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Behavior Traps

23 blog avatar 1 Grandma’s Law
Expert Name: Amanda Fishley, MA, BCBA, COBA
Expert Title: MA, BCBA, COBA
Company Name:  Special Learning, Inc.
Company URL: www.special-learning.com
Short Bio: Amanda Fishley, MA, BCBA, COBA is a Board Certified Behavior

 Analyst and Certified Ohio Behavior Analyst. She has experience working with children, adolescents and adults in variety of settings including school, home and mental health facilities. In each of these environments, she worked closely with parents, teachers, and paraprofessionals to develop and oversee implementation of behavior intervention plans. She has extensive experience mentoring and providing supervision to RBTs, BCBA candidates and behavior analysts. As an Associate Director of Clinical Solutions for Special Learning, she is responsible for creating and presenting educational materials and promoting Special Learning’s mission to positively impact the special needs community. She received her Master’s degree in Special Education/ABA from The Ohio State University. She has been working with in the field of ABA for over ten years.

Behavior Traps

Like Grandma used to say, “You can’t have your ice cream until you finish your broccoli!” Informally known as “Grandma’s Law” or the “first and then” rule, the Premack principle utilizes behaviors that happen with a high-probability or high free operant behavior (this is most often preferred) to use as a reinforcer contingent upon the completion of a low-probability or low frequency behavior (usually non-preferred).

For example, if you want your learner to brush his teeth, you may say “first brush your teeth, then you can watch TV.” We often apply this rule to ourselves! Example: When I’m finished with my errands, I can go shopping.

Identifying “high-probability” or “high frequency” behaviors can be done by simply observing the individual in his/her natural environment. What do they typically spend more time doing?

You can optimize the success with using this intervention simply by accompanying it with a visual cue. This can be pictures, icons, and/or words. Teaching him/her to remove or cross off the item when it’s completed will also begin teaching him/her to self-monitor, which will allow you to add multiple icons before he/she can gain access to the preferred item or activity more smoothly.


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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

Mother Child
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