Should We Be Targeting Non-Compliance?
Let’s talk about “non-compliance.” I hear people use this term A LOT in Facebook group threads, classrooms, and even ABA practices when referring to maladaptive behavior that occurs after a demand is placed.
Here are my thoughts about non-compliance, teaching compliance, and other considerations that should be weighed when developing treatment goals.
“Non-compliance” (or non-anything, really) fails the dead man’s test.
- Non-compliance in and of itself is not a behavior by behavior analytic standards as a dead man can very easily fail to comply. It is the absence of behavior.
- Non-compliance fails to consider things like context, existing skillsets, and MOs.
- Often, OUR behavior shapes the data.
What behaviors are we actually interested in changing (and tracking)?
- Are we aiming to increase compliance?
- Are we aiming to reduce maladaptive behavior when a demand is presented?
- Is this behavior socially significant?
- Have we operationally defined what the behavior is in a way that’s clear to others taking data?
- Have we provided non-examples of situations/behaviors that don’t quite meet the criteria?
Are we actively working on changing this behavior?
- What are we doing to increase desirable behavior?
- What are we doing to reduce undesirable behavior?
- Are we considering skill deficits impeding skill acquisition?
- Have we considered the impact of the environment on the learner and this/these behaviors?
- Are there additional modifications/supports required?
- Are we being mindful of MOs?
- Are our reinforcers ACTUALLY reinforcing?
- Are we reinforcing often enough?
- Are we providing enough opportunities per session to target this goal?
- Are we treating our client with dignity?
What kinds of demands should be complied with?
- In Play
Who is delivering the demand?
- Should they comply with everyone’s demands?
- What about peers?
- Do they respond differently to different people?
- Does the person delivering the demand have instructional control?
- Has the person delivering the demand have rapport with the client?
How are we tracking this goal and does the data reflect valid and valuable information? Here are a few examples with various recording types.
- Trials: Percent of demands complied with (can even split by location, person, demand type, etc.)
- Trials: Percent of demands met with verbal refusal/maladaptive behavior
- Frequency: How many times client engaged in x behavior when a demand is presented
- Latency: How long the client takes to initiate the task
- Duration: How long it takes to complete the task
- Duration: How long the client engages in the behavior for
- Interval recording: The percent of intervals the behavior is occurring
- Permanent Product: The physical outcome of said compliance
Consider the BIG PICTURE – Do we comply all the time?
- Compliance to instructions is often an important skill in the avenues of skill acquisition and even safety.
- Compliance requires the learner to
- 1. Hear/see the demand
- 2. Understand the demand
- 3. Have the skills to “comply”
- Although teaching the broad skill of compliance may make our sessions run smoother, it misses the big picture – Do we really want the client to comply with every demand ever, regardless of whom delivers it or the potential impact of compliance?
- Like all humans, our clients will have histories, preferences, private events, medical considerations, etc. that may contribute to their willingness to comply.
- Consider contexts where compliance is either beneficial or detrimental to the client.
- Those with developmental disabilities are more vulnerable to harm and exploitation.
- Complying with certain demands may result in undesired outcomes like damaged relationships, disciplinary action, legal troubles, injury, or even death.
Skills to teach alongside compliance
- Whose demands should we comply with (police, teachers, parents)?
- What types of demands should we comply with (academic instructions, safety instructions).
- What demands should we NOT comply with (engaging in behaviors that are embarrassing, demeaning, illegal, or unsafe).
- In what situations is compliance optional (realistically, legal situations exempt, we ALWAYS have a choice)?
- Self-advocacy – the ability to advocate for what you want, what you need, and what you do NOT want or need
- Appropriate Protesting
- “No Thanks”
- “I don’t like this”
- “Stop it”
- For a break
- For space
- For help
- For information
- “Can I have some more time with what I’m doing?”
- “When can I finish what I was doing?”
- “Can I do the task later?”
- “How do I do the task?”
- “Where can I find what I need?”
- “Is this going to take a long time?”
- “Is this going to be hard?”
- “Is this going to be painful?”
- “Do I have to do this?”
- “Can someone else do it”
- Appropriate Protesting
- Safety Skills
- How to tell if you’re in a dangerous situation
- How to respond
- Knowing which behaviors may have dangerous outcomes
- Who to call when you are in danger
- Who to call after after a dangerous/scary/illegal event has occurred
- What type of information to give