February 2020 archive

How to Stop Avoidance Behaviors

So far, we have described avoidance behaviors and talked about how to prevent some of these unwanted behaviors. While your child is learning from your preventative strategies, like giving choices or changing the way you give the demand, your child will likely still engage in challenging behaviors to avoid some tasks. It is nearly impossible to stop every behavior from happening, so this week we will describe the best way to  react to unwanted behaviors related to avoiding certain activities.

When responding to avoidance behaviors it is important that you do not give the child what they want unless they do what they are supposed to. For example. don’t let them watch tv until their spelling homework is done. You should wait them out, which may be difficult. A child’s behavior may get more intense if you don’t respond, but this is normal. If you give in and let them have their way, like letting them get out of doing their homework or cleaning their room, they will just be more likely be behave badly in the future.

Another way to respond to a child avoiding a task is to continue giving them the instructions of what they are supposed to be doing. Keep telling them that they need to be doing their spelling or picking up their toys, so they know what their expectations are. If they do start to work on what they are supposed to make sure you are providing behavior specific praise, like saying “thanks for starting to clean up, I like how you put your toys in the toy box!”

At the Husky ABA Clinic are graduate and undergraduate clinicians are using all of these strategies. Tune in next week to see a video of our clinicians in action!

Meet Cassidy!

Meet Cassidy! She has worked at the Husky ABA Clinic since January 2020. At the clinic, she works with clients to build rapport, take data on their current abilities, and implement interventions to expand their skills. Most of this work is integrated with their play, so she and the staff get to have fun and make great connections with everyone involved.

Cassidy is a senior in the Community Psychology program at St. Cloud State. She became interested in ABA after taking her first behavior intervention class this past summer. At the time she was going for school counseling, but found that Behavior Analysis just “clicked.” She ended up talking to one of our professors, Dr. Traub, about the master’s program and has not looked back since!

After graduation, Cassidy will being pursuing her master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at SCSU. Our clinic has given her first hand experience in the field, as well as connecting her to faculty and graduate students in the program she will be starting this Fall. Since starting at the clinic, Cassidy says she feels much more prepared and has a clear understanding of what she will be doing in the near future; she cannot be more excited!

One of Cassidy’s favorite experiences at the clinic so far was the first time that the client said her name and initiated in social play with her. At this point, Cassidy realized the strong connection she had made with the client and felt that she had earned her client’s trust, which is one of Cassidy’s biggest goals in this field.

One fun fact about Cassidy is she rescued a cat who was born with a muscular defect. His back legs do not work very well, which makes it very difficult to walk. However, he is the sweetest little guy and wants to be near you at all times. He loves to play with their other cat, even though he falls over pretty much the entire time, and is the best snuggler! Another fun fact about Cassidy is that she plays soccer here at SCSU. She has played soccer since she was 3 and has only grown to love the game more! Go Huskies!

Stopping Escape-Maintained Behaviors Before They Happen

In our previous post we discussed the escape function of behavior.  We also reviewed what it may look like when your child is trying to avoid or get out of a task they have been asked to do. One way to handle these behaviors is to change what you do before the behaviors even start. If you set the tasks up in a certain way your child may be less likely to get upset about the work. Here are some examples of how you can do that.

One way to prevent escape-maintained behaviors is to give your child choices. Choices can be delivered in a variety of ways. For example, if your child working on homework, let them choose which pencil they will use, or which chair they will sit in while you work. You can even ask them which task they want to do first, for example “should we start with reading or math tonight?”. Finally, they can choose what they want to work for, like having some TV after their homework or getting to play outside for a while.

Giving them these choices will help them feel involved in the selection of activity and can prevent problem behavior. Choices also allow for the child to feel in control of what they are doing without you completely giving in to what your child wants. Although they are choosing where they sit or what they start with, you will still be able to have them accomplish what you wanted them to.

Another way to prevent avoidance behaviors to be clear and concise with the task you are asking your child. Instead of saying “can you clean up your room” say “please clean up the toys in your room.” This will make it easy for them to understand what they will need to do and keep them from being overwhelmed by too big of a task. These should be framed as a directive, so they know it’s not a choice, but something they need to be doing. If they do have a choice of what they are going to do make sure they know they have to pick. For example, “we need to clean something today, you have to do either the bathroom or your bedroom. “This still incorporated choice, but also lets them know they have to complete one of the tasks.

Here at the Husky ABA clinic we aim to use preventative strategies to keep behaviors from happening, but we also know that they do occur sometimes. This is why next week we will be talking about how to respond when these behaviors do happen.

What is Escape-Maintained Behavior?

Last post we introduced you to the functions of behavior, which are escape, attention, tangible, and sensory. We will start describing these functions in more depth, starting with escape.

If a child always starts throwing his homework around when you give him his math assignments to get out of doing his work, this may be an escape-maintained behavior. Children know that if they act in a certain way, such as throwing a fit or leaving the homework area, they will be able to get out of the task. The child will continue to throw a fit or leave for as long as it works to escape or avoid the unpleasant task. If this is the reason for the problem behavior, changing the dynamic in place will help fix this problem.

Another example of this may be a child trying to avoid a chore at home. If you want your child to clean up their toys and fall to the floor and start screaming until you pick up the toys for them you may be dealing with escape maintained behavior.

Children often use escape if the task they need to be doing is too long, boring/easy, difficult, or nonpreferred. The purpose of these behaviors is to get out of, or escape, unwanted activities. These behaviors can also be used to avoid the activity before it starts. Some children may also try to avoid certain people, like a specific teacher or family members if that person disciplines them or gives them work to do. A final reason a child may escape is that the environment is overwhelming to them. It may be too loud or too bright for some children.

Stay tuned to find out more about escape-maintained behavior and the other functions. Our next post will be on preventative strategies for escape-maintained behavior.

What’s the Function: Understanding why we behave the way we do.

Last semester, we discussed what it means to be a BCBA, how to use embedded teaching, and how clinicians at the Husky Applied Behavior Analysis Clinic work with your children. Over the course of this semester, we will discuss how the function of behavior impacts our reactions.


When children appropriately or inappropriately behavior, you may ask yourself… “Why is she biting?,” “why won’t he do his math assignments?” or “I don’t understand why he likes to rock in his chair.” In applied behavior analysis, BCBAs take a highly individualized to identify the “Why?” or the function of the behavior. Through detailed behavioral assessments, BCBAs (and clinicians at the Husky ABA clinic) can identify if these disruptive behaviors occur to one of four reasons. The child may engage in challenging behavior to get out of unpleasant tasks, activities, or situations; gain a reaction (attention) from adults, peers, or siblings; get items, activities, or snacks (tangible); or to meet a sensory need (sensory).

When we identify the WHY (or function of a disruptive behavior), BCBAs will conduct assessments that may consist of interviewing the parent, teacher, or other important individuals’ in the child’s life, observing the child  in the environment in which the behavior is likely to occur, and directly testing specific situations to see if unwanted behaviors occur. Together, this information helps BCBAs learn WHY (or the function) of the behavior, and identify indivualized behavioral therapy to  decrease disruptive behavior, but more importantly increase behaviors that are socially appropriate (like communication). Over the next few weeks, Husky ABA Clinicians will be reviewing each function of the disruptive behavior (escape, attention, tangible, and sensory), describe strategies that are evidence-based to prevent these behavior, and outline how to respond to this disruptive behaviors if they occur.

Six St. Cloud State University students selected for scholarships by the Autism Recovery Foundation

The Autism Recovery Foundation logo, courtesy of the Autism Recovery Foundation.

The Autism Recovery Foundation (ARF) is committed to building the workforce in Minnesota for individuals who wish to or are providing ABA services to children with autism. They support students who are pursuing their Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) credentials. Students pursuing BCBA or BCaBA course work and will be joining or are currently in the Minnesota workforce as an intern or employee are eligible for $500 to $1,500 scholarships. Since 2014, ARF has dispersed more than $75,000 in scholarships to help build a robust, highly qualified workforce dedicated to supported individuals and families with Autism diagnoses.

Congratulations to McKenzie Loch and Maria Ranallo for their BCaBA scholarships! Additional congratulations to Kelly Berth, Jennifer Hagen, Kelsey Loeffler, and Emlie Olson for their BCBA scholarships! More on the Autism Recovery Foundation and the Spring 2020 scholarship awards can be found at: https://www.autismrecoveryfoundation.org/news/spring-2020-bcba-bcaba-scholarships-announced

The organization disperses scholarships to students twice a year, the 2020 deadlines for scholarships can be found on the ARF website. Applications can be found at: http://www.autismrecoveryfoundation.org/services/aba-application