This is where we were with Charlie at the end of Examining the Behavior.
I had reservations about this project from the beginning. While I could see this A-B-C pattern and understand what it represented, I was not sure this boy at 32 months of age could understand what I was doing to help him. He has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), although there was no way to confirm the drug affect. He looked beautiful, healthy and fine, but I was doubtful I could do anything about this problem. I pressed forward anyway following what I thought best. I decided to use a Reprimand.
The Reprimand had no effect at all. I didn’t get past saying, “You threw a toy that almost hit someone,” before he screamed back “No!” He also started pushing me away making it impossible to complete the Reprimand sequence. By the time he was dumping and throwing, he was so angry that he was not going to listen to anyone for a while. I ended up putting him in a Strict Time Out, because I did not know what else to do. In fact this whole idea of changing the consequences did not appeal to me at all, because Charlie seemed way too angry. I did not see a way for anything to work. First, he was angry and dumped/threw. Second, he was additionally angry about the consequences he was suffering. What I tried to do seemed to make it worse. It seemed impossible for him to understand the reasoning about what we were trying to do for him.
This led me to think more about changing the antecedents, since I recognized more clearly that my best shot would be in doing something before the anger begins. After he is angry, it is basically over. If the antecedents were changed, and he did not get angry, the problem might be solved. My first idea was to Set the Stage by being especially attentive to him. I also decided to switch to a When You’re Ready Time Out rather than a strict one, since it was the least aggravating of the available consequences. For sure, the Strict Time Out was not working. I filled out a new table that looked like this.
In choosing a new positive behavior to reward, I decided to reward anything that showed gentleness, a characteristic that we had been working on with him. It was rather crazy to reward him for an opposite behavior, such as playing with toys appropriately, because he would probably not make the connection. It made more sense to attend to a more appropriate way to be. Since receiving hugs is something he understands and likes, it made sense to pay more attention to the growth of a caring attitude for him and for me, whenever it occurred.
The next day the throwing and dumping disappeared and the following day, too. It resurfaced on the third day with 2 throws, then one throw, then one throw, and then was gone for two full weeks!
Then it was back. The difference now was that it did not seem to be about us. He came to school grumpy and testy, which indicated that something might have been going on at home. He came into the room and threw his chair, ignored breakfast, and started throwing toys as well. Since we had no control of what happened at home, we simply continued the program. With continued consistency on our part he calmed down. The results showed us that the program was still effective.
Measurement was essential to our decisions. Initially it felt like he was throwing toys all day long. None of us could stand it. For us the problem was overwhelming. Without taking that initial measure for a week, I would not have known that the problem was actually manageable. The data gave our staff a standard by which changes could be judged. If we didn’t have that standard, there would have been no way to determine whether we helped or hindered the problem and no way for everyone to be on board.
This protocol really works. No matter how we are feeling about it, we get to face a troubling behavior with a logical structure. It forces us to consider what we can change (antecedents and consequences), does not try to change what cannot be changed (the child), and relies on observation of the facts. It forces us to see — maybe for the first time — what is actually happening.
How do you see the Behavior Management Protocol affecting the management team?
What would you guess is happening to the other children in the classroom who have been used to seeing Charlie go ballistic and are watching the adults hug Charlie more?