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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

The Escalation of Negatives

Derrick Dufresne: I can't tell you of a seminal moment where either I learned, or the field learned, that maybe we had to do something different. But what happened is going from the works of people like Pavlov and Skinner and Tizard and other people, we started to understand that not only was there an ideology about the history of the behavior, but we also started confronting—I don't think we called them ethical dilemmas—but we started… to have these conversations about – is everything okay as long as I ratchet it up?

In other words, if I start positive with somebody that hits me, and if I try extinction or ignoring or reinforcement or tokens… if I start there, if it works, great. Everybody's happy. But there were some people whose behavior was such that that didn't work. So then what we did is we increased the ante, and we said "You have to go sit in the corner for two minutes, five minutes," or whatever. Then sometimes that didn't work. And so we ratcheted it up a little bit more.

And it was as a result of this… that people like me who never, ever, thought I'd be sitting here and talking about it, ended up participating in… spraying Tabasco sauce in somebody's face to keep them from hitting. And wearing a bottle, a concoction of Tabasco sauce on my hip in order that, when Tom hit himself, I was supposed to spray this solution in his face.

Well, what a surprise that even when I didn't have the bottle, when there wasn't a visible indication to Tom that I was armed and ready to deploy, he shied away from me. And if I even reached into my pocket for a handkerchief, for coins, he would go like this. And I never realized, I never, ever realized, the trauma that we caused people. I never realized that it's almost impossible to bond with someone you've hurt.

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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.