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What Does A Behavioural Consultant Do?

By Lital Rotman-Gruneir

Anyone who has tried to start a new exercise routine, change eating habits, or work on spending patterns knows that behaviour change can be quite difficult.  This is true for all of us, even when we are feeling at our best and have all the resources and knowledge we need at our disposal.

Behaviour change is equally, and at times even more challenging for children and youth, who are still developing and may not have all the skills they need for appropriate behaviour.  Sometimes during the process of development, a child learns unhelpful or disruptive behaviours, which become entrenched over time and begin to interfere with school, friendships, or harmony within the family unit.  Behaviour analysts use applied behavioural analysis (ABA), as a way of assessing and treating behaviours that have become challenging. This framework is centered on the behaviour itself, and the factors that keep it going. A focus on these factors, referred to as the “function” of behaviour, allows for a space without judgement or blame as the parent, child, and behaviour consultant work on changing behaviour together.

Behaviour analysis is an evidence-based, best practice treatment.  “Evidence based” means that ABA has passed scientific tests of its usefulness, quality, and effectiveness. ABA therapy includes many different techniques.  All these techniques focus on antecedents (what happens before a behaviour occurs) and on consequences (What happens after the behaviour). The main objective of an effective behaviour analytic intervention is to determine the function of the challenging behaviour at hand, with a focus on providing an intervention that either decreases or increases a behaviour.  To achieve this, a specific skill or skills are often taught.

What does a Behavioural Consultant do?

  • Listens to your concerns about your child’s behaviour
  • Asks you and/or your child questions that pertain to challenging behaviour
  • Conducts an assessment to determine the function of the behaviour
  • Shows you how to keep track of challenging behaviour
  • Observes your child to track challenging behaviour
  • Provides a behaviour change plan, strategies and supports
  • Practices behaviour change strategies and supports with you, coaches and guides you,  providing ongoing support as you implement the strategies
  • Provides a final report of the behaviour change process

What do parents need to do?

  • Provide your expertise (you are the expert on your child!)
  • Track and possibly measure the challenging behaviour
  • Allow the behaviour consultant to observe the behaviour either live or through a video clip
  • Help the consultant assess the behaviour by answering questions during the consultation process
  • Implement supports and strategies with the coaching and guidance of the consultant.

To summarize, behaviour change is not easy, as any adult or parent knows.  ABA provides an evidence-based system that has been proven to be effective in modifying challenging behaviour, restoring harmony in parent-child relationships, and allowing you to focus on all the joy your relationship brings!