Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

The History and Evolution of Behavioral Approaches and Positive Behavioral Interventions

Derrick Dufresne

Change the Environment to Change Behaviors

Derrick Dufresne: So as this unfolded in terms of my experience, I would wake up many mornings hoping I was going to stay alive, I wasn't going to get beat up too badly that day, that I wasn't going to get scratched or hit. And what I started measuring was things that I look back and say, "Well, that's kind of strange, except if Warren only hit me eight times today and he hit me ten times yesterday." What I looked at is that he had a 20% improvement.

And so I started building my own reinforcers. So I would tell Warren, for example, who hit me every day, "If you don't hit me today, we'll go for a ride…" in what I called my Subaru, and he called it the Boo. And he would say this to me every morning at 7 o'clock, "Hi, Derrick, I be good. I not hit. I get a Coke. Hi, Derrick, I not hit. I get a Coke." And then he'd say, "Hi, Derrick. I not hit. I go for ride. Hi, Derrick. I not hit. I go for ride."

And so it was interesting to me that he could beat the hell out of me all day long, but he was so fascinated by cars that he never once attacked me in a car. No matter whether we were alone, driving on the property, I drove him into town. I drove him around the freeway, he could have yanked that steering wheel. He could have hit me, he could have jumped out of the car. He was a perfect gentleman in the car, which was another lesson I learned about environment, that if you put… I know this is a deep concept, if you put people in… environments they like, doing things that they want to do, they're less likely to do sucky things to you.

So I stayed alive, he was happy. We had a great time. As a matter of fact, I really wanted to go into work. I just wanted to take Warren in the car. Because when he was in the car, I also realized he liked movement. He liked that sense of movement, and he liked the quiet. He never wanted to play the radio. He just liked to be.

And the other thing that dawned on me, and this is another issue in the lives of so many people with disabilities, they never get quiet. There's always noise, except at night. I never could figure out, another thing, to why so many people would get up at night. I now realize it was one of the only times during the entire day that it was quiet. I now realize why they used to come to the staff office at night when I worked nights. They weren't trying to bug us. It was quiet and they could have a conversion, even if I didn't understand them, even if it sounded like gibberish, even it was nonsensical. It was connecting.

So what I've said for a long time is that people with disabilities write programs for us. We just don't understand them. And we spend so much time trying to countermand them, that we end up, again, being, unfortunately, unintentionally, and unwittingly inciting the very behaviors that we're trying to diminish.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

This website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL),  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,120,136.00 with 83 percent funded by ACL/HHS and $222,000.00 and 17 percent funded by non-federal-government source(s). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.