Let’s Learn ABA: Proactive Behavior Strategies

Tantrums, Elopement, Aggression. You may be all too familiar with these terms, along with several other behaviors that you find difficult to handle in your daily life. Are you asking yourself how you can respond to these behaviors?  Or maybe, you are looking for strategies you can do after your loved one struggles with these. However, have you stopped to think about what you can do BEFORE the behavior occurs? Within ABA, we term these ideas as Proactive Behavior Strategies. Meaning that we utilize different tools strategically before behaviors may occur!

Think about using an alarm clock. You set your alarm every night before bed so that it wakes you up BEFORE you are late for work. Some of us even set it way too early just so we get to treat ourselves to a few extra minutes 🤫 However, setting that alarm clock serves as a proactive strategy, preventing us from rushing around and being late for our morning activities.

Within ABA sessions, we like to work proactively and utilize tools to use before behaviors occur. When we use a proactive strategy, we are helping to set up our learner to be successful and realize that they can complete difficult tasks independently! We have outlined some of our favorite strategies below:

Proactive Strategies 

  • Identify Reinforcers
    • Build motivation
    • Use highest preferred reinforcers (for most difficult tasks)
  • Choices 
    • Provide choices when possible
      • You can ___ or ____
  • Transition Buffer 
    • Give a warning
      • We are going to put up the toys soon and go eat a snack
    • Count Down
      • 5 more minutes
      • 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
  • Task Modification
    • If the task is too difficult, consider changing it! Such as pick up 3 toys, instead of all of them.
  • First-Then Statement 
    • First pick up the toys, then we can go outside.
  • Behavior Specific Praise 
    • Instead of “good job” try saying “Wow! I love that you are putting the crayons in the box”
  • Clear Demands 
    • Refrain from saying “Can you, Will you, etc” instead, place the demand clear.
      • “Go sit down”
      • “Put your shoes away”
      • “Give me the car”
  • Visuals 
    • There are SO many helpful visuals out there for almost any task, if you can’t find one, make one! Some of our favorites include:
      • Daily Schedules
      • Timers
      • Rules
      • Tasks drawn or written out

Proactive strategies can be helpful when working on difficult tasks. However, we can also introduce them to our daily lives to make everything a bit easier! If your child is currently in ABA, check out their behavior intervention plan to see if there are written proactive strategies to use, or discuss these with your Consultant. If you are not currently in ABA, try some of the strategies mentioned above!

Want a visual for yourself?? Find your FREE printable here: Proactive Behavior Strategies

Let us know what your favorite proactive strategies are!

-Heidi Mann, BCBA, Outreach Consultant