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A Guide to Behavioral Skills Training in Special Education and ABA

behavioral skills training

Navigating the educational landscape, whether as a parent, teacher, or caregiver, can sometimes feel like an uphill battle—especially when we're aiming for meaningful skill development. That's where Behavioral Skills Training (BST) comes in as a saving grace. Let’s explore the mechanics of BST and how it can transform not only educational settings but also relationships, special education programs, and ABA programs. Read on for teaching strategies with this four-step approach!

What is Behavioral Skills Training? A 4-Step Guide to Mastering Skills

Behavioral Skills Training, or BST, is a technique to get everyone on the same page—whether you're a parent, caregiver, or staff member. Think of it as a skill-building combo, balancing what you do with how well you do it. It's broken down into four steps: Instruction, Modeling, Rehearsal, and Feedback (Miltenberger, 2004).

Step 1: Instruction—Clearly outline the skill you're teaching. Think of it as the “Tell” phase where you go over the what and the how.

Tell: Go over what the skill is and how to do it

Step 2: Modeling—This is the “Show” stage. Act out the skill so the learner can see it in action.

Show: Model the skill to the learner

Step 3: Rehearsal—Now, it's the learner's turn to “Do” it. Let them practice the skill under your supervision.

Do: Have the learner try it!

behavioral skills training

Step 4: Feedback—The “Review” part. Give constructive feedback, pointing out what was done well and what needs improvement.

Review: Provide feedback on how they did

Rinse and repeat until they got it!

This works for teacher to student, parent to child, teacher to para, mentor to mentee, and so on. Just a good system for teaching someone something new!

Unlocking Skill Development: The Impact of BST on Special Education

Behavioral Skills Training is a game-changer in specialized educational settings, providing a structured approach to skill development. With its focus on step-by-step learning and immediate feedback, BST fits perfectly with the individualized needs often required in special education classrooms. The framework makes it easy for teachers to adapt and modify their instruction, meeting students where they are. This is particularly helpful for teaching functional skills, social cues, or even complex academic concepts. As a result, special education professionals can provide targeted, effective learning experiences, bolstering not just skill sets but also confidence and autonomy among their students. The beauty of BST is its adaptability, making it an indispensable tool in the special education toolbox.

Examples of BST in Skill Acquisition

In a preschool setting, Behavioral Skills Training (BST) can be an effective way to teach a student to match pictures. Here's how a preschool teacher might implement BST for this specific skill:

Instruction (Tell):

The teacher first explains the task to the student: “Today, we're going to learn how to match pictures like ‘dog' and ‘ball’.”

Modeling (Show):

The teacher puts three pictures on the table of a dog, a ball, and a car and picks up another picture card of a dog. She shows how to put the second picture of the dog on the dog card on the table, saying, “See, this is a dog and this is the SAME dog. I match dog.”

matching pictures

Rehearsal (Do):

The teacher then picks up the cards, shuffles them, and puts the three pictures on the table again. Teacher then gives the second picture of the dog to the student and encourages them to try matching them. “Your turn! Match ‘dog!’”

Feedback (Review):

After the student attempts the task, the teacher provides constructive feedback. “Great job matching ‘dog’!” or “Let’s try again!”

The teacher then continues to practice with the student, repeating the steps until the student masters the skill.

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How to use Behavioral Skills Training in Staff Training

In a special education or ABA setting, Behavioral Skills Training (BST) can be instrumental in equipping paraprofessionals with the necessary skills for daily data collection on students. Here's how a special education teacher might go about it:

Instruction (Tell):

The special education teacher sits down with the paraprofessional and explains, “We need to track daily progress for our students to adapt our teaching methods effectively. I'll show you how to fill out this data sheet during a classroom activity.”

Modeling (Show):

The teacher proceeds to model the process during a real or simulated classroom activity. They fill out the data sheet, noting specific behaviors or milestones of a student, saying, “Here, I'm noting that Johnny was able to sit for five minutes during circle time.”

bst staff training

Rehearsal (Do):

The paraprofessional is then handed a blank data sheet and asked to do the same during the next activity. The teacher observes but doesn't interfere.

Feedback (Review):

After the activity, the teacher reviews the paraprofessional's data sheet and provides feedback. “You did well capturing the data points. Just remember to also jot down the time each activity took place.”

The BST process can be repeated until the paraprofessional is comfortable and accurate in taking daily data, ensuring that both teacher and paraprofessional are on the same page when it comes to monitoring student progress.

How Behavioral Skills Training Improves Parent-Child Relationships

BST is more than just a teaching tool—it's a relationship builder. When used effectively, BST fosters mutual understanding between parents and children, as well as teachers and students. The 4-step approach establishes a clear line of communication and sets expectations, which is key in any relationship. In the “Instruction” and “Modeling” phases, trust is built as learners see that you not only talk the talk but walk the walk. During “Rehearsal,” learners feel empowered as they try out the new skill, and in the “Feedback” stage, constructive criticism opens the door to improvement and growth. Whether you're a parent aiming for smoother mornings or a teacher striving for a more engaged classroom, BST helps in creating a collaborative and nurturing environment.

Behavioral Skills Training (BST) can be a powerful tool for parents as well, even for tasks as seemingly straightforward as teaching a child to brush their teeth. Here's how a parent might use BST to teach this essential skill:

Instruction (Tell):

The parent starts by explaining the importance of brushing teeth to the child: “We brush our teeth to keep them clean and healthy. You can do it by yourself!”

Modeling (Show):

The parent then demonstrates the proper technique, showing how to apply toothpaste on the brush, how to position the brush in the mouth, and the correct brushing motions. They may say, “See how I'm making small circles with the brush on each tooth? That's what we need to do.”

bst toothbrushing

Rehearsal (Do):

The child is then given a toothbrush and asked to mimic what they've just seen. The parent observes without interfering, allowing the child to try brushing on their own.

Feedback (Review):

After the child has attempted to brush their teeth, the parent offers specific feedback. They may say, “You did a good job with the bottom teeth, but let's try to spend a little more time on the top ones next time.”

The cycle can be repeated until the child has mastered the skill, ensuring that they understand not just what to do, but why it's important—a crucial element in fostering long-term healthy habits.

So there you have it! Whether you're a parent, teacher, or someone who works closely with learners of any kind, Behavioral Skills Training offers a structured, effective, and adaptable approach to teaching new skills. Its impact isn't confined to the classroom—it extends to improving relationships and is especially valuable in specialized educational settings. Adopting BST into your toolkit can be the missing link in achieving both learning objectives and fostering more meaningful interactions.

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