December 3, 2018

Many parents come to us wanting to ensure consistent therapy from home reaches across to the school setting.

It is important that both home and school are working together and on the same page to minimize mixed messages and ensure our kids understand expectations wherever they are.

So how is ABA used in schools?
The principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) look at individual behaviours and determine a way to increase or decrease the particular behaviour. These principles can be applied across all ages, all ability types, and all environments. ABA is most known for its effectiveness in teaching children with autism and this practice is often applied in the home or clinic setting. However, we have found it to be extremely helpful for both Child and Teacher when applied within school settings.

ABA can be used in classrooms to support both typically developing students and students with special needs. The principles of ABA can assist in both regular and special classrooms to decrease classroom disruptions and increase work efficiency & independence.

“ABA specialists can create an intervention for any behaviour that is observable”

Can ABA can be implemented in group settings?
Some common areas of focus are classroom management strategies, reinforcement of appropriate behaviours and social interventions. A typical example of social interventions may be small groups during lunch, recess or a social time where individual social skills can be targeted to be taught or increased.

Academically there are many different interventions that can target skills in smaller components for small or large groups of children. ABA specialists work with the teachers to breakdown the components of a lesson and design a systematic plan and reinforcement system to increase skills and/or the ability to attend for longer periods of time.

These Interventions and support can also be provided on an individual basis.

Academic content can be taught using the principals of ABA. For a learner that learns better in small increments, discrete trial programs can be created and introduced to teach skills systematically and not on a large scale.

Although the teaching method Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is commonly used, there are also a variety of other methods to implement ABA in a classroom setting.

Generally discrete trial programs would be run with a 1:1 staff member/child ratio and not the general education teacher.

Another 1:1 intervention used may be Precision Teaching which would require systematic training to increase rapid responding and fluency in children.

Along with academics, social skills can be taught using principles of ABA within the classroom and in common areas during recess and lunch using natural environment training.

Social skills are a large part of the school day from group work to following classroom directions and to playing at recess.

For some learners these interactions can be challenging and difficult to navigate. A Behavioural Specialist works with support staff and general education teachers to identify areas for improvement for a child and design interventions to help better develop the skills and support the learner to be successful within the social environments.

Appropriate social interactions can be very difficult for any student as expectations continuously change with age, environment and peers.

Often, we hear the concern for teachers is providing behavioural support for students who may exhibit some disruptive behaviours throughout the school day.

Part of the general training for teachers would be how to assess an individual behaviour to determine what the pure function of the behaviour is.

Many behaviours can appear to be for one reason when the actual function is something very different.
A simple example is if a child is shouting out in class, one may think he is a “class clown”. However, when observing further, we notice that each time he shouts out he is told to “go and take a walk to calm down” resulting in the demand of work being removed.

Once this has been witnessed occurring multiple times, we can then determine an intervention that is more appropriate to teach the learner to raise his hand and ask for help rather than disrupt the whole class.

A common measure used is Antecedent- Behaviour- Consequence Data, or ABC Data, which simply records what happened immediately before, what was the behaviour, what happened immediately after.
Although this may seem like a lot of work for a teacher, behaviour specialists are skilled at creating simple data recording measures to get the information needed.

This information would then be used to develop a Behavioural Support Plan as a resource for teachers so that all are responding to the disruptive behaviours in the same way.

Although these plans are in place for disruptive behaviours, plans can also be in place to support behaviours that should be increased.

Behaviour support plans are helpful to set goals and objectives, describe preventative techniques for problem behaviours, identify responses to problem behaviours and list replacement behaviours to encourage.

Whether a Behavioural Specialist is in a school on a temporary basis or as a permanent employee, they are a fantastic resource for a school to support and strengthen learning environments across all students.
A Behavioural Specialist can provide a school with the Science of Applied Behaviour Analysis to add as another tool in the team approach to education and learning.

The approach is often associated with special education and it can dramatically help students with specialised needs, however this can also be implemented across typically developing learners and provide that extra support to teachers to encourage a positive and successful learning environment.