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The Three E's of Applied Behavior Analysis

These three important "E's" are a great way to remember a few important concepts which are commonly used in ABA. As is the case, while these concepts are particularly helpful in teaching students with autism, they can also be generalized to almost any circumstance in your daily life.

Environmental Factors

Without a doubt, the environment is one of the most common aspects which can drastically affect behavior. The world around us is constantly providing new and also familiar feedback which shapes our behavior patterns. The presence or absence of certain environmental factors can have a huge impact on how we act. Staying 'in-tune' with these factors can have a positive impact on your understanding of your students' behavior. This is especially true when considering non-verbal students or those displaying challenges with expressive language.

Extinction Bursts

You've tried everything! You are spending less time attending to disruptive behavior and positively reinforcing the actions you want to see more of from your student. It seems unbelievable that you are actually seeing an increase in your child's undesired behavior! What is going on?

This may be an example of what is called an extinction burst. Putting a behavior 'on extinction' often refers to a teacher/parent ignoring a certain behavior and, subsequently removing the reinforcing aspect, i.e. in many cases the attention for that action. Sometimes, this can actually cause an increase in the intensity of the original behavior or even the short-term development of new and more challenging behavior. In this scenario, it is extremely important to stay the course because this increased rate of inappropriate behavior actually indicates that your technique is working!

Also, if you do capitulate after crying becomes kicking, for example; next time, your student may be more likely to skip crying and head straight to kicking! After a certain amount of time, these behaviors will most likely dramatically disappear or drastically reduce in frequency - in effect, bursting, after you put them on extinction.

Exaggerate/Understate Your Responses

Exaggerated Responses

In the world of ABA, your response to certain behaviors that you want to see more of should be exaggerated in a positive manner. The extent to which you amplify your response depends on many factors including;

The student's age/developmental level

Typically, responses to younger students' positive behavior should be more outwardly exaggerated. Older students can still be reinforced appropriately using a more appropriate individualized reinforcement system.

The nature of the behavior

If your child has never previously said hello to a teacher, independently, and did so just now, this would warrant a big increase in the level of your response. Hopefully, this will send a clear message that this behavior results in positive results and therefore, will become more prevalent. Consequently, a commonly occurring or mastered skill would not require such a response to maintain it.

Understated Responses

On the other side of the coin, undesired behavior should be 'put on extinction' or ignored by understating your response to this specific behavior as described in the previous section.

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