Extinction is a method used in ABA therapy to discontinue reinforcement previously given to challenging behaviors. The way we react to problem behaviors can sometimes increase rather than decrease the behaviors. Often times, this is done unintentionally. By modifying our response to the challenging behavior, we can decrease its occurrence.

Extinction is never the ONLY part of a behavior plan. Plans for problem behaviors are created by the child’s BCBA, and involve determining the function of the problem behavior, changing our response to that behavior when it occurs by not attending to it, and teaching the child an alternative, functional, and appropriate manner to achieve the desired outcome.

During extinction, we often see an extinction burst, or an increase in the occurrence of the problem behavior. Sometimes a child will even resort to more intense behaviors or try alternative inappropriate behaviors when the original problem behavior no longer results in what the child wants.

Hang on!! This too shall pass … because you will not attend to it! By doing so, the child will learn that they should follow your instruction and choose the alternative, appropriate, and functional behavior that you are reinforcing.

If you adhere to this behavior plan, as instructed by your therapist, you will begin to see the behavior decline and over time, stop altogether.

Please beware!!! What’s the worst you can do? The worst thing you can do is to start an extinction plan but occasionally give in. By occasionally giving in, you are only teaching your child that their behavior must reach a certain intensity or duration before you will response. In a manner of speaking, this will only intensify and prolong the initial behavior you were hoping to decrease.

So, stay strong and stick to your extinction plan!! You can do it! And we will help you.

Blog article written by Melissa Roberts, RBT