March 19, 2014

two brothers fightingDid you know that negative or undesirable behaviors can affect a child’s learning?

Therapists can help by identifying how a behavior was learned in order to learn a new positive behavior or decrease a negative one.

This process is explained by the three term contingency, a behavioral strategy commonly referred to as the ABCs of behavior:

  • Antecedent – What happened right before a behavior?
  • Behavior – What is the behavior?
  • Consequence – What happened after the behavior?

To better understand the process, here are some examples of the ABCs in action:

Antecedent: Traffic light turns red
Behavior: Press foot onto brakes
Consequence: Stop at intersection

Antecedent: Teacher flicks lights on and off
Behavior: Students lower their voices
Consequence: Class is quiet

As you can see, even simple tasks such as pressing your brakes at a traffic light can be explained via the ABCs of behavior.

Generally, if what happens after a behavior (the consequence) is pleasant and reinforcing, the behavior is more likely to be repeated and learned. However, if the consequence is unpleasant, the behavior is less likely to be repeated and less likely to be learned.

By consistently presenting a strong reinforcer immediately following desired behavior, therapists can help clients learn new functional skills!

If you would like to learn more about our behavioral health programs for children in San Antonio, Texas, and throughout New Jersey, please visit our contact page.

~ Candy Shaw, OTR, BCBA
Occupational Therapist
Fort Worth, Texas

Source: Alberto, P., & Troutman, A. (2000). Applied behavior analysis for teachers. Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.