Today we accept the challenge from the FB questions and dialogue we had regarding our 4.1.16 post, Behavioral Cusps.  This challenge was to explain a related concept in field of ABA-pivotal behaviors. These two concepts (cusps & pivotal behaviors) are super easy to confuse, so let's set the record straight (which we'd wanted to do and had on tap regardless). 

If you're a practitioner, you should read (or reread) the post (Behavioral Cusps) on 4.1.16. It'll help you understand the differences. If you're a parent, you likely only have time to read one thing at the moment, so I'll make this as clear and as entertaining as I can. To review very briefly the prior post, a behavioral cusp is essentially a behavior change that has consequences beyond the change itself (as defined by Rosales-Ruiz & Baer). Today we will introduce pivotal behaviors-you should continue to read this post because pivotal behaviors matter. They'll help your kiddos significantly given that they will help you emphasize teaching your children the most important skills. I'll define a pivotal behavior as one that, when learned, causes other changes in different behavior WITHOUT additional teaching. GREAT for both the learner and teacher right? One example of a pivotal behavior is learning observationally from peers. I'm FANATICAL over observational learning because it's the type of thing that you teach if you would rather not teach everything. What do I mean? I'll explain more. 

On 4.11.2014, I addressed observational learning at school. Today, I'll assume the responsibility for explaining what learning observationally looks like at home. Genevieve and Juliana are fortunate to have two stellar brothers that can teach them "the ropes" if you will. They've been reinforced throughout their lives for socially appropriate imitation of their brothers at appropriate times. Observational learning occurs when someone imitates behavior or otherwise learns from others by observing. This has become important to us as parents and practitioners because while many of us seem to pick up observational skills "naturally," we do have kiddos that, at times, are not as motivated to learn from those around them. These children have needed extra support and reinforcement for looking at their peers and imitating at the right times. In other words, observational learning is not always natural and may require direct instruction.



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Continuing with Genevieve and Juliana, Katie and I have been teaching them to learn observationally since they were ready and started showing an interest in other's actions. Why did we know to focus on this? Because observational learning is a pivotal behavior. If our girls can get it down, they will ultimately learn even more without us having to do any additional teaching! A couple years in, this is really starting to pay off for us as parents. Why? Well, one thing we've benefited from in this regard is the girls' willingness and interest in helping out around the house. Let me be real with you for a moment. We have 4 young kids at home, which is often chaotic. We'll take all the help we can get. One thing that's helped is that the girls have started to clean up things on their own without direct instruction or teaching. How did that happen? They learned observationally and we noticed and reinforced their cleaning up! Because observational learning is a pivotal behavior, reinforcing their first "cleaning up" responses led to them increasing their overall "clean up" behavior and added new skills to their repertoire. To complete this example, one more thought-we recently relocated where the shoes go in our house. We have four drawers next to one another. I ordered the drawers from Andrew down to Juliana. On their own, without teaching, the girls now put their shoes in the correct, specific drawer (1 of 4 choices, depending on which kiddo you were). We never had to show them which drawer was theirs! They figured this out without teaching thanks to their observational learning skills (a pivotal behavior!). They know which drawer is theirs because they observed their brothers and learned on their own. 

Observational learning is a pivotal behavior because after we taught our girls to learn from their brothers, MANY other untrained behaviors are also starting to occur and emerge. Cleaning up is just one thing among many. The point is, focus on the skills that will give you more bang for your buck at home. Focus on the skills that, when learned, result in sweet overflow of other skills that just happen. 

Please ask questions if you have them. This is a really neat subject that I think can be highly valuable for you all at home. Cheers!

Rob @ Cultivate


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