Cognitive Behavior Supports
Because adults with disabilities often do not possess the cognitive ability to manage their own behavior, experts in the behavioral sciences have devised various programs to address the behavioral needs of people with impaired cognitive functioning. Often, these programs come down to one simple concept – reward positive behavior constantly and replace unwanted behaviors with socially acceptable behaviors.
In a developmentally appropriate continuum, however attention should be given to the cognitive abilities of each individual adult. In this model, assessment of the adult’s ability to manage personal behavior should be the basis for developing an instructional plan that considers individual cognitive abilities.
Under IDEA, we often ask the question, “Does this person have behaviors which impede his or her own learning and/ or the learning of others?” If the answer is that the person does have such behaviors, the statute requires that we initiate various functional behavior assessments to determine the cause of the undesirable behavior, to determine what environmental conditions exist that reinforce the undesirable behavior and to determine if the behaviors are the related to the individual’s specific disability.
A behavior specialist then typically writes a positive behavior support plan for that individual student and for staff dealing with that student. Data is collected in the process, and used to help the instructional team promote that evasive quality – the self-regulating person with cognitive developmental impairment.
Adaptive Life Skill (ALS) settings however, attempt to duplicate and/ or simulate real world experiences and settings. Academic skills are emphasized only in a functional context in terms of the extent to which the academic skill is involved in daily functional routines.
Where undesirable behaviors are concerned in the ALS setting, attention should be given to emphasizing and increasing the adult student’s awareness of social context and the need to engage in positive, pro-social behavior in this environment which also emphasizes vocational skills. In short, in the ALS setting, the social fabric of instruction is no longer reading and writing, as much as it is simply getting along with fellow workers in a cooperative setting.