It may become necessary for children with disabilities to have modifications in the typical classroom management system based upon their unique needs. In the next few articles, we will look at some of the various techniques which have proven to be successful in working with all children but especially children with disabilities.
Younger children, children with lower mental abilities as well as those with severe emotional difficulties may benefit from a technique known as behavioral analysis or behavior modification. Behavior modification has long been used in both school and counseling settings. It is based on the theories of Pavlov and Skinner. This form of behavior management contains a system of rewards for appropriate behavior and it is considered as to provide an external locus of control. A key component of this behavior system is the application of extinction. Extinction is the removal of a consequence which is sustaining or increasing an inappropriate behavior in order to modify the behavior.
This form of management contains the concepts of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment. Positive reinforcement is simply defined as "give child something good for doing something good". For example, the child was kind to his younger sibling so he gets to go for ice cream. Negative reinforcement is often confused with punishment but it is not the same. Negative reinforcement is basically the idea of "take something away from the child that he/she perceives to be bad for doing something good". An example of negative reinforcement would be the teacher does not give homework because the class was well behaved in an assembly (children often believe that homework is bad).
Punishment is defined as "give something bad for doing something bad" and there are two types of punishment. Type one punishment is considered as "give something bad for doing bad" such as a spanking or physical punishment. Type two punishments may be defined as "take away something good for doing bad". An example of this type would be taking away a privilege, such as going to a dance, for inappropriate behavior.
It should be noted that punishments in behavior modification are considered to be the least effective of all behavior techniques. According to the experts, punishment tends to only suppress the undesirable behavior, not extinguish it. Another concern regarding punishment is the emotional health of the child may suffer. A punished child often identifies the punishment with the punisher rather than associating it with the inappropriate behavior.
Some additional information on the concepts of behavior modification will be found in the next part of this series on behavior management.