Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and       Related Disorders [Mary Lynch Barbera]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reducing Problem Behaviors

I often get questions like this:  My child  displays problem behavior (screams/argues/ bites/kicks/flops to the ground ) when a demand is placed ( it is time to take a bath/do homework/go to bed).   The answer to the question is similiar no matter what the problem behavior or demand. 

Whenever problem behaviors occur, I believe the demands are usually too high and/or the reinforcement is too low.

The first thing I would recommend is to take data (how many times the behavior occurs per hour or per day and take some ABC data too, if possible). Next I would look at activities when the problem behavior almost always occurs (when it is time to take a bath) and when it never occurs (while your child is playing on the computer).

You then should look at ways to “re-pair” the bathing routine (get foam for the tub or bath paint/toys for instance) and try to sandwich harder activities with fun activities (first bath then computer). A heavy focus on pairing and manding as well as an 8 to 1 ratio for positive to negative comments is usually helpful too.

Continuing to take data while you intervene is necessary to make sure the behaviors are decreasing. If problem behaviors are severe you may need a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or someone with lots of experience with problem behaviors to help you. My book (The Verbal Behavior Approach) --specifically chapters 2, 4, and 5 explain these ideas more fully.  Check for more information.


  1. I have a question not related to this post...hope you don't mind.

    Could you explain the difference between ABLLS and VB-MAPP? I've noticed they've switched Adam to the VB-MAPP, but I need a layman's terms explanation. Thanks.

  2. Great idea for next weeks' blog....stay tuned for the differences between the ABLLS and VB MAPP. If you have ideas, questions, or comments not related to the blog topic, feel free to email me directly at

  3. You're a heck of reasonable gal, Mary! I couldn't have said what you recommend better than you do myself.. . And it is crazy where people have a problem with that, (with our being so reasonable?) of so many out there having exactly that problem you're talking about of not being about what we are more fundamentally doing (of our analysis?) and about, as with Communication? (Hello?) I don't really see enough of that around (with respect to our programming) with non-autistic folks, be sure? .. . Your advice is very appropriate towards teaching the more reasonable behavior of, the reason/ing of Communication Itself, I Feel as understand!

    So, in that respect, towards even being clearer about things, I'd say that we're not so much about teaching or educating (of programming not towards cognisance? of self?) to get to the point (as with "our" conditioning that needs a shake?) as we're about "communicating," for all that is more meaningful, Thereof!

    My sense of It, where we learn from each other where we learn anything at all.. . Hello

    "Communication" towards recovery? That's what "I'd" say we're dealing with and about (if I can speak for you?) and I'm very much with you on that, of being for you speaking for your self! (for all that we can be, Thereof

    Best wishes, Thereof! (Test or no test.. .


    Now to get the state (world? political world otherwise? of its bad behavior?) to wise-up? as we have, I'm thinkin', Thereof, of individualising things even if not especially, for all that we can do for each other, Thereof, I Feel as understand.. .

    I will recommend you for that Mary.. I may consider your services in that respect of what you can do for my children in that respect, if that'd be OK with you?

    Why you and not me? Of me being as "Objective" as I am, let's just say? of trying what we will, as Feel, of Understanding More.. . Think of it as of "my intuition" for what to teach, (communicate ) that I believe you believe in deferring to, Thereof, of your understanding how to communicate, (;) of being as reinforcing as you seem to be... and me realizing how meaningful that is, of what makes the more meaningful difference, for my "children," Thereof

    There would be no need to "re-direct me" with that, I Feel as understand.. . but "anything" you have to Communicate would be "appreciated" in that respect

    P.S. Keep up The good work..