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Leah Bean, a board certified behavior analyst with Butterfly Effects, answers a question for a special care provider during the ‘Choosing Your Battles’ class of the Challenging Children daytime series, Aug. 24.

Photo by Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

Parents, care providers, educators learn how to ‘choose their battles’ with children

24 Aug 2011 | Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

The Challenging Children daytime workshop, presented by Butterfly Effects, has been held since February this year and helps parents, teachers and care providers with various behavioral topics. These include what to do when a child starts screaming in public for no reason, how to react and how to help children have better behavior in any situation overall.

The most recent class in the series, ‘Choosing Your Battles,’ was held at the Russell Marine and Family Services Center aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Aug. 24.

Leah Bean, a board certified behavior analyst with Butterfly Effects, said the company coordinates case management for families, educators and care providers with a broad range of challenges.

Participants learned about how to deal with various challenges and how to prioritize and deal with things such as tantrums, aggression or even sensory-automatic needs.

Bean put the participants in the mindset to choose their battles with a quote from one of the most renowned military strategists in history, Sun Tzu.

 “’For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill,’” said Bean. “’To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.’ Whether it’s getting a child to start homework more easily or just having yell less, (Butterfly Effects) takes data on each of the problem areas so we can target for what we want to see as an improvement. After we collect the data, we put it into a computer system which makes graphs automatically so we can see the trend on how behavior is improving or decreasing.”

Bean said that in the behavior analysis field, children carry out certain behaviors based on four functions of behavior: access to attention, to desired activity, escape from demands or sensory automatic needs.

“We figure out which of those functions is maintaining the behavior and we try to break the relationship between the inappropriate behavior and what was reinforcing it before,” said Bean. “We teach an alternative behavior and the appropriate thing to do, as well as make sure everyone in that child’s environment is reacting appropriately to the behavior.”

The final step of battling bad behaviors is called ‘behavior extinction.’ This means breaking the tie between a behavior that was previously reinforced and getting to a point where the child is no longer getting his or her way, essentially.

“Typically, the parent would ultimately give in and say it’s not worth the fight and decide that the child doesn’t need to do what is asked of them,” said Bean. “Now, putting the behavior on extinction, we’re not going to allow any reinforcement to the behavior and standing their ground.”

With children who need automatic or sensory reinforcement, such as children with autism who conduct ‘hand flapping’ or ‘rocking’ to sooth themselves, it’s a matter of providing alternate sensory input.

“If we want to modify or decrease the range in which they’re conducting that behavior, we conduct a ‘block response,’” said Bean. “A block response can be guiding a child’s hands down to their sides or to grab a toy and engage with that instead – something that’s more appropriate and not such a stigmatizing behavior we would like to see more of.”

 The next class in the Challenging Children series, ‘Practical Applications for Everyday Behavior is scheduled for Oct. 26.

For more information, call 451-4394 or visit the EFMP website at