Mitigate Behaviors Using Antecedent Strategies: Part 2 - Modifying the Environment

September 7, 2021
by Danielle Kanouff

Mitigate Behaviors Using Antecedent Strategies: Part 2 - Modifying the Environment

In part 1 of this blog series, we looked into a case scenario of a school-aged child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who was returning to school.


His anticipatory behaviors were identified as:

  • Difficulty sleeping before school
  • Verbal refusal (“I’m not going to…”)
  • Stalling behavior (hides backpack to avoid going on the bus)
  • Perseverates on previous school experiences (aversive bus rides, limited breaks while in school)
  • Limited access to preferred technology


With these known factors, his teachers can better serve him in the school setting with proactive strategies that involve manipulating different variables in the environment. We call these antecedent adjustments.


Antecedent adjustments are essential to consider because:

  1. Prosocial behaviors are learned, and aversive conditions are avoided
  2. The conditions that set the occasion for the problematic behavior(s) are eliminated
  3. New conditions are established in which the desired behavior(s) is/are more likely to occur


With that said, there are several ways we can implement antecedent adjustments.


 Interaction Style

  • Calming affect – Use a calm and gentle voice tone, avoid saying “No!” or using a harsh voice
  • Proximity – Allow for personal space
  • Discuss relatable topics – Maintain a connection, remember to as client-centered questions to keep them engaged and to reinforcement
  • Allow the student to vent – As needed, requested, or during agreed-upon times


Instructional Style & Teaching

  • Chunk work – Use smaller increments to break down instruction
  • Topic change – Do this every 15 minutes to prevent academic/subject fatigue
  • Academic choices– Give choices from a menu of academic tasks, when possible


Behavior Management Style

  • Give high praise when giving corrective feedback in the classroom
    • Examples: “I love the way you’re working on your math right now!” or “I am proud of you for riding the bus today!”
  • Provide praise before corrective feedback
    • Example: “I see you are working so hard, let me help you find a better solution”
  • Provide behavior-specific praise 4x per hour to maintain a positive outlook
  • Provide choices whenever possible


Reward or Token System

  1. Identify reinforcers – stickers, small candies, extra free time
  2. Set a target behavior – academic engagement or on-task behavior
  3. Deliver reinforcers for the expected behaviors


Depending upon your patient’s abilities, you can also implement performance management and self-management techniques. Some adjustments will require planning a step further, in which the practitioner should implement an intervention. Remember to always follow up on these tasks on a daily, weekly, or monthly period. 


I hope you are able to gain new information to apply from this post, even if it is as simple as your tone of voice or how often you praise someone. These little things can go a long way when it comes to children and young adults with (or without) disabilities!


Be on the lookout for part 3, for more insights on antecedent interventions.


Thanks for reading,


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