure, you would set a criterion limit (like Gina did with the limit of 10 instances of hand-raising). However, for this procedure, you would divide the session into intervals and set a criterion limit for each interval. If the number of times the behavior is emitted meets the criterion limit or is less than the criterion limit, then the individual receives reinforcement at the end of the interval. So, Gina could use an interval DRL for addressing Luke’s behavior. In this instance, she might divide the 5-minute circle time into 10 30-second intervals. (I would suggest wearing a VibraLite watch or an interval app such as the ABA Interval Recording App to track the intervals.) Gina decides that the criterion limit will start at 2 instances of hand-raising each interval. If Luke raises his hand 2 times or less in an interval, then at the end of the interval she gives him a little bit of individualized attention, such as a pat on the shoulder or verbal praise.

A third way to implement a DRL is called spaced-responding DRL. In this procedure, you will measure interresponse time (or IRT… behavior analysts love their abbreviations, don’t they?!). So, in Gina’s intervention with Luke, this means that she would measure the amount of time from one instance of hand-raising to the next instance of hand-raising, or “the duration of time between two responses” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). The goal here would be to increase the amount of time between instance of hand-raising, which would mean that Luke was raising his hand less frequently. Gina discovers that Luke is raising his hand about once every 25 seconds. She will begin by providing social reinforcement when he has gone 30 seconds without raising his hand. Over time, she will systematically increase the IRT until Luke is raising his hand approximately once every 2 minutes during circle time.

When designing an intervention using DRL there are a few things you should consider:

  • You do not want to use DRL with self-injurious or dangerous behaviors.
  • DRl usually produces a slow change in the behavior, so if it necessary to quickly decrease the rate of a behavior, you should select a different form of differential reinforcement.
  • There are several ways to implement DRL, and you should select the procedure that makes the most sense for the behavior you are addressing and the environment you are in.
  • Plan ahead so you are systematically decreasing the number of responses the individual is engaging in.
  • Be sure to take baseline data to determine your criterion limits! DRL will not be successful if you set them too low for your child or client to come into contact with reinforcement.
  • Get help when implementing DRL. Talk to a BCBA about the best way to implement it for your learner.

REFERENCES

Cooper J.O, Heron T.E, Heward W.L. Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson; 2007

Dietz, S. M., & Repp, A. C. (1973). Decreasing classroom misbehavior through the use of DRL schedules of reinforcement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 6(3), 457.

Lennox, D. B., Miltenberger, R. G., & Donnelly, D. R. (1987). Response interruption and DRL for the reduction of rapid eating. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20(3), 279-284.

Singh, N. N., Dawson, M. J., & Manning, P. (1981). Effects of spaced responding DRL on the stereotyped behavior of profoundly retarded persons. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 14(4), 521-526.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Tip of the Week: DRA and DRO – Differential Reinforcement Tools for Behavioral Change

Recently we’ve been delving into different types of differential reinforcement. We’ve taken a look at why differential reinforcement is valuable as well as how to use DRI. Today, we’ll look at two more that are closely related: Differential Reinforcement of Alternative behavior (DRA) and Differential Reinforcement of Other behavior (DRO).

DRA is “a procedure for decreasing problem behavior in which reinforcement is delivered for a behavior that serves as a desirable alternative to the behavior targeted for reduction and withheld following instances of the problem behavior (e.g., reinforcing completion of academic worksheet items when the behavior targeted for reduction is talk-outs)” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). The key thing to remember here is if you are implementing a DRA, a specified alternative behavior has been selected for reinforcement.

For example, Miss Watson wants her students to stop calling out answers. She decides she will not reinforce students calling out. In her situation, this means that if a student calls out she will not provide them with any attention, including reminders not to call out. She is going to reinforce the alternative behavior of raising your hand. This is a very common use of DRA, and it works well.

In another example, Lisa’s daughter often cries when she doesn’t get what she has asked for. Sometimes this results in attention, and sometimes it results in Lisa finally giving in and providing the item. Lisa decides to use DRA to address this behavior. With this intervention, any time that her daughter says “Okay” instead of crying when refused an item, Lisa provides reinforcement in the form of attention or playing with a different item than was requested.

DRO is quite similar. It is “a procedure for decreasing problem behavior in which reinforcement is contingent on the absence of the problem behavior during or at specific times” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). With DRO, you would reinforce any behavior that wasn’t the behavior targeted for change.

For example, Mrs. Cuthbert notices that Anne is staring out the window frequently during lass. She decides to implement DRO. She sets a MotivAider for 5 minute intervals. Each time the MotivAider buzzes, she looks up and if Anne is doing any behavior other than staring out the window, Mrs. Cuthbert provides reinforcement. (There are two ways to implement DRO, which we’ll get to in a future post.)

DRO is especially beneficial because it is widely applicable, relatively rapid, and often durable and general (Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace, 2014). However, you should be aware that you may run the risk of reinforcing other unwanted behavior. It can also make you focus on the “negative,” since you’re always looking for the problem behavior or the absence of the problem behavior (as opposed to a specific desired behavior, as in DRA.)
DRA and DRO are useful tools to add to your arsenal of behavior change tools. You may be wondering why it’s important to consider the differences between DRI, DRA, and DRO. The key to remember is that using these terms and understanding the possible strategies for reinforcement improves your implementation of interventions and your communication with other adults implementing those interventions.

References

Cooper J.O, Heron T.E, Heward W.L. Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson; 2007

Optional Text: Mayer, G. Roy, Sulzer-Azaroff-B. & Wallace, M. (2013). Behavior analysis for lasting change (3rd ed.). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.