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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

Look for Other Issues Behind Behavior

Derrick Dufresne: I was talking to a mom who has a son who's now I think 17. And he doesn't speak, has some cerebral palsy, and the teachers at his school are besides themselves and I'm going to say it the way she said it. She said "Because he grabs their boobs." And they are saying that this is totally inappropriate, unacceptable, and I get that, and you get that, that we just don't do that.

What the mom knew, because she's a mom, is she knew the communicative function of that behavior. And the communicative function of that behavior had nothing to do with grabbing the woman's boob. What it had it had to do with is the women were wearing T-shirts that had lettering on them, and he was fascinated by the difference in colors between the background and the print.

Now the mom's behavioral treatment program, her intervention, her program, was to not deal with her son but to ask the staff that are working with her son to please wear solid color shirts. That's the kind of stuff that professionals get paid a lot of money to figure out. And all they needed to do, if her son couldn't say it, was to talk to the mom.

That's about what people like Herb Lovett and Anne Donnellan and John McGee have challenged us to do. What else is going on here? Don't just look at the behavior. Don't just try to categorize it and say how many times does the person do it? As Tom Nerney from the Center for Self-determination taught me 20 years ago. He has this saying that he says: "We measure how many times somebody gets out of bed in the morning and we document it, and we track it, and we catalogue it. But one of the few things we never do is ask this question: "Why get up at all? Why get up at all?" That's the communicative function of behavior.

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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.