Working in the applied behavior analysis field, a professional who is credentialed as a Registered Behavior Technician, is required to understand and properly implement the basic ABA principles. These concepts are listed in the Registered Behavior Technician Task List.

The RBT task list includes various categories of ABA concepts including: Measurement, Assessment, Skill Acquisition, Behavior Reduction, Documentation and Reporting, and Professional Conduct and Scope of Practice.

You can download and review the RBT Task List on the BACB website.

In our previous post, we discussed some of the concepts that are identified in the behavior reduction category. We will address additional items from the behavior reduction category in this post. Behavior reduction concepts in ABA refer to principles and strategies that are utilized to decrease the occurrence of maladaptive behaviors in the identified client.

Whenever working on behavior reduction, it is very important to also consider what behavior should be targeted to develop. It is important to focus on what the client should be doing and not just focus on what they should NOT be doing. For instance, if a client throws tantrums in order to get a toy from their sibling, instead of just focusing on stopping the tantrums, be sure to also focus on teaching adaptive behaviors such as sharing and functional communication.

We will cover the following behavior reduction concepts below:

  • Task List Item D-04: Implement differential reinforcement procedures
  • Task List Item D-05: Implement extinction procedures
  • Task List Item D-06: Implement crisis/emergency procedures according to protocol

D-04: Implement differential reinforcement procedures

As mentioned, behavior reduction also involves reinforcing adaptive behaviors which in turn can lead to a reduction of the maladaptive behavior identified. More specifically, differential reinforcement procedures can be used to increase certain behaviors (or skills). When those identified skills are increased and reinforced, the maladaptive behaviors are likely to decrease.

For example, if a child who has a history of tantrums when he wants a toy from his brother is no longer able to access toys for displaying tantrums, but instead is reinforced for functional communication or sharing, that child will learn that he can take turns with the toy or ask nicely if he can use the toy in order to get access to the item he wants.

D-05: Implement extinction procedures

Extinction refers to the ABA principle of no longer providing reinforcement to a previously reinforced behavior. Basically, when the reinforcement for a behavior stops, the behavior will likely stop, as well.

In clinical practice, ABA providers sometimes associate ignoring the child or ignoring the behavior with extinction. However, this is not truly the way extinction works.

Extinction involves no longer providing the reinforcement for a behavior. The reinforcement may have been attention in which case ignoring the behavior may be acceptable as an extinction procedure. However, when the reinforcement of the behavior is actually escape rather than attention, ignoring is not necessarily a true form of extinction. When a behavior is maintained by the function of escape, extinction would include no longer allowing escape from the demand.

(In this case, it may also be beneficial to consider the reinforcement that can be obtained from compliance with the demands. This is a reminder of the importance of reinforcing adaptive behavior rather than just focusing on the maladaptive behavior).

It is important to assess the function of the behavior in order to develop an appropriate intervention plan for behavior reduction in ABA services. There are multiple strategies that can be used to complete functional behavior assessments. Consider finding a detailed reference to assist you with completing a quality FBA. Here is an example:

Functional Behavioral Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment, Second Edition: A Complete System for Education and Mental Health Settings

D-06: Implement crisis/emergency procedures according to protocol

The setting in which an RBT works will dictate what crisis or emergency procedures will be used in an ABA session. However, there are some general procedures that should be considered.

It is important to have a plan for how you as the RBT will address any maladaptive behaviors especially behaviors that could pose a danger to the client or anyone else. Typically, a supervisor or Behavior Analyst will be able to assist in developing this plan.

Also, it is important to understand laws regarding mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect, how to report any concerning incidents that may occur, and what to do about illness or injury. An RBT should have first aid knowledge and have emergency contact information to be used during their session (including contact information for local emergency services such as the fire and police departments as well as emergency contacts for the client specifically).

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Tarbox, J. & Tarbox, C. (2017). Training Manual for Behavior Technicians Working with Individuals with Autism.