Ep. 15: Becoming a Behaviour Detective
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Becoming a Behaviour Detective (Episode 15)

Have you ever wondered why someone behaves the way they do? Have you ever wondered what those behaviours are trying to communicate? Applied Behaviour Analysis Trevor Friesen helps us understand what those behaviours are trying to tell us and guides us towards what to do next. Watch this video to learn how this approach can be added to your toolbox.

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This podcast is produced with the support of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay and Jordan’s Principle.

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TRANSCRIPT: Becoming a Behaviour Detective (Episode 15)

<strong>Trevor Friesen</strong>
<blockquote>Hello and thank you for being here with me. My name is Trevor Friesen. I’m a board certified behavior analyst working for the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay. Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about something called Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA for short. And after today, I’m hoping that you can take what you’ve learned and you can add it to your own approach.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>But first, I’ll tell you a little bit about me. I grew up in a place called White Rock in British Columbia, Canada. It’s over on the west coast. It’s just a short 43 hour drive from Gatineau, which is where I was giving this presentation not too long ago. And if you dip into the USA, it’s about 43 hours and it’s about 45 hours. If you go through Canada. So I did the drive about ten years ago with my partner and my dog and my family spread out across Canada. And so we stopped to see some family members along the way. We kind of we went without much of a plan. And and as you do when you travel without a plan, you get lost a little bit. And so this was us getting lost, looking for my uncle’s farm in Regina.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So I’ve recently become a father to my first child. His name is William. And for those of you that are caregivers and parents, I’m sure you guys can relate. It comes with some big laughs, but also some long nights. I’ve become an expert at taking five minute naps.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>But what’s been really interesting for me as a behaviour analyst is the new perspective that I’ve gained on learning and behaviour since I’ve become a parent. And we can talk a little bit more about that in detail later. But first, I want to start with a story. Back when I first started with the Cree Health Board, I was told about a person in community who was getting into trouble a lot because they would say mean things about people. And we’re going to call this person Jeremy, and it’s a made up name, so don’t try and figure out who it is. Jeremy would swear and would call people names, sometimes Jeremy could also be very sweet saying nice things and giving compliments. But more often than not, people were feeling like he was saying mean things to them.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Now, understandably, this made it so. People didn’t want to be around him when he was saying mean things. It was unpleasant, obviously. And when they were around Jeremy, sometimes they would try to ignore him. But when they did this, they noticed that he would just say more and more mean things to the point where they couldn’t ignore it anymore. And then they felt like they had to maybe reprimand him or tell him off for being mean.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So does this story sound familiar to any of you? Maybe instead of saying mean things, you’re caring for somebody who yells or bites or hits, or maybe they break things. Maybe you’re looking for tools that are going to help you to make sense of what’s going on when these behaviours happen.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So I’m hopeful that today, by learning about Applied Behavior Analysis, I’m going to be able to offer to you some of those tools today. So let’s get started.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>Today, we’re hoping to accomplish three things. We’re going to try to answer the questions. What is behavior? What is Applied Behavior Analysis? And then we’re going to introduce the idea of becoming a behavioural detective.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Now, for some of you, this might be brand new. This might be the first time that you’re hearing any of this. And that’s okay. I don’t want you to panic. It might feel like there’s a lot to cover in the time that we cover in this video. But I’m hopeful that after today, you’ll have added one. Maybe two things from this presentation into your own toolbox.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>For some of you, this might feel too basic. Maybe you’ve already covered some of this before, or you’ve listened to somebody speak about this in the past. For you, I ask you to keep an open mind and to try to stay curious, even if you have learned about this before. Remember, you aren’t the same person that you were back then.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>It’s important to revisit material from time to time with all of the new experiences and skills that you’ve developed. Maybe something that didn’t seem useful before will find a place in your toolbox after today. Okay, so question number one today, since we’re putting on our behavioural detective hats and we’re becoming behavioural detectives together, I need to make sure that we all mean the same thing when we say the word behaviour.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>What is behaviour? So we’re going to jump right into an activity. And what I want you to think about is what the word behaviour means to you. I’m going to show you a few pictures and I want you to do a thumbs up or just think to yourself, I guess if you’re by yourself, if you’re with a group, you guys can kind of discuss as well.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Give it some thought. I want you to think about is the thing that you’re seeing in the picture a behaviour or not? Okay, here comes the first one. Biting. Is biting a behaviour? I’ll give a few seconds in case there’s any of you watching with a partner that you guys can kind of talk about it. Okay, Next one.
</blockquote>
Swearing. Is swearing a behaviour?

<blockquote>Here comes the next one. What about jumping? If you’re just listening, there’s a picture of someone jumping over a gap. Jumping. Is jumping a behaviour?
</blockquote>
<blockquote>What about this one? What about turning the key to your car? Is turning a key a behaviour?
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Next one. What about answering a ringing phone? There’s a phone ringing, and you answer it. Is that a behaviour?
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Okay. And that was the last one. So you might be surprised to learn that each one of those pictures represented a behaviour. And I always like starting with this activity because it’s so important to becoming a behavioural detective. Often when we hear the word behaviour, we think of bad behaviour. Right. It’s being used to describe something that’s unpleasant or bad that someone is doing.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>In my story from before, the behaviour that’s causing everyone the most distress are the mean things that Jeremy saying. Now, remember, Jeremy also says some nice things from time to time, which is important to remember for later. But for now, let’s just focus on saying mean things as the behaviour of interest. So applied behaviour analysis looks at where this behaviour happens in the flow of time.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>Remember, behaviours are just the things that people choose to do, and they happen somewhere in the flow of time. And if you can begin to look at behaviours in this way, each time the behaviour happens, we can start to tell it’s story. So there’s something or things that are happening before then we see the behaviour happen, and then there’s evidence that something or things happened after.</blockquote>

 

<blockquote>And behaviour is just the movement of a person through space and time. It’s the things that they choose to do, where they do them and when they do them. But I know what you’re thinking, “Trevor, behaviour is way more complicated than that. People don’t simply choose to do or not do things. There are other hidden things going on, things we can’t see, things that are going on underneath the surface.”
</blockquote>
<blockquote>And you’re right. People are complicated. We have histories. We have memories, feelings and fears and doubts and ambitions. All kinds of very complex things that are happening under the surface. But applied behaviour analysis is about looking at the things that we can see. So things like the hitting, the biting and the jumping. Applied behaviour analysis focuses on the observable behaviours, strips them of any emotion so that we can begin to tell the behaviours story.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>And because of this, understandably, sometimes behaviour analysis can seem like a very cold approach. So on your journey to becoming a behavioural detective, I want you to try to take the following perspective with you. There are definitely things happening under the surface that we can’t see, that we can’t measure and that we can’t touch. They exist and they’re very important.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>We know that our behaviour is influenced by many things, including those things happening under the surface. And we have to acknowledge that they’re real and that they play a part in the behaviours that we can see. And then the strategies and interventions that we create. However, as a starting point, behaviour analysts focus on the outward effects only because it gives us something concrete to work with.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>We can see the behaviours. We can see their effects. And then we can measure their appearances and observe their changes over time. Okay, so quick summary: behaviours are just the things that we choose to do, where we do them and when we do them. And if we want to become behavioural detectives, we have to remove emotion from the word behaviour.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>Okay. Behaviours aren’t good or bad to a behavioural detective. They’re just a movement of a person through space and time. All right. Let’s move on to the next step. What is applied behaviour analysis? I want you to take a moment here and reflect, and I want you to think about. Have you ever heard of ABA before today? And if you have, does it bring to mind anything specific for the purposes of our just our presentation here today?
</blockquote>
<blockquote>I’m going to give you kind of the short definition and then we can go from there. Okay. Applied behaviour analysis, quite simply put, is the idea that we can change the environment before and after a behaviour and it will have an effect on that behaviour’s occurrence in the future. But maybe you’ve heard of someone doing ABA by sitting at a table with a learner and doing picture cards or completing a puzzle like the picture you see here.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>But ABA is much, much more than that. It’s so much more that we couldn’t possibly cover all of it over the span of this video and presentation. But we are going to scrape the surface a little bit today. So to keep things short and sweet. ABA is taking what we think we know about learning and behaviour. The information that we’ve gathered from research and attempting to apply it to the real world to try to create socially significant changes.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>And on top of that, high quality applied behaviour analysis works with the learner and with the caregivers to identify unmet needs, to provide supports, and to teach new skills in a way that positively affects the life of the individual and those around them. So although table work like you might have seen in that picture, that might be one tool that’s used to teach.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>I think we all agree that table work only isn’t going to be able to teach someone how to dress themselves or to drive a car, for example. So, okay, so here we are. And if I haven’t scared you off yet, that’s great, because we’ve arrived at the good part. But before we move on, there are some things I need you to know about applied behaviour analysis. So if you Google applied behaviour analysis, you might come across people that have some strong feelings about it. Some of those feelings might be based on bad experiences that they might have had. Others might be due to stories or reports about ABA, where people have used this knowledge in ways that didn’t respect the history and dignity of their clients.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>And then others are not really based in fact completely, but they might just be somebody’s opinion. So if you find today’s presentation interesting and you come across some of those websites or podcasts or articles where people feel strongly about ABA, I want you just to take a minute to reflect on what you’ve learned today and decide for yourself if it has a place in your toolbox or not.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Good. Okay, let’s move on. So remember our story about Jeremy who was saying mean things? Remember how I told you that behaviour is just the movement through space and time? How behaviour happens at some point in some place? Well, we learned that in order to become a behavioural detective, we need to start telling the story around that behaviour.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>We need to begin exploring what was happening before and after. And we call this exploration the ABCs of behaviour. A is what happens before. B is the behaviour we’re interested in, and C is what happens after. What happens in a might set the scene for the behaviour to happen. Sometimes people will call these triggers, but I prefer to just say what happened before the behaviour or what set the scene for the behaviour to happen. Because the word trigger comes with some emotion. And remember, we’re trying to remove emotion as behavioural detectives. After the behaviour happens, what happens in C, is what influences whether or not that behaviour is going to happen again under similar conditions in the future. Sometimes people call this a reward or a consequence, but for now you can just call it what happens after.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Because remember things like reward and consequence, those words, they can carry some emotion and we need to try to remove emotion when we’re working as behavioral detectives. So when you can clearly describe A, B and C and the differences between them, you’re beginning to tell the story of the behaviour. You’re on your way to becoming a behavioural detective.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So what might this look like in real life? I want you to think back to our pictures from before. On the next slide, I’m going to read out for you a scenario where the behaviour is missing. And I want you to fill in the blank. If you’re with people, you can discuss it amongst yourselves. If you’re just listening or watching by yourself, you can just quietly reflect.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>There’s more than one answer to each blank. So if you think of more than just one that makes sense, you can go that you can fill in the blank with that one, too. The only rule is that the behaviour has to make sense in the context of the story. If you’re still not feeling like you know what’s going to happen, that’s okay.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>We’re going to work through the first one together. And I think that you’ll be able to pick up and follow along. So the first one: A. So what happens before the behaviour? You’re sitting in your car, the keys are in the ignition. Your hand is on the keys. You, B, which is blank. You’re going to fill in the blank, and C, what happens after the car starts.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So I’ll go through it one more time. In A you’re sitting in your car, The keys are in the ignition, and your hand is on the keys. You blank. Which is B and C, the car starts. Take a second to think about what behaviour would make sense in that story.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Okay, here comes the next one. In A you are laying in your bed and your alarm is ringing. You blank and the alarm stops ringing. One more time you’re laying in your bed and your alarm is ringing. You blank, which is the behaviour, and then the alarm stops ringing. What behaviour would make sense in that story? And remember, there might be more than one. We had some good answers when we’ve done this one before. There’s lots of different ways that you could get the alarm to stop ringing.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Okay. Next one, you walk up to the reception at the office, but there isn’t anyone there. You blank, the receptionist comes out of the back room and says “How may I help you?” One more time. You walk up to the reception at the office, but there isn’t anyone there. You blank, the receptionist comes out of the back room and says “How may I help you?” What behaviour could you put in the blank to make that story make sense?
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Okay, we’re going to go through them together. And I want you to think about what you use to fill in the blank. And if you’re with somebody else, you guys can share.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So for the first one, you’re sitting in your car, the keys are in the ignition. Your hand is on the keys. You turn the key and the car starts. That one seems pretty straightforward. I had someone before call out. If you have a push to start right, maybe that’s going to be a different behavior. Your keys could be in the ignition.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Maybe they’re going to be in the cupholder and you press the button and the car starts. What about if you drive a stick shift? You’d have to do a little bit more than just turn the key right.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>All right. Let’s go on to the next one. You’re laying in your bed and your alarm is ringing. You hit the snooze button if you’re like me. And the alarm stops ringing for 9 minutes. You could also hit the radio button, right? Which turns on the radio. I mean, technically, the alarm stops ringing, and then the radio starts playing.
You could pull the plug that would get the alarm to stop ringing. You could throw the alarm out the window. You could smash it. All of these things would get the alarm to stop ringing, wouldn’t it? Okay, here comes the last one. You walk up to the reception at the office, but there isn’t anyone there. You ring the bell in my experience, right?
Ding, ding, ding. Sometimes there’s a bell there that you can ring. The receptionist comes out of the back room and says, “How may I help you?” What else could you do? You could say “Hello.” Hopefully that helps. You could maybe knock on the table.
You could sing a song. Anything that makes sense in the context of the story. Okay, so let’s check in real quick, because that was a little bit silly, right? Why am I showing you all of these kinds of neutral behaviours? Why aren’t I showing you things like hitting and swearing and biting? I’m going through the ABCs of behaviour with you using these neutral examples because I want you to feel what it’s like for yourself to look at behaviour without emotion.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Right. Turning the keys to your car is neither good or bad. It just is. And when you start to think about what happens before and after behaviour, it begins to make sense. There’s a reason why the behaviour happened, right? The behaviour had a purpose. These behaviours happen in these contexts because the behavior works. Turning the keys to your car has a purpose. Just like hitting and biting have a purpose. And the ABCs are the first step to figuring out what those purposes are. So think back to Jeremy, who was saying mean things before. There must have been something happening before the behaviour that was setting the scene for the behaviour to happen. There also must have been something happening after that was keeping it going.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>But I want you to remember sometimes Jeremy was also very sweet, right? Giving compliments, saying nice things. So that means that there must have been something different happening before and after, which would influence when Jeremy would say nice things instead of mean things. And that’s why ABCs are so important. Once we can tell the story of each behaviour, we can start to make strategies to avoid setting the scene for behaviours that are unsafe. And or we can teach new behaviours to replace those unsafe behaviours. And there’s going to be more on that later. So let’s use what we’ve learned to go through a pretend example. I want you to imagine this in our story here. You’ve just completed Behaviour Detective Academy. You’ve been given your badge, you’ve been given your hat, and you’ve been hired in your community. You are your community’s behavioural detective. And there’s a little boy in your community. He goes to daycare. He’s his name is Johnny. He’s four years old and he loves toy cars. He also loves to play Simon Says, where you copy what the other person doing. He loves to sing along. He’s starting to talk a little bit. One word here and there.And he’s especially good at saying that word if someone models how to do it for him. So, for example, if you say to him the word dance, he can repeat back the word dance in a way that’s very understandable. Johnny’s getting into some trouble at daycare because sometimes he hits his friends and educators during playtime. Now, I want you to imagine, right, you’re that fresh behaviour detective in your community and you’ve been asked to try and find out what’s going on.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So you schedule a visit today to daycare during playtime to see what you can see. So before we dive in, the first question that behaviour detectives always ask themselves is what is the behaviour that we’re interested in? For Johnny, it’s hitting. That’s the behaviour that we’re interested in. And so the next step is we need to go find out what’s happening in A and what’s happening in C around the hitting that’s going to give us more information. So we go to the daycare at playtime and we watch from across the room. Johnny is playing next to his friend who has a favourite toy car. Johnny hits his friend. The friend drops the toy car and Johnny starts to play with it. So one more time, if you’re just listening, Johnny is playing next to his friend who has his favourite toy car. That’s what’s happening in A then B – POW!. Johnny hits his friend, then C, the friend drops the toy car and Johnny starts to play with it. So what does this information tell us? What’s the story of this behaviour? Ask yourself this question What changed between A and C? What changed between what happened before the behaviour and after? How is C different than A as a result of hitting his friend?
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Well, Johnny didn’t have the toy car in a remember, his friend did. He hit and then Johnny got to play with the toy car. So we’re starting to come to a conclusion here. We’re starting to learn the story of this behaviour, at least in this instance. It seems like maybe Johnny hits because that gets him the car that he wants.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Now, a quick note, even though we’re talking about daycare here. If this was happening at home, you could do the exact same thing. Right. And in fact, in our next example, we are going to pretend that something like this is happening at home. But the steps are always the same: Identify the behaviour, which was hitting, observe what happens before and after.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Where does that leave us? Now what? Okay. We’ve picked a behaviour. We’ve observed what happens before and after. Now what? What are we supposed to do with this information? So remember, we were saying, what happens before? So what happens in A might set the scene for the behaviour to happen? And what happens in C is what influences whether or not that behaviour is going to happen again under similar conditions in the future.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So let’s go dig into A first. Let’s go see what we can find out in A. So remember, we know that Johnny really likes playing with toy cars. And I’m sure you guys know whenever kids are sharing toys, it’s possible that maybe Johnny feels like he doesn’t have enough cars or maybe he doesn’t have the cars that he wants. And this is one of those times where it’s important to remember that there are things happening under the surface that we can’t see, right? So if we think that’s what’s going on, we can try to meet this need before the behaviour happens. And this will help us to reduce the chances of it happening at all. So if Johnny’s unmet need has to do with not having enough variety or not enough cars to choose from, a strategy that the daycare could explore would be to make sure that there are lots of cars nearby at playtime.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Now, you don’t need to have hundreds of cars like you see in the picture if you’re just listening. There’s a picture with lots and lots of cars, but you don’t need hundreds. It could just be a handful if that’s what’s available. The goal is just to have more cars available to choose from before the hitting can happen, because that might make it so that the behaviour, so that the hitting doesn’t happen at all.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Another option is that we could make sure Johnny has a different toy available that he likes just as much or more than cars during playtime. So if Johnny has more options, he may not feel the need to hit his friend to get their cars. If you’re just listening, there’s a picture of a toy train. So if there’s toy trains nearby while Johnny’s playing with cars, maybe instead of hitting when he gets bored of the car or wants something different, he sees the train and moves on to that next, instead of hitting.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Okay, we’re almost there. So we’ve put a couple of strategies in place before the hitting happens and we’re happy to see that Johnny’s hitting less in our story. But the daycare reports that sometimes he’s still hitting his friends to get their cars, and this is happening when they aren’t really able to make sure that there’s lots of cars around or a different toy available because it’s tough.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>There’s lots of kids to be watching at the same time. So how many times have you heard this phrase when trying out strategies for behaviour? “It’s just not working.” As a parent or a caregiver this can be a frustrating thing to hear when it feels like you’ve already tried to address the problem. You’ve already used all the tools in your toolbox.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>It’s tempting to look at it and say to ourselves, “I just want him to stop hitting.” But our work as behavioural detectives isn’t finished yet. We need to remember that for Johnny, hitting definitely works. Hitting is useful for Johnny because it works. Give that a moment to sink in. Think about the behaviours that have brought you to listening to this presentation today.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Those behaviours happen because they work. And this is where our ABCs are so useful. Okay? ABCs help us to dig into the reason why behaviour is happening. It helps us to figure out what is the need that isn’t being met. We saw what was happening before and after the hitting. We could see how hitting got Johnny. His car hitting was meeting his need of not having the car that he wants. And how do we know that hitting is useful for Johnny? Because it keeps happening. Right? What’s happening in C is keeping the hitting going. Getting the car keeps the hitting going. It works. So let’s go take a look. Johnny doesn’t have the car. He hits, and then he has the car. I’m going to say it again because it’s really, really important.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>The behaviour hitting is meeting his unmet need of not having his favourite car. So what if we could teach him a new skill that meets that need? What if we could teach him a new skill that achieves that same result but without hitting? This time we’re going to look at the behaviour. We’re going to do an ABC, kind of like the fill in the blank.
</blockquote>

<blockquote>I want you to pay close attention here because there is a small change in A that happens. So in A Johnny is watching his friend play with a toy car and then maybe the educator whispers “Car” in his ear. There’s a blank for behaviour, and then Johnny gets the toy car. So what could you teach to Johnny? What could you teach him?
</blockquote>

<blockquote>What would you want to happen and B that would still make sense that would result in him getting the car? What kinds of skills does Johnny have? Maybe you remember from our story? So we know from being good behavioural detectives that Johnny has some good copying skills. And this is great because being able to repeat words that we hear are one of the skills you need leading to communication with words.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>And what else do we know about Johnny? Well, we know he’s pretty good at saying the word out loud if he hears someone else use it first. So in our story, it sounds like Johnny might be able to learn to use a word to ask for the car if we support him a little bit in that moment where he wants it.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So if we teach Johnny how to ask for the car using one word instead of hitting, our ABC would start to look something like this. And I’ll read it out loud. Johnny is watching his friend play with a toy car, the educator says, car into his ear. Johnny says car. He repeats it and Johnny gets the toy car.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Now, for those of you watching, I’m going to put the pictures up because I prefer the pictures. It would look like this. Johnny is watching his friend play with the toy car and the educator says “Car” into his ear. Johnny repeats. He says “Car” and the friend gives the car to Johnny. So this one was a little bit of a curveball, wasn’t it?
</blockquote>
<blockquote>I said that we were going to focus on what happens in C, but we ended up making a little small change in A, didn’t we? The reason why I asked you to concentrate on C is because I want to make it really clear. Any time that you are replacing a behaviour with another, the C has to stay the same.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Okay. What happens after has to be the same. The new behaviour, which for Johnny was saying “Car”, must have the same result as the previous one, which was hitting to make it work. Just like our activity before. Okay, it has to make it work. It has to make sense. So let’s pump the brakes here a little bit because there’s a lot to take in. I want to be really clear with you guys that this example is an oversimplified version of events. When I show it to you like this, it might sound like all you need to do is follow these steps and suddenly hitting is going to stop. But often there’s going to be some hiccups when you’re working your way through the ABCs of behaviour. And don’t get me wrong, ABCs can be discouraging when we don’t see the changes we expect or the changes don’t happen fast enough. We might give up or we might fall back on things like reprimands and punishments, which can sometimes get quick results, but it comes with all kinds of other baggage that we’re not really covering today. But it’s there. But I want to emphasize that I’m walking you through this today because I want you to feel like there is something more that you can do.It’s not a magic solution, but it’s somewhere that you can start by figuring out what’s going on in A, in C, So before and after the behavior, we can begin to make sense of what we’re seeing. We can begin to figure out the person’s needs that aren’t being met and then find creative ways to meet them so we might not get it right every time, but it’s definitely somewhere to start from.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>So let’s take a look at another story of hitting so I can show you what I mean. I want you to imagine this. Imagine a four year old child named Jack, and this is your child. Jack loves blocks. He loves numbers, and he loves to play outside. He’s an only child who lives at home with you. He’s not really talking yet, but he seems to understand simple phrases and instructions like “Clean up” and “Let’s go outside” and “Time for snack”.
</blockquote>
<blockquote>Jack is also doing some hitting at home during playtime. And so what you’re going to do with your behavioural detective hat on is you’re going to watch and observe the next time that he hits, and you’re going to try to figure out what’s happening before and after, what’s setting the scene for the hitting and what’s keeping it going.
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<blockquote>So let’s try and figure it out together. So the first question, right that we always ask ourselves is what’s the behaviour we’re interested in? For us, it’s hitting still going to stay the same. Next, we’re going to look at what happens before and after. In A Jack is playing with the blocks and you say to him, “Time to clean up.” POW. Jack hits you. You say, “Oh well”, and you don’t put away the blocks. Jack keeps playing with the blocks. I’m going to read it again because this one’s tough, okay? It’s a little bit of a tricky one. So before the behaviour, Jack is playing with blocks and you say “Time to clean up.” Jack hits you After he hits you, you say “Oh, well”, and the blocks don’t get put away. Jack keeps playing with the blocks. Thinking about this, what’s different between A and C? What changed between A and C because of the hitting? Remember, this one’s a little bit trickier than Johnny’s example. If you’re thinking it has something to do with the blocks, you’re right. But I want you to remember, Jack got to play with the blocks, but he already had them. There’s no difference in access to blocks between A and C. He’s playing with the blocks in A and in C, he’s still playing with the blocks. But there was something that got removed because of his hitting. What was removed because of the hitting was the instruction to clean up. I’ll read through it again. Jack is playing with blocks and you say time to clean up. Jack hits you and you say, Oh well, and you don’t put away the blocks. So the instruction to clean up the blocks was removed. That’s an interesting one. We’re starting to figure out the story of this behaviour. It was a tricky one, but we’re getting there. Okay. Let’s do a quick review. The behaviour that we’re interested in is hitting just like before. We’ve done our ABCs.
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<blockquote>It was a tricky one, but we think we’re starting to kind of figure out the story of the behaviour. It feels like the hitting might happen because it makes the instruction to clean up go away. It’s possible. Okay, so with this information now, what? What are we going to do? Just like before, we’re going to dig into A first.
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<blockquote>We’re going to dig into what sets the scene for the behaviour to happen. And we’re going to see if we can set the scene for a different behaviour to happen instead of hitting. I mean, let’s imagine if this is a perfect world and we’re just making things up, Jack would help to clean up. Right? But for now, let’s just aim to avoid any hitting happening.
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<blockquote>Remember, Jack really, really likes blocks, so I wonder if we could set up the transition from blocks in a more gentle way. In our observation, we noticed that we, the parent said it’s time to clean up right at the moment that Jack is supposed to be putting them away. Try to put yourself into Jack’s shoes. That might be a really shocking thing for Jack to hear if he wasn’t expecting it, especially if blocks is one of his favourite toys and activities.
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<blockquote>This is a really big ask of a four year old to just drop it and move on. Right? So if our goal as behavioural detectives is to figure out what are Jack’s needs that aren’t being met, and we need to explore supports that might make that transition less shocking. Maybe Jack needs a warning. You can support this need by using something like a Time Timer to show how much time is left and reminding Jack that when the timer beeps, it will be time to clean up.
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<blockquote>If a warning is all that Jack needs, right, if this is an unmet need, if this is a support that he needs, then this could be really useful to offer to him. And if you don’t have a Time Timer, you can do the same thing using your phone. You can show Jack the phone and you can say in 10 minutes you’d start a timer for 10 minutes. “In 10 minutes, when the phone beeps, it will be time to clean up.” Snd it would look something like this: You say “In 10 minutes it will be time to clean up.” You set the timer for ten. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, beep. It beeps. Jack cleans up the blocks and maybe with a little bit of help from you to make it easier.And then the blocks are cleaned up, right? It would look like this in our perfect story. But remember, ABCs don’t always go perfectly. It’s really important to remember that hitting is useful for Jack because it gets it gets him to keep playing with the blocks. He gets to keep playing. It removes the instruction. Hitting allows him to meet his own needs because when he hits the instruction to clean up is removed and he gets to keep playing with blocks.
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<blockquote>So let’s dig back into A. What happens before. Let’s imagine that our strategy of giving a warning with a timer is not enough on its own. We’re not seeing the different behaviour. We’re not seeing a cleaning up happening. We’re still seeing lots of hitting. Well, maybe we need to add something else. Maybe Jack is uncertain about what’s coming next in his day.
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<blockquote>Maybe this stresses Jack out that he doesn’t know if what’s coming after blocks is fun or not. So you could use a visual schedule like this that shows Jack what will happen during the day. For those of you that are just listening, there’s just a hand drawing. There’s four squares and they’re in order of time. So the first activity is snack. The next activity is play and there’s a picture of blocks. Next activity is going outside and there’s a picture of a slide. Okay. So you could use a visual schedule like this to help Jack know what’s coming. And they can be simple hand-drawn schedules like this one. Or they can be real life pictures of the activities. They don’t have to be perfect, but they should let Jack know what to expect during the day. And that might be exactly what he needs. So using this visual schedule as an example, block time is immediately followed by going outside to play. We know that Jack likes to go outside to play, since that was some of the information we gathered as behavioural detectives. Plus, in this story, this is your child. We know that he loves to go play outside.
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<blockquote>So with the visual schedule indicating that he gets to do something really fun after he cleans up the blocks, he gets a warning that block time is going to be ending. But then he also gets something else, right? He gets to go outside to play after. So it might look like this: Right when it’s time to play with the blocks, you’re going to show Jack the visual schedule. You’re going to point at the image and you’re going to say “It’s time to play with blocks. And then after that, we’re going to go play outside.” A couple of minutes before it’s time to clean up, you’re going to show him the visual schedule again and say “It’s time to clean up the blocks, and then we’re going to go outside.”
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<blockquote> So you would show Jack the visual schedule and say “clean up so we can go play outside.” Hopefully in our story, Jack cleans up the blocks with a little bit of help from you. The blocks are cleaned up and Jack gets to go outside. So if a visual schedule like this was the kind of support that Jack needed, you would hope to see him happy to clean up the blocks and go outside.
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<blockquote>But there also is something else happening here. We made a change in A by adding the visual schedule, and we also made a change in C by making sure that when the blocks are cleaned up, there’s something fun right after. Right? It’s a good combination, but we can take this one step further. We could add the visual schedule and the timer and the playing outside. Right? A triple threat. And it would look something like this. You set up a timer and you show Jack the visual schedule and say, “After blocks, we can play outside.” You start the timer. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Timer beeps. Jack cleans up the blocks with help from you. The blocks are cleaned up, and Jack gets to go outside. So you use the visual schedule and the time timer as supports to set the scene for cleaning up to happen instead of hitting. And then as a result of cleaning up, Jack got to go do something that he really enjoyed, which was to go play outside. So something I want to think about here, as I was telling you before ABC’s don’t always give us the results we want or as quickly as we would like.
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<blockquote>Sometimes we might not get it right on our first, our second or third, our 10th try. Even with our strategies, Jack might sometimes try to hit so that his time with blocks doesn’t come to an end. So if you try out some of your strategies for a few days and you aren’t seeing any changes in the behaviour, well then you might need to explore if your supports are meeting your learner’s needs. Maybe Jack needs a different kind of a visual schedule with realistic pictures. Or maybe instead of going to play outside, there needs to be something even more strong than that to compete with playing with blocks.
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<blockquote>Now, I want to slow down here again because there’s something really important that I want to emphasize to you, just as we saw, depending on the person, their strengths and their needs, the strategies that we use can be very different.
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<blockquote>Johnny was hitting to get his car. Jack was hitting to make sure that his blocks weren’t put away. The behaviour looked the same, but they worked for different reasons. The behaviours were meeting different needs, and that means that our strategies have to work to meet those different needs. Applied behaviour analysis is not a one size fits all approach. OK? Jack’s strategies wouldn’t have been right for Johnny. Johnny’s strategies might not be right for whoever you’re caring for. So today, I don’t want you to look at our examples and think “Trevor wants me to use this exact strategy step by step for my child or for the person that I’m caring for.” Today, what I want you to learn is how to identify a behaviour and observe what happens before and after.
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<blockquote>Once you’ve done this, you’re going to be able to start making the changes that will meet the unique needs of your unique learner. OK? You might be able to give the supports or teach the skills that are needed by your learner. Okay, so let’s do it on one more. This time we’re going to get away from hitting and towards something a little bit different.
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<blockquote>I want you to imagine you are a behaviour detective in your community again. So this is Mary. She’s a 13 year old girl. She goes to school and she loves music. She has strong reading and writing skills and she has strong communication skills. She has some weaker math skills. And she has told her teacher at one point that she’s too embarrassed to put up her hand to ask for help. Okay?</blockquote>
<blockquote>Now the teacher tells us that he’s running into some trouble with Mary because sometimes she’ll get frustrated and she’ll crumple her worksheets. She crumples worksheets sometimes, and we’ve been asked to go in and take a look at what’s going on at the school. So we’re going to put on our behaviour detective hats and we’re going to dive in.
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<blockquote>So we go to the school and we observe for three days, and this is what we see. So before the crumpling of the worksheets in A, Mary is getting frustrated while doing a math worksheet. Mary crumples the worksheets and the teacher sends her to the Principal’s office. Okay? One more time. Mary is getting frustrated while doing a math worksheet. Mary crumples the worksheets and the teacher sends her to the Principal’s office. So what do you think is going on here? What’s the difference? What happens between A and C? What changes because of crumpling the worksheet? There’s a few things going on here. Remember, there’s something about Mary and math that we know. And then also when she crumples the worksheet, the math ends. She gets sent to the Principal’s office. Give it some thought. Feels like maybe we know a little bit about the story, about the crumpling, the worksheets. Okay, so let’s do a quick review here. The behavior we’re interested in is crumpling worksheets. We’ve observed the behavior for three days and we’ve noticed that Mary’s crumpling the worksheets and gets sent to the principal’s office. So there’s, you know, there’s something going on there that gets her away from math. There could be something there. Crumpling worksheets might work by getting her away from math. But now what. Right. We want to try to find out what sets the scene for crumpling worksheets. Maybe there’s some information that we know about Mary that you remember from before the topic that she’s weaker in.
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<blockquote>Right. Let’s dig into it. Let’s see what sets the scene for crumpling the behavior to happen. Remember, Mary is getting frustrated at doing a math worksheet. She crumples the worksheet and she gets sent to the principal’s office. Why might she get frustrated during the math worksheet? Well, if we remember from before, she has a weaker math skills. She’s very strong reading, has very strong reading skills, strong communication skills, but she has weaker math skills. And there’s something else too. Remember, she’s told her teacher that she’s embarrassed to put her hand up for help, but she keeps trying. She keeps coming back to math. But it’s hard. It’s really hard for her.
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<blockquote>So maybe you already kind of caught on there from our ABCs, but we go back for our information and we think it’s got something to do with the fact that Mary’s got weaker math skills and that she’s not really comfortable asking for help. Just to be sure, we go check with Mary’s teacher if the crumpling worksheets happens at the same time every day. And thankfully the teacher is very sharp and has noticed that it happens only during math and it happens just about every day. It’s becoming a routine to send her to the Principal’s office during math. So what are we going to do? We have all this information. What are we going to do now? What are some things that we can explore in A? What might be missing from A that could meet Mary’s unmet needs?Remember, Mary has weak math skills and she’s getting frustrated. So Mary’s math skills might be at a place where she could use some additional help outside of school or during math. This might be an avenue to explore. Mary might also have something else going on inside, Right. Something we can’t see that’s affecting her ability to do math worksheets.
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<blockquote>So we might need to explore some accommodation, some adaptations, and see if those help meet her needs. So she might need quiet corner while she’s doing math. Maybe she needs a calculator. Maybe she can be given some extra time, maybe some noise canceling headphones. It’s hard to know, right? But there might be something going on inside that’s making it difficult to Mary for Mary to do math. And maybe we can help her out there. So I want you guys to remember crumpling math worksheets meets Mary’s needs to get away from math right? So whether Mary is struggling with math either due to a disability or some other reason crumpling, the paper makes the math stop, right? It gets her away from the frustration of math. But there’s also one more piece. Do you remember? Mary is doing a math worksheet, crumples the worksheet, and then she gets sent out of the room. So not only does she crumple the math worksheet to get it to stop, but then she even gets sent all the way away from the room. There’s no more math happening. Sure, she might get into a little bit of trouble, but she gets away from math.
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<blockquote>So let’s dig in and see if we can provide some tools or supports to help her get through it. Maybe we can remove some barriers from Mary’s environment that make completing her math worksheets too hard for her. Remember, there was something about Mary that might give us a hint for how to provide some support. We’re really lucky because with Mary she has some useful strengths. Mary can tell us what some of her struggles are. We might just need to ask the right questions. So remember, Mary has told her teacher that she’s too embarrassed to put her hand up to ask for help during math. So what if we worked with Mary and with her teacher to come up with a strategy that’s going to get her some of the help that she needs without embarrassing her?
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<blockquote>So remember, put on your behaviour detective hat. I want you to imagine you’ve worked out a plan with Mary and her teacher where she can place a blue sticky note on the corner of her desk when she needs help. This would signal to her teacher that she needs help without having to put up her hand, causing her embarrassment. The teacher agrees to try this out and it might look like this. Mary is getting frustrated during math. She puts a blue sticky note on the corner of her desk. Mary finishes her worksheet with some support. Now there’s something really important about what’s happened in C here. You remember what we were talking about before. Any time that you want to replace one behaviour with another, the outcome has to be the same. It has to end in the same result. It has to work. So remember what we were saying before. Crumpling worksheets worked to finish the math. It made the math stop, and with the behaviour that we’ve replaced it with, putting a blue sticky note on the corner of her desk instead of crumpling worksheets to make the math stop, she gets some support and is able to work through the math to finish it, which also makes the math stop. So with some support, right, same result, slightly more productive outcome. So check in time, guys. I want to remind everybody that our goal for today is for you to look at behaviour, and I mean any behaviour, through an ABC lens. By doing this, you can start to come up with ways to meet the person’s needs, which are unique to them.
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<blockquote>Okay. Remember, a strategy for one person might not be the appropriate strategy for someone else. Each person is different. Each person brings a unique internal and external profile to the table, and each reason for behaviour is different. Think about Johnny and Jack’s hitting. It looked similar, but it had very different reasons for happening. Their hitting needed different strategies. Mary’s case was an interesting one because she was able to talk to us about what was getting in the way of completing math worksheets and to participate in the development of the strategy. So I don’t want you to finish this presentation today and say to yourself , “Oh, Trevor said that my child should put a sticky note on their desk to ask for help,” or “Trevor said to use a time timer.”
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<blockquote>I want you to leave here today with the tools to figure out what are your child’s needs and what can you add or what can you change in their environment to meet them. Today, we looked to accomplish three things. We learned that behaviour is just a word for the things that we do, where we do them and when we do them. And we try to take all the emotion out of the words. There are no good or bad behaviours. There’s just behaviours. We also learned that applied behaviour analysis is using what we think we know about behaviour and applying it to the real world to meet a person’s unmet needs. Right? We learned that if you can change what happens before and after a behaviour, that can have an effect on the behaviour itself. And finally, we practiced a little bit what it means to be a behavioural detective by looking at behaviour through the lens of ABC.
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<blockquote>So to wrap up today’s presentation, I want to offer some thought. ABA tools help us to figure out the needs of a person and to begin to provide supports or teach new skills. But it’s important to remember that these tools aren’t meant to be used to change somebody. These tools are meant to guide you towards meeting the person where they’re at. Depending on the person, you might be able to just ask them what they need or what’s important to them like we did with Mary, right? She shared that she was too shy to raise her hand to ask for help, but in other cases the person might not have the skills to share that information with you and you are going to have to put on your behavioural detective hat to figure it out, like we did with Johnny and Jack for their hitting.
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<blockquote>Next, I want you to remember that even though people are complicated, analyzing behaviour doesn’t have to be. You remember what I was saying before about Jeremy, who was saying mean things? Sometimes it was happening to get something. Sometimes it was happening to make someone go away. And other times it seems like Jeremy was just doing it to get attention, right, To get a reaction. So that sounds kind of complicated. On the other hand, Johnny’s example of hitting it seemed a bit more straightforward, right? In our story, we were pretty certain it was working to get the car. But even though one seems more complicated than the other, we always start by identifying the behaviour that we’re interested in, and then we look at it through our ABC lens. Doesn’t matter how complicated it is, that’s where we start. So we’ve only scratched the surface of applied behaviour analysis today. And remember, the ABCs on their own aren’t going to get you all the way there. But no matter how complex the person’s situation might be, the ABCs are always a good place to start. Okay, next, I want to emphasize that our goal is behavioural detectives again, should never be to change someone.
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<blockquote>Our goal should always be to adapt to the environment, which includes our own behaviour, to offer supports and skills that are going to be useful for the person. So if you’re attempting to decrease a behaviour for whatever reason, you must also replace it with a new one that serves the same purpose. Never one without the other. So think back to our story where we chose to teach Johnny to say car. We chose this strategy because we knew that he had the skills to do it, and learning how to communicate safely is a lifelong skill. But Johnny didn’t necessarily get to choose the skills that were being taught or the supports to be used. And this is because in our made up story, he’s he’s too young, right? He doesn’t have the strong he doesn’t have strong enough communication skills to be able to share that kind of information with us. But in the real world, each person comes to the table with their own strengths and weaknesses. We might have to make a decision about whether or not a certain behaviour even needs to be addressed at all. So, for example, pacing or hand flapping, right, these kinds of things, they might meet someone sensory needs and it might not even be appropriate to try to decrease it. On the other hand, if your child is running away or behaving aggressively towards others, well, there might be some real danger involved and you might have to make the decision to intervene for safety. And that’s where I really want you to lean into the idea of being a detective. It’s our job as behavioural detectives to gather information, identify areas where needs aren’t being met, and then to include the person and their family as much as possible in the development of those interventions and strategies.</blockquote>

<blockquote>So taking what you’ve learned today about behaviour, I want you to think about how we might be able to use these new tools to better listen to someone’s needs, even if they can’t tell us in words. What are these behaviours telling us about their needs? How can we use this information to provide better support and to meet those needs?
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<blockquote>Thank you very much for your time.
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