Note: Alternative behavior = replacement behavior = FERB (functionally equivalent replacement behavior)
Alternative Behaviors cannot be a proposal to simply stop the identified behavior of concern. It must be a teachable, truly different option to access the suspected need/function.
All alternative behaviors MUST...
Teaching Alternative Behaviors
Alternative behaviors MUST be taught to the student! Many teaching strategies that work for academic skills also work for behavior. For example, when a student is learning multiplication, we are likely to provide instructions, modeling, guided practice, and independent practice. We address varied learning styles. And, when students make mistakes, we simply re-teach. However, with behavior skills, we expect to tell the expectation once and get compliance the first time!
Students are likely to need a great deal of practice when learning new skills. Use modeling and simulated situations to help students practice using their skills when they are calm and available for learning. The more practiced and routine the behavior is for the student, the more likely they are to use it when experiencing triggers.
Teaching Long-Term Skills & Shaping Alternative Behaviors
Although teaching an alternative behavior is critical, we must not lose sight of the long term goals. Social, emotional, and communication goals should also be taught to the student. And, we must have a vision of the next more advanced skill we can teach as the student gains mastery of the current alternative behavior.
For example, we often teach young children to use a "break card" and routine to allow them to avoid instructional time instead of acting out and getting removed from the classroom. While this is an appropriate alternative behavior at 1st grade, it becomes much less appropriate in a 7th grade classroom. However, even adults take breaks - during long seminars we may daydream for a moment, stand in the back of the room, or go to the restroom. So, our task becomes shaping the student's 'break' behavior into shorter and more natural breaks as the student ages. Meanwhile, we must continue teaching emotional regulation, problem solving, and communication skills to help the student productively express their needs.
Use the "shaping alternative behavior" worksheet to help think through the steps necessary to gradually work toward the desired behavior.
If the student has an IEP, see this page regarding aligning these steps to the IEP behavior goal.