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Mitigate Behaviors Using Antecedent Strategies: Part 2 – Modifying the Environment

Danielle Kanouff

In part 1 of this blog series, we looked into a case scenario of a school-aged child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who was returning to school.

His anticipatory behaviors were identified as:

  • Difficulty sleeping before school
  • Verbal refusal (“I’m not going to…”)
  • Stalling behavior (hides backpack to avoid going on the bus)
  • Perseverates on previous school experiences (aversive bus rides, limited breaks while in school)
  • Limited access to preferred technology

With these known factors, his teachers can better serve him in the school setting with proactive strategies that involve manipulating different variables in the environment. We call these antecedent adjustments.

Antecedent adjustments are essential to consider because:

1. Prosocial behaviors are learned, and aversive conditions are avoided

2. The conditions that set the occasion for the problematic behavior(s) are eliminated

3. New conditions are established in which the desired behavior(s) is/are more likely to occur

With that said, there are several ways we can implement antecedent adjustments.

Interaction Style

  • Calming affect – Use a calm and gentle voice tone, avoid saying “No!” or using a harsh voice
  • Proximity – Allow for personal space
  • Discuss relatable topics – Maintain a connection, remember to as client-centered questions to keep them engaged and to reinforcement
  • Allow the student to vent – As needed, requested, or during agreed-upon times

Instructional Style & Teaching

  • Chunk work – Use smaller increments to break down instruction
  • Topic change – Do this every 15 minutes to prevent academic/subject fatigue
  • Academic choices– Give choices from a menu of academic tasks, when possible

Behavior Management Style

  • Give high praise when giving corrective feedback in the classroom – Examples: “I love the way you’re working on your math right now!” or “I am proud of you for riding the bus today!”

  • Provide praise before corrective feedback– Example: “I see you are working so hard, let me help you find a better solution”

  • Provide behavior-specific praise 4x per hour to maintain a positive outlook
  • Provide choices whenever possible

Reward or Token System

1. Identify reinforcers – stickers, small candies, extra free time

2. Set a target behavior – academic engagement or on-task behavior

3. Deliver reinforcers for the expected behaviors

Depending upon your patient’s abilities, you can also implement performance management and self-management techniques. Some adjustments will require planning a step further, in which the practitioner should implement an intervention. Remember to always follow up on these tasks on a daily, weekly, or monthly period.

I hope you are able to gain new information to apply from this post, even if it is as simple as your tone of voice or how often you praise someone. These little things can go a long way when it comes to children and young adults with (or without) disabilities!

Be on the lookout for part 3, for more insights on antecedent interventions.

Thanks for reading,


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1. Instruction

2. Modeling




While learning new math content, the teacher will:

·      Instruct the concept.

·      Model an example.

·      Practice another example with the student.

·      Provide feedback in the form of positive praise and consideration.

·      Give constructive feedback.

·      Provide time between each step for processing.


Backward Chaining

Essentially, the teacher will complete all steps in a chained task except for the last:

  • Allow the student to complete the previous step independently or with the least restrictive prompt.
  • Continue until the student is independent with the last step.
  • Expand the student’s independence, starting with the previous two steps and so on, until he can complete all steps independently.


Forward Chaining

1. Think of forward chaining as the opposite of backward chaining; the teacher allows the student to complete the first step in a chained task independently or with the least restrictive prompt.

2. The teacher will complete or assist in the completion of the rest of the steps.


Video Modeling

1. Individuals will observe themselves performing a target behavior successfully on video.

2. The aim is to have the behavior imitated.

Example 1: Teacher records the student participating in waiting and ordering food in the lunch line. The targeted behavior is to join with peers in an educational setting.

Example 2: Teacher records the student interacting with a peer in a special education setting. The targeted behavior is to increase interactions with peers to promote social skills.


All of the antecedent interventions listed above are evidence-based practices that are proven to be effective with the prevention of maladaptive behaviors and skill acquisition for functional replacement behaviors.


As clinicians, we need to anticipate maladaptive behaviors in practice. This anticipation allows us to be steps ahead of our patients, focusing on the expected, desired behaviors needed for beneficial treatment and service outcomes. I hope you can use a tip or two from this series and apply them to your practice.


Thanks for reading,



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About the blogger

Danielle Kanouff, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA

Danielle has been working with children since 2009 when she began her career as a teacher. After moving to Nashville, TN, in 2011, she became a special education teacher.

She worked primarily with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity.

Her love for children with disabilities inspired her to earn her master’s degree in special education at Vanderbilt University in 2016. During this time, she also obtained her Behavior Analyst certification and licensure.

While she is no longer in the classroom, she continues to keep a full caseload working with children and young adults who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, their families, and the children's medical, educational, and therapeutic team members.

Her goal at 3C is to share what she’s learned working in the field of education and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

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