How Do You Know If Your Behavior Plan Is a Good Plan?

On another blog post I discussed Why some behavior plans don’t work, today, I want to ask you, how do you know a behavior plan or a behavior program is a good one? My BCBA friends will certainly say “the data will tell you”. True, but is there any way that even before implementing a behavior program that we can guarantee that it will be effective? A good behavior plan is one that people can follow.


Before creating a behavior plan, a respectable behavior analyst will conduct a functional assessment, a reinforcer assessment, and baseline the current levels of behavior. All good and essential things, that in general revolve around the learner. I am here to suggest that in creating a behavior program we need to do the same type of investigation on the behavior of all the other people involved, such as the direct care therapists or patient aides (depending on your setting), parents, other peers, and society at large.

For example, if a problem behavior is maintained by “attention”, one common strategy is to “put the behavior on extinction”, in order words, to ignore it. Indeed, that is a very effective behavior reduction strategy, and many behavior therapists are proud to say that they can tolerate an “extinction burst/tantrum”, but will the parents be able to put up with it? I have a friend who says that “when a child cries the parent’s DNA hurts.” Designing a plan that requires the parent to engage in “planned ignoring” is likely to be ineffective, and you don’t need any data to make that assumption.

After conducting the learner assessment, here are some questions to ask yourself about the caregiver (family or staff):

  • What impact does the behavior have on the caregiver?
    • Is the caregiver embarrassed by it?
    • Does the caregiver take pride in assisting the learner with that particular behavior?
    • What will change in the caregiver’s life if you change that behavior? Will the changes be positive or negative?
  • When will the caregiver see the impact of the behavior change?
    • Are the results short term or long term?
    • How much effort will the caregiver have to dedicate before a pay off?
  • What kind of consequences will the environment (peers, society, etc.) offer for the behavior?
    • Natural occurring reinforcers are hard to change
    • Will peers laugh/comment at the behavior?
    • Will people look while you’re trying to implement the procedure?
  • Is the caregiver (therapist or natural supports) trained to use the technique?
  • How will you teach the implementation of the program, and how will you monitor the fidelity of its delivery?
  • What is the acceptable variability in the caregiver’s behavior?

tumblr_nnxxiiycRo1slhhf0o1_1280Many times, we look at learner searching for reasons why adequate progress is not seen. We try different reinforcers, different reinforcement schedules, decrease effort, intersperse with mastered programs, and forget all about the “collateral”, that is, the people around the learner.  When the variables that affect the environment around the learner are pin pointed and addressed, you can say that the behavior plan/program has a good chance of being effective.To read more about behavior analysis as a tool to teach skills and reduce restrictive interventions sign up for The Behavior Web Newsletter.

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