What is the Biobehavioral Program?

The Biobehavioral Program assesses and treats children and teens with developmental disabilities, including autism, who have very challenging behaviors.

The team works with children who struggle with a range of behaviors, such as:

  • Self-injury, like biting their hand or banging their head
  • Aggression, like hitting, kicking or pushing
  • Destroying property, like breaking or throwing belongings
  • Craving and eating items that are not food (pica)
  • Not following rules, directions or someone else’s wishes (noncompliance)
  • Tantrums

Experts from the Biobehavioral Program team work closely with each other and with you to:

  • Evaluate and understand your child’s challenging behavior
  • Provide brief, focused treatment to decrease this specific behavior

We use an evidence-based approach called applied behavior analysis (ABA).

How will the Biobehavioral Program meet my needs?

ABA is a scientific way to change behavior in everyday life, based on the way people learn. For children with developmental disabilities, we apply ABA to decrease challenging behaviors.

  • Our board-certified behavior analysts assess your child’s behavior with a focus on understanding the function of the behavior, or how it works as a tool for your child. For example, the behavior might get your child something they want, like a person’s attention. Or it might help your child escape from something they do not want, like a noisy classroom.

    To identify the purpose of the behavior and what might be keeping it in place, we collect information about:

    • Factors in the environment around your child
    • What happens (interactions) right before the behavior
    • What happens (interactions) right after the behavior

    This method of looking at behavior is called functional behavior assessment (FBA). FBA may include a step called functional analysis – a careful process to see how the behavior does or does not change when we change the environment or what happens before or after the behavior.

  • After careful assessment and analysis, we design brief, focused treatment. Usually, it involves 3 elements: 

    • Changing factors in the environment
    • Teaching your child different behaviors that can serve the same function without being as challenging
    • Making sure the challenging behavior no longer serves its old function

    We take a team-based approach. Your family is an important and active part of the team. Based on our work during clinic visits, we develop a treatment plan for you and your child to follow at home. We coach you to use ABA techniques, like positive reinforcement, and to track the results so you know what is working. Your child’s school gets a copy of the treatment plan, and our experts consult with the school by phone.

What services does the Biobehavioral Program offer?

We offer more-intensive and less-intensive services to meet the needs of different families.

  • The first step is an intake visit at the Biobehavioral Assessment Clinic, where several experts will assess your child’s and family’s needs. You and your child will meet with a behavioral psychologist, a psychiatry fellow or psychiatric nurse practitioner, and a speech and language pathologist.

    At the end of the visit, the team will give you a report with detailed recommendations. Together, we will decide if your child may benefit from one of the following Biobehavioral Program services:

    • Intensive outpatient service
    • Outpatient service
    • Brief consult service
  • Children getting intensive outpatient service will be seen in clinic for 2 hours each day, Monday through Friday, for 2 weeks.

    During this time, team members will coach you to do a functional analysis of your child’s challenging behavior. This means changing factors in the environment around your child, changing what happens right before and after the behavior, and seeing whether the challenging behavior increases or decreases.

    Using what we learn from the functional analysis, the team will develop a treatment plan to decrease the behavior. Together, you and the team will test the plan in clinic to be sure it works for your child. We will also coach you to keep evaluating the treatment yourself at home. To make sure your child’s plan will apply to their school setting, we will consult with your child’s school as well.

  • Children getting outpatient service will be seen in clinic for 1 hour, once a week, for 23 weeks. Team members will coach you to do a functional analysis of your child’s challenging behavior to see how changes to the environment or interactions affect the behavior. Then we will develop a treatment plan, test the plan with you in clinic and coach you to keep evaluating the treatment yourself. We will also consult with your child’s school.

  • Children getting brief consult service will be seen in clinic for 1 hour, once a week, for 13 weeks.

    The team will interview you and ask you to collect data about your child’s behavior at home so the team can do a functional behavior assessment. Then, the team will work with you in clinic to develop a function-based treatment plan. We will teach you to practice the plan at home and to collect information on how well it is working.

    Once your plan is in place, we will provide coaching and troubleshooting with your family during your weekly appointments, and we will consult with your child’s school.

Who’s on the team?

The team includes a behavioral psychologist, psychiatrists, a speech and language pathologist and state licensed behavior analysts.

Providers in the program include:

How can I get an appointment?

  • If you would like a referral to the Biobehavioral Program, talk to your primary care provider.
  • When we get the referral, we will place your child on our waiting list. When a space opens for your child, we will contact you to schedule your intake visit.

Scheduling an Appointment with the Biobehavioral Program