Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Replacement Behavior

You know all those behaviors that drive you crazy? Running away, shouting out, whining, hitting, etc.? Replacement behaviors are what we wish our students would do instead...and they should serve the same function as the original behavior.  So instead of running away to get your attention, we would want our students to ask us to play a game with them.  Or instead of whining every time they want the iPad, we may teach the replacement behavior of having a student request in a non whiny tone "Can I have the iPad please?"

The key factor with this is being able to identify the challenging behavior as well as the function it serves (attention, escape, sensory, or access tangibles) and then the appropriate replacement behavior.

The tricky part is figuring out what the function of the behavior is...so many behaviors can look the same, but serve a different function for each person doing them.  For instance, let's look at an example of a student who runs away.

Some tips to keep in mind:
*The replacement behavior should be easier than the inappropriate behavior.
*The replacement behavior needs to be motivating for the student to use and accessible whenever it is needed.
*The replacement behavior needs to be honored.  Remember to reinforce the student's efforts to use the replacement behavior every time especially in the beginning.

Once you have figured out the function and the appropriate replacement behavior, you may need some visuals to help support your student in learning those replacement behaviors.  Here are some ideas of tools to help:

Attention: a visual for teaching students to raise their hands.  CLICK HERE to get this visual FREE.

Escape: a break card to give a teacher when a task is too challenging, boring, or easy.  You can also create break cards that limit the number of times the student can request a break during the day (see example on the right).  CLICK HERE to get these visuals FREE.

Sensory: a choice board of motor activities for the student to choose from instead of running. CLICK HERE to get this choice board FREE.

Access to Tangible: a choice board of items/activities/people the student prefers or engages in the undesirable behavior to get access to.


  1. Isn't "May I have The iPad "a more appropriate way to ask? Just use to get hit with the can and may issue by a friend who is an English major! On to another question of interest,do people teach their students to request the restroom not the bathroom when in the community or at school?

    1. Great points! You can definitely consult with the students' parents and/or look to what words other kids a similar age are using when trying to decide the best terms to teach your students/kids.

  2. I see a lot of autistic people who are forced to use communication systems that just exhaust them, year after year. Nice to see a fresh outlook.