You’ve likely hear about the ABCs of Behavior.  Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence. Unfortunately often overlooked or discounted, antecedent conditions and interventions are essential to  successfully effecting behavioral change.

Antecedents are things that happen before a behavior. An antecedent is a preceding event, object, condition ect. For example if a student is displaying inappropriate behavior in the classroom, the antecedents may be the classroom, a given teacher, auditory directions and the teacher assigning math.

You’ve heard the phrase “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Antecedent conditions and interventions are very important! Looking at antecedents helps us understand what in an environment is supporting students use of a problem behavior or, what is missing from an environment to support the use of a desired behavior. Antecedent analysis and intervention is pro-active.

Here are a couple of examples:

Making sure a student gets exercise or proprioceptive input before class or sitting to do homework. ( I am a huge fan of sensory diets for students of all levels)

Giving a student a choice between activities. Involving a student in creating a schedule.

Providing a visual schedule or other visual supports.

Using a timer.

Think of antecedents as setting the stage for success.

One student I had was a HUGE talker. Constantly Disruptive. I decided to give him and the rest of the class 2 min to chat and catch up at the beginning of class and I would set it up so he would get lots of attention and have an opportunity to tell a joke or two. I also spoke with him privately and told him that this was something I was doing for him, but that in return I expected him to be quiet and respectful once class started. Then I had him describe for me what that would look like and how he and I would feel about things and what effect it would have on the other students. Initially he also kept a post-it with a short note on his desk. These were all antecedent interventions. I also used prompting and reinforcement of the desired behavior as well as ‘punishment’; a disappointed look and withdraw of attention for use of the undesired behavior.  Currently, some days they get time- some days they don’t. He has had plenty of opportunity to practice the appropriate behavior and the supports he needs to be successful. Those supports have been scaled back slowly and there are still days I can just tell that he needs more than others. WOW-He is doing Awesome!! But the success was in large part due to the Antecedent interventions, just altering the consequences would not have been enough.

Any time you are attempting to change behavior you  absolutely must include a look at antecedents to the behavior and the available antecedent interventions.