Yesterday we discussed (at length!) the dire need for teaching a replacement behavior. The reduction interventions will NOT work (or not work so well or quickly) without that vital first step. While you are working on teaching or shaping up an appropriate behavior – you can also implement interventions to reduce the problem behavior. One great intervention to start with for attention behaviors is planned ignoring. It’s a simple concept – the behavior functions to get attention. If you remove attention, the student will no longer be getting anything out of the behavior and will stop. If only it were always so simple in real life.

You can implement planned ignoring by simply ignoring the inappropriate response. When the student engages in the behavior, go not provide attention for inappropriate response. The are a few guidelines to running this successfully and also a few things to watch out for.

  • Be explicit with your staff about implementing this intervention. If one staff member provides attention, it will ruin your chances at really seeing a decrease. Consider letting the lunch room workers, case manager, social worker, etc. about this intervention. Whoever might possibly walk into your room.

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  • If you aren’t able to ignore the response, you can provide attention that is of lower magnitude or less frequently.
  • Teach the rest of your class the meaning of the word “ignore.” This has been a godsend in my classroom. When are implementing planned ignoring – I can tell my other students, “Just ignore it” and they all go busily on with their day.

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Warning: I don’t want to scare yo away from this intervention because it can be amazingly powerful and effective but I want you to be prepared. When a response no longer functions to gain attention, there may be a temporary increase in behaviors and/or aggression. Think about when an elevator button breaks. You press it once, you press it again. Then what do you do? You jam and jam on that button thinking that somehow the strength and frequency of your pushes will pull that elevator down towards you. With planned ignoring, the behavior will likely get worse immediately.


Withstand the increase. Providing attention for increased behaviors will only teach student to escalate responses. The increase will be temporary. For me – when I see these – I rejoice. You think I am nuts but when I see a burst in behaviors – I know I hit the nail on the head on got the right function. So buckle down and brave the storm. You can do it!

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One major caveat on when you should NOT utilize planned ignoring. Safety Risk situations. Some responses are too dangerous to ignore (extreme aggression or self-injurious behavior). Planned ignoring should not be used with these behaviors.

Some behaviors may be impossible to ignore. When attention is to gain peer attention and your student is often around peers (that cannot be taught to ignore). Whipping out your private parts in the lunchroom cannot be ignored not matter how hard you try to teach a bunch of 5th graders to ignore.

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This post is part of Summer Series: Reducing Problem Behavior. Click here to see more in this series!

The Autism Helper - Summer Series


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