Shaping Behavior

What is “shaping behavior”? 

In ABA, shaping refers to the process of reinforcing approximations of behavior until the individual can demonstrate the desired behavior. In other words, rewarding the small changes or gradual steps of the behavior, in the right direction. 

Shaping can be used for both skill acquisition and targeting more challenging behaviors.  For most people, small changes are easier than large ones. Therefore, breaking the task down into smaller steps, can make it easier to learn and master. 


Check out this video from one of our ABA therapists all about shaping!


How does it work? 

Shaping involves reinforcing the new approximation/behavior and stopping reinforcement of a previous approximation/behavior. Once the child has mastered an approximation, you move up and start rewarding the next step. Think back to our post about reinforcement – reward the new behavior we want to see!


What does this look like? 

Let’s say we want our child to sit at the table for meal time for 20 minutes. We would start off with a shorter amount of time and work our way up. For instance, try just a minute or two, then gradually increase the time. When they can consistently sit for 1-2 minutes, you can then work on 3-5 minutes, then 5-10. Keep slowly increasing until they can sit for 20 minutes! 


Try it at home:

Think of a behavior you want to shape. Break it down and get rewarding!


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