Reinforcement is an action or substance that is used to increase the possibility that a specific outcome or behavior will be achieved after a period of time from which stimuli is delivered soon after a response or when the behavior that is expected is exhibited. Negative reinforcement occurs when a challenging behavior results in something being terminated or removed (escape) or not given (avoidance). This result is not acceptable to the student. The probability of the behavior occurring again tends to lower as the student wants to avoid further negative consequences. Positive reinforcement is where a challenging behavior is produces a desirable outcome as per the student’s point of view which comes directly after the behavior. The probability of the behavior will be higher as a result of receiving a positive reward for the behavior.

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Sensory regulation/sensory stimulation refers to a student’s behavior that regulates their sensory input providing him or her with an optimal level of stimulation or will produce sensory input that can be reinforced automatically (Chandler & Dahlquist, 2014). There are appropriate sensory behaviors and inappropriate sensory behaviors. Some appropriate behaviors include moving to a quiet area within the classroom, fidgeting with a pencil, or drawing on a notebook. Some negative sensory behaviors could include rocking in the chair to satisfy a need for increased motor movement, constantly touching peers to satisfy a need for oral or tactile stimulation, and screaming to increase auditory stimulation or to drown out an excessively noisy environment.

Comprehensive intervention plans include both antecedent-only intervention strategies and consequence-based strategies. Antecedents and consequences must both be included in a comprehensive intervention plan as they work together effectively; the effectiveness of each type of strategy is not as high when used alone. An antecedent will increase the probability of behaviors reoccurring while consequences may maintain and strengthen or weaken behaviors after they occur. Intervention strategies are selected based on the antecedents, the behavior, and the response to the behavior of the student. Certain intervention strategies work more cohesively with specific behaviors than others and are more appropriate to use depending on the setting, the student’s age, and the severity of the behavior. Intervention strategies address the function of behaviors. In order to understand how to implement the intervention appropriately, it is important to know why the behaviors are occurring. If the person developing the plan does not know why or when certain behaviors are being displayed by the student it can become difficult to identify strategies to assist in maintaining or ‘fixing’ these behaviors.

Case Study: Chad
Question 1: An appropriate replacement behavior for Chad would be to, instead of shouting at his teacher, he could raise his hand and speak in a quiet voice to his teacher. He will still get the attention he seeks from his teacher although it will be in the form of praise or non-verbal approval (smile, head nod) rather than being given a verbal 1-2-3 warning. The challenging behavior is then replaced with a positive behavior and the negative consequence (being reprimanded by the teacher) is then replaced with positive attention as the consequence.

Question 2: The intervention plan would focus on the following behaviors:
• Calling out or whining
• Yelling at the teacher to get their attention
• Attention-seeking behaviors (tapping pencil, falling out of chair, making repetitive noises)
• Sitting still
Since Chad’s calling out and whining behaviors are seen during morning group and calendar activities, his teacher could assist in diverting these behaviors by allowing him to be an active part of these activities. For example, Chad could help him/her by handing her numbers for the calendar, picture cards for weather, and other various tasks that are related to the morning routine. However, this option would be made available to Chad if he can raise his hand without being asked. This would provide him with positive attention from his teacher while reducing the negative behaviors.

Chad yells or shouts at his teacher to get his/her attention during group instruction time. Including him in group instruction with a one-on-one aide if available will reduce the frequency of these behaviors and Chad would still receive attention although in a healthier, more positive way. When he displays the behavior, if Chad responds positively to the consequence, a tally mark or ticket system could be implemented where if Chad ignores the directive, he does not receive a tally or a ticket. If he does follow the directive or refrains from yelling at his teacher, he will receive a tally or ticket that he can turn in for some type of tangible reward.

For his disruptive challenging behaviors (tapping pencil, making noises, and falling out of chair), giving him a fidget ball or toy could help reduce the noise leading to a decrease in disruptions during small group instruction. On the same note, his inability to sit still could be reduced if given a seat cushion or a lap weight. This is a tactile sensory method that will help increase compliance in being able to sit still which will result in positive consequences.

Question 3: This intervention plan does match the function of Chad’s challenging behaviors. Each addresses whether the behaviors are auditory, tactile, and tangible.

  • Chandler, L. K. & Dahlquist, C. M. (2014). Functional Assessment, (4th ed). Pages 87-134. Pearson Education, Inc.: Boston, Massachusetts.