Behavioral Momentum in ABA Therapy

Behavioral Momentum in ABA Therapy

therapist encouraging child

Welcome to our ABA therapy technique series where we explore the different techniques used by ABA therapists. In this article we will learn about Behavioral Momentum. 

Behavioral momentum is an essential applied behavior analysis (ABA) technique where a therapist creates momentum through a series of simple demands, before presenting a child with a more complex task. 

In this article we’ll explore how behavioral momentum is used in ABA therapy and what are its advantages. 

What Is Behavioral Momentum

Behavioral momentum is an ABA method that consists of asking your child to accomplish several easy tasks before attempting a more challenging one. Creating momentum through these simple activities will motivate your child to try to perform a more difficult task, such as a multi-step instruction. 

Once the new task becomes easily manageable, the therapist will add more challenging ones to the program.

Using the behavioral momentum strategy has numerous benefits when working with children with autism of all ages and abilities, for example: 

  • It boosts the child’s motivation and increases the chances of acquiring a new skill
  • It reduces frustration levels and increases compliance
  • It provides the necessary self-confidence to complete a task
  • It reduces occurrences of inappropriate behaviors.

Behavioral momentum can be effective in teaching children with autism a wide range of new skills and behaviors. In addition to boosting their motivation which will help them master complex tasks, you can use this method when you want to: 

  • Gain your child’s attention
  • Facilitate transitioning into a new setting or activity
  • Reinforce behavior that your child usually avoids.

The Advantages of Using Behavioral Momentum

Your child may not always be interested in learning, especially if the task in question is too difficult, your child lacks confidence, or has a physical limitation that prevents him or her from completing the task. At the same time, motivation and compliance are essential prerequisites for successful ABA therapy. The behavioral momentum intervention is a tool that ABA therapists can use to make a potentially frustrating learning experience enjoyable and effective. 

How to Use Behavioral Momentum

When using the behavioral momentum strategy as part of ABA therapy, a therapist will follow several steps: 

  • Identify low-probability (low-p) behaviors
  • Identify high-probability (high-p) behaviors
  • Deliver high-p requests
  • Praise high-p behaviors
  • Deliver a low-p request
  • Modify requests as needed
  • Generalize requests
  • Phase out high-p requests
  • Monitor progress

Identify low-probability (low-p) behaviors

Low probability (low-p) behaviors are the target behaviors that your child finds challenging and is least likely to comply with. These behaviors are different for each child and depend on the child’s age, preferences, and skill levels. 

Identify high-probability (high-p) behaviors

Identify high-probability (high-p) or easy behaviors and decide in which order you will present them to your child. In most cases, it is necessary to make at least two or three easy requests before introducing a high-p task.

Deliver high-p requests

Deliver several requests for a high-p task in rapid succession, preferably within five seconds of each other. It is essential that these requests are delivered immediately before a low-p request.

High-p requests must be brief and simple. You should always state a demand instead of phrasing it as a question to indicate that complying with the request is not an option.

Praise high-p behaviors

Reward your child for each successful completion of a high-p task. In the beginning, verbal or gestural praise such as clapping, may be insufficient and you may need to provide other reinforcers, such as a sticker, a treat, or a token. You can then gradually phase out these rewards as your child increases compliance with difficult tasks.

Deliver a low-p request

When enough momentum has been created, you can introduce a low-p behavior request and provide reinforcement. You should use clear language and simple sentences when delivering a demand. In order for behavioral momentum to be effective, you must remain in close proximity to your child and have your child’s full attention. 

It is important to remember that a low-p request needs to be delivered immediately after reinforcing the response to the last high-p request. Delaying the low-p request will decrease the likelihood of your child’s compliance.

Modify requests as needed

You may have to revise low-p and high-p requests if the child fails to follow your instructions. This can happen if the low-p demand is too easy, there are not enough high-p demands to build momentum, or the child doesn’t receive sufficient reinforcement for accomplishing tasks. 

Generalize requests

Ideally, requests for low-p behaviors should be delivered by multiple instructors to ensure the generalization of the skill. This means that the child will be able to produce the same response also when the behavioral momentum strategy is no longer used.

Phase out high-p requests

You can start gradually reducing the number of high-p requests delivered before a target low-p request.

Monitor progress

You need to regularly record data on the low-p behavior to be able to monitor your child’s progress.

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