Thursday, October 05, 2006

Comments on behavioral intervention projects for HDL 655

Some notes on some special topics in behavioral interventions.

Some of you have chosen some topics that do not follow the standard protocol in behavioral interventions or require some more intensive procedures. Let’s look at some of them:

Going to the gym more often – is one that many of you chose to do. The problem with this goal is how does one measure increasing attendance? In general, you need to increase your attendance as well as increase the amount of behaviors that you engage in while you are there. So it is not enough to simply go to the gym, but you need to also increase what you do there.

The first issue that becomes evident almost immediately is the issue of small steps to achieve your goal. Some of you indicated that you are not going to the gym at all, and your goal is to go 5 times a week. That is really unrealistic. First of all, it is unhealthy, and can result in a lot of bodily damage. Secondly, the goal is almost unreachable, and the option of quitting is quite real.

So, how do you measure progress in the gym? Here are some ideas:
Duration of Time spent working out – might be a good one – what you would do is simply measure the amount of time you are working out. This is easy to do if you are taking a class (which is usually 45m – 1h) or if you use a cardiovascular machine (they normally have timers built into them)
Count of free weight or weight machines – here you will need to be careful as you will be increasing not only the amount of repetitions over time, but you will also increase the weight that you will be using.

Regardless of which measurement procedures you will use, you will need to develop small steps along the way to indicate that you are on track.

Academic Interventions - School psychologists have taken the area of behaviorism into the classroom and have affected quite a few changes. One of the topics that you will need to know about are permanent products. In order to assess progress academically, you will need to obtain some permanent samples of the child’s behavior to demonstrate that it has advanced or improved. This is easy to do in math and in writing, because those topics are naturally based on permanent products (solving problems on paper and writing essays) but much more difficult to do with reading.

So for reading, we need to develop contrived situations to assess reading progress. One way to do this is to develop a set of questions, which can be asked and answered verbally and you will take down notations. For instance – assign readings from a magazine, and after each session, request more reading time. As the reading time becomes longer, there will be more and more questions that the child must respond to. One program might look like this:

Amt. of Time Required to Read------ Things child must tell you about the story
10 -----------------------------------------------------------2
What the child is required to tell you can vary according to what you are trying to target – facts, hypothetical and critical thinking, etc. etc. You can ask for more and more details as time goes on. Based on the number of correct responses, you will deliver reinforcement.

If the child answers your questions incorrectly, or does not give appropriate responses, you will need to model the correct response for the child and ask the child to repeat or paraphrase what you provided.

You can chart many different types of issues here, including, number of correct responses, number of modeling sentences you give, etc. etc. Remember that this will be a changing criterion design because once the student is able to read for 10 minutes and can effectively answer 2 questions, and then you need to increase the pressure for the child to perform more.

Some children may be so intent on reading quickly to get reinforcement, they may blurt out the answers or various factoids about the story before time is up in the hopes that they can get reinforcement before time is up. In that instance, you will need to apply a DRL procedure in which you will not reinforce (acknowledge) any verbal behaviors during the reading time.

Finally, please consider the developmental age of the child and consider the average amount of time that children usually spend reading at that age. For instance, asking a 5 year old child to read for 30 minutes will lead to a lot of frustration.

Increasing “good manners” – is an area that is especially important. Here the focus needs to be on the teaching technique, and measurement becomes a bit odd and weird.

There are a lot of good books on good manners that are available, but you don’t really need to buy them. You can develop your own social stories, in which you introduce the topography of the behavior (the various situations in which you would use terms like “thank you”) as well as the function of the behavior (why it is in the child’s benefit to use such terms, such as increased approval from others and usually more and quicker access to materials and activities). Develop probes or questions about the story and then chart their correct responses, similar to the techniques that I noted above for reading.

Afterwards, you will need to practice or rehearse the behaviors in a variety of situations.

Finally, you will need to set up behavioral analogues, in which you expose the child to a new and unique person, and assess whether or not they use these terms with them. Ideally you should get two/three new people and see if the child uses the words with him/her. Your charting here will be the percentage of correct responses.

Inducing language in children without much language to begin with
This is a tough one and we discussed it partially in class. In general there two major competencies that need to go into having children produce language

The understanding that sounds form the basis of communication
The understanding that communication is a two-way process

The understanding that sounds form the basis of communication You can shape speaking via the methodology of reinforcing closer and closer approximations to the target word. Your first step is to hold up an item that the child obviously wants (e.g. motivate the operations) and ask “do you want this?” If the child makes any sound, then s/he gets it. After this becomes consistent, you can begin to look for sounds that more closely match the target word (“yes” “milk” “food” – pick one word and focus on that for a while. If you were looking at increasing the word “milk”, you would first target \m\ then \mi\, then \mik\ or \mil\ then \milk\.

The understanding that communication is a two-way process This involved teaching non-verbal communicative behaviors in situations that are not conducive to developing verbal repertoires. This is done in the same way as above

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