Age and the different responses

Age and the different responses

Teaching different groups can lead to predictable responses. When you teach a group where half the participants work with younger kids (under 11 ish) and the other half work with young people (teens) there is a clear dichotomy in their attitudes and responses around problem behaviour. It all comes back to the issue around the distractor versus the reinforcer.

When asked the question - who would give the person they are supporting a chocolate biscuit when the scenario has the person is kicking a door, the adults who work with younger children refuse this idea of "giving in" (strategic capitulation) however the adults who work with the teenagers automatically will give the item as they understand it is safer and tend to have no problem with giving the item at this point.

Staff supporting younger children do not see this as a positive move as it returns to the issues around perception of reinforcement theory [[ discussed here ]]. We have discussed many times the point that our beliefs around this subject are usually in question.
Typically we should understand it may not work as either a distractor or a reinforcer.

See another [..post..] on functions where Escape from Demands does not have the same emotional content for the support staff as Access to Tangibles, especially consumables.

This leads us to issues with the reinforcement history of a teen, originally created by well-wishing carers in a younger child. I see this a lot - people come to me when the person they support is in their teens and can no longer be managed as they once had been.

Let us say a child is behaving in a manner that the caregivers / supporters find difficult and the carers want to reduce this behaviour, common wisdom says the child needs to be taught not to behave in this manner. For reasons that are fully understandable but that I am unable to get into here, humans want to control their environment, which includes others, and believe they are doing the right thing by telling a child what that child should do. Understandable and not incorrect. It is the manner of this teaching that varies considerably.

There are teaching moments that are relevant for the child learning and there are teaching moments that make the adult feel that they are achieving something. Perhaps sometimes we need to question who is being the adult and who is feeling they have won, which could be at the expense of the relationship with the other person.

In the end, this is not about the giving of the item in the high-stress situation, I have written a lot on this [[ .. ]]. It is actually about the fact that when you work with more dangerous or bigger people the idea of refusing to give in, such as sticking to extinction, becomes problematic. I have spoken about extinction before [https://bxd.sc/sleep-issues-and-extinction-an-experience] however in short in behavioural terms you can put some behaviour on extinction that had previously been reinforced. When in the high-stress situation withholding an item may or may not be extinction depending on if the item had previously acted as a reinforcer or not. Most of the time this is not a fact but an assumption by the staff member that dictates their own response. The staff control type of behaviour makes them feel better and can be self reinforcing leading to staff doing some awful things down the line.

So when working with dangerous people we may need to "give in" rather than letting our Amygdala take over and stand our ground, which is possibly making the situation worse. Afterwards, we can revisit the plan including doing preference or reinforcer assessments. A plan which should be in place if it was a predictable behaviour.

If however, the behaviour has not happened before then, not having a plan, you should do whatever you can to manage using the most reasonable force you can. This may well involve Strategic Capitulation, which others call "giving in"! If the behaviour has not happened before then the item cannot be a reinforcer, it could possibly be a distractor, or not, but cannot be a reinforcer, yet. Well, I feel this needs a bit of a sidebar. Things can become a reinforcer in one event, however, this is not common and at this particular point you are unable to make the judgement the item will reinforce that behaviour as there is no history or data to suggest this.

tl;dr

As those who support we may need to keep our assumptions in check as our assumption dictates our behaviour. This can lead to terrible self reinforcing cycles of interaction.

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