A Behavioral Therapy Success Story
By Sheryl Silver, an Achieve Parent
Frazzled, forlorn and frustrating.
Life with my Dina was just that. At just 7 years old, she was holding me captive through her unruly and aggressive behaviors. My daily life was disrupted; I could not take my kids to the grocery store, the pizza shop, or the playground. Dina would kick, scream, lay on the floor in these public spaces and throw whatever she could get her hands on. My family was literally ripped apart by my precious daughter. I had no idea what triggered this behavior or how to fix it.
Dina’s teachers could not handle her either. She would have unexplained rages at school, throw bookcases and erupt into violent behavior, running from her classroom and kicking in the school lunchroom surrounded by her peers. After a short stint in first grade, they told me that the school would be unable to accommodate her if she continued to act this way. I was fearful for Dina’s future and completely helpless.
I was referred to Achieve by a special education specialist and though I was reluctant, I knew this was my only hope. After meeting with Malkie, I was immediately calmer.
What comforted me most was that I was no longer alone. There was a data driven way to decrease these behaviors so that Dina (and the rest of the family) could begin to function again.
Malkie explained that behaviors follow an ABC pattern:
A for Antecedent, the action or event that occurs immediately before the behavior
B for Behavior, the action that the child, in this case my Dina, displayed
C for Consequence, the immediate result of the behavior
They conducted a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) of Dina’s behavior by tracking the antecedent, behavior, and consequence while changing environmental factors to identify the triggers of Dina’s unwanted behavior. What we learned was that Dina was using the aggressive behavior as an escape tactic – to get out of responsibilities that were too taxing for her. These tactics were working indeed. I was placing almost no demands on her because I was too nervous to set her off. Her parents, siblings, and teachers were all wrapped around her finger, letting her get away with whatever she wanted out of fear of an eruption. We needed behavioral therapy.
Achieve established a behavioral therapy treatment plan that included every caregiver in Dina’s life. They trained us all – including my own parents! I gained new tools to prevent these behaviors and worked towards modifying them by providing consistent consequences for inappropriate behavior and positively reinforcing desired behaviors.
I think the first week of behavioral therapy was the hardest, and certainly Dina’s behavior got worse before it got better. I kept at it with support from the most incredible team of behavioral therapists at Achieve. Slowly, Dina started to discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and chose appropriate behavior, which was positively reinforced. After some time, the same triggers that would set Dina off were no longer an issue. We started to see her aggression decrease and she began to function independently. It was working!
Dina had four years of intensive therapy. Primarily, we worked on modifying her behaviors using behavioral principles. We then slowly integrated Dina into her environment and re-introduced her into social circles at home and in school. Dina benefited from the extra-curricular activities offered at Achieve including a social skills group and fitness program where the facilitators assisted Dina in reaching her set goals and milestones.
Dina is now in 6th grade and is no longer receiving therapy. She has friends, is invited to parties and to play, and excels in school. Her future is bright. I am forever grateful to Malkie and the team for supporting us throughout this challenging period and for transforming our lives.
*This is a true Achieve success story; only the names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.