What EXACTLY does a behaviorist do? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 06-18-2007, 02:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Our EI OT wants our little guy (13 mos old) to see a behaviorist due to his sleeping issues. He wakes constantly in the night with a start. He twitches throughout the night. He only takes in 1 sm feeding (4 oz) in the night. Went to a sleep specialist (long story, prev posted) & he stupidly told us to have him CIO. I think it's because his central nerv system is still dev & that it is tied to his SPD & his prenatal exposure (he's our dfs who we're adopting). I don't know how a behaviorist can help. From what I know, she would try to "stop a behavior," but his actions are not manipulative. You can tell he's very distressed & it seems involuntary on his part. We use a weighted blanket & brush him per the OT.

How would a behaviorist help?
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#2 of 6 Old 06-18-2007, 02:56 AM
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Well, put it this way - Ferber is a behaviorist. It sounds like you have good mommy instincts about what's going on with your child. I'd say you should follow those instincts and not let anyone else tell you what he needs. Considering his SPD and prenatal exposure, it sounds to me like he needs extra nurturing and babying, not being forced into a behavior that's more about what other people are expecting of him than anything else. Also, 13 months is still just a baby! Lots of one year olds don't sleep through the night, sn or not. My typical child is an even worse sleeper than my sn one was - at 16 months he still wakes up all night long. I've even tried sleep training him (*ducking from strident ap-ers*), but it never takes. Eventually he starts waking up a million times again. This is the problem with behavioral approaches to something as individual and slippery as sleep - you can't force someone to sleep how you want them to.
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#3 of 6 Old 06-18-2007, 05:26 AM
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Well, I'm a behaviorist but I work with kids to find ways to motivate them to do things they aren't doing on their own.

You cannot motivate an infant to not wake up with a start, which is obviously totally out of his control.

I can't imagine what she thinks a behaviorist will do... Really!

Early intervention specialist and parent consultant since 2002.
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#4 of 6 Old 06-18-2007, 09:04 AM
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I have a 23 month old DS sith SPD who frequnetly jerks awake at night. If OT doesn't help that long term, we're going to see a pediatric neurologist. We decide that one in OCtober.

A behaviorist is for conscious decision processes, isn't it? How is that supposed to help him SLEEP???

secular classical-ish mama to an incredible 5 year old DS and an amazing 6 year old DD.
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#5 of 6 Old 06-18-2007, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by julie anne View Post
Our EI OT wants our little guy (13 mos old) to see a behaviorist due to his sleeping issues. He wakes constantly in the night with a start. How would a behaviorist help?
It depends on the Behaviorist. Remember that Ferber writes about children who have specific medical problems and behavioral problems, and sometimes his methods when used gently can help. The problems come in when parents are just too lazy to parent their children and try to use the methods on kids who don't have a problem, and use them in an overly heavy handed way. At least that's what I think. It's been a long time since I read his book, and I lost all my books in a fire two years ago so I can't look it back up.

We see a behaviorist who helps my kids with their Asperger's, and other issues. They have a father who has Borderline Personality Disorder, so sometimes they are confused about what is "normal" and it can really help to have an outside party guide them a bit.

It's hard to explain how he helps, but he does. He's never done anything or recommended anything that went against our AP values, and has only supported my parenting style.

Two kids can do the same thing for two completely different reasons. Reacting in the same way to both kids won't work for both. KWIM? The behaviorist helps by talking us through why they do some things, and what to do or not do about it. So far he's had us read two books and they were both AWSOME!

After reading everybody eles'es coments: Yeah, there might not be much a behaviorist can do now about the sleep problems, sounds more like a neuro thing. Behaviorists can be wonderful help.

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#6 of 6 Old 06-18-2007, 08:06 PM
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A good behaviorist doesn't just look at consequences, but focuses heavy attention on the antecedents and the purpose of the behavior as well.

Its hard to see how a behavioral approach might help in this particular situation, because it does sound more like a sensory nervous system developmental issue (the jerking awake) and less like something that would be under operant control.

However, I wouldn't completely rule it out. A very thorough functional analysis could reveal antecedents that you hadn't thought of or that weren't particularly apparent (taking data on sleeping habits over several weeks might show that when he has a longer nap during the day he sleeps better at night; when he has certain foods he sleeps worse/better, a particular nighttime routine affects quality of sleep, etc). A systematic analysis in which you put various things into place then measure quality of sleep (for example: evaluate sleep for a few days with brushing before bed; evaluate a few days without brushing, compare to see if there is any significance to brushing in regards to sleep) can point you in directions you might not have thought of.

Even if the behavior cannot be modified by operant conditioning (using a reinforcer or punisher to change behavior) the functional analysis might show you ways the environment could be modified to help him.
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