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Pediatric Therapy Corner: Attention Behaviors {Other Strategies & Common Mistakes}


by Sasha Long, BCBA, M.A.

Attention behaviors tend to be the most annoying, for me anyways. Whining, fighting, talking back, swearing, and yelling out can all be attention seeking behaviors. This past week we have gone in-depth on some key strategies for reducing attention maintained problem behaviors. First thing you need to do before trying any of these nifty interventions is teach the appropriate way to get attention! From there you can utilize planned ignoring, noncontingent attention, and time out in combination. Today I want to share a few other intervention ideas along with what you absolutely should not ever, ever do for attention behaviors. You’ll want to read that. trust me. 

Response Blocking: Now there are some behaviors are too dangerous to ignore. Self injurious behavior such as head banging or hand biting could be occurring for attention. Aggression towards teachers and peers can be done for attention. Of course, ethically we just let our kids wail on each other or us. we need to intervene in some way – BUT we don’t want to reinforce that inappropriate response by giving it tons of attention. So you can physically block the response but do so without making eye contact and without providing verbal attention. Make this interaction as brief as possible. Get in, stop the behavior, get out. You don’t want to give the kid what he wants and provide loads of attention for slapping a peer. Redirect and move kids around but again do so without any additional forms of attention (talking, eye contact, etc.). Even be aware of what you are saying to staff. If you perfectly execute  this but then go over to your aides and talk all about it. You kid kind of still got what he wanted right? Spend some serious time training your staff if you are utilizing this intervention. It can be a bit tricky.

Reinforcement When Behavior Does NOT Occur: This time-based interventions is one of my favorites. Set a specific time interval. Use your baseline data to select an achievable time length – just like we did with non contingent attention. Students will be getting a reinforcer for a time interval without the behavior. Explain the contingency to the individual, “If you don’t do any swearing during this 30 second timing, you will get a gummy bear.” Start the timer. At the end of the interval if the student has NOT done the inappropriate 

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