Attention Behaviors {Noncontingent Attention}

Categories: Interventions | Resources

This may be an intervention you aren’t too familiar with but you might want to get on board. For behaviors that function to get attention – a successful intervention can be to provide non contingent attention. Noncontingent means not dependent on anything. So this strategy involves providing attention on a regular schedule whether or not they are engaging in the appropriate response. At first it seems illogical but let’s break it down.

The idea is that an individual will be less likely to use attention seeking behaviors if they are already getting attention. No need to engage in head banging to get attention when you already have a healthy stream of attention coming your way. Think about it this way – imagine you left your class rooms every hour to go pop a new k-cup into the teacher’s lounge keurig. This behavior is probably a little disruptive to your teaching schedule (and your caffeine intake…). But now a magical coffee fairy is bringing you piping hot cups right to your finger tips on a regular schedule. Do you now need to make that walk to the lounge to make your next batch? Nope. The schedule of reinforcement eliminated the need for that behavior.

What does this intervention look like? In a classroom this could look like a teacher stopping by a student’s desk every few minutes to see if they need help, having scheduled ‘teacher time’ with a student to give teacher attention to a student, or scheduled peer breaks to provide peer attention. I have used a timer system where I set a timer on my iPhone to a set interval and at every interval I go and provide attention to a student.


How do I implement this intervention? The key to the success of this intervention is to select the appropriate time interval. Look at baseline data. See how often the behavior is occurring. Choose an interval that is shorter than the time between inappropriate responses. You want to grab that need for attention before it hits the student and they engage in the inappropriate response. If that coffee fairy was coming every two hours, but my regular coffee trips occurred very hour – I still have a need to engage in that keurig response. So if the behavior occurs on average every 5 minutes – give attention every 4 minutes. Make the attention genuine. If it’s a half hearted high five with no eye contact or enthusiasm – is that really the kind of attention that kiddo is craving? No, probably not.

When should this intervention be used? This intervention is great for behaviors that cannot be ignored (see yesterday’s post). Or for behaviors that occur more frequently in certain settings.

How do I fade this intervention? I am not going to lie to you – this intervention can be tricky to implement. Don’t let this scare you away. If reducing problem behaviors was easy – we wouldn’t have any. Invest the time and energy! It WILL pay off. At first this intervention will seem ridiculous and exhausting. Give a student attention every 3 minutes all day will drive you absolutely up the wall. Hang in there. Take turns with your staff and make a schedule. But stick to it. You will not have to do this forever. Once your student is successful with this intervention and problem behaviors have decreased, you will begin to very gradually fade this intervention. If you interval was 5 minutes – make in 5 minutes 30 seconds. Give it a day or so of success on that time interval. Then switch to 6 minutes. Take your time here and avoid the urge to rush this process. When this ends and you have minimal problem behavior – it will all be worth it.


A MotivAider can be worn and it vibrates at preset intervals. This is KEY for this intervention!

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

The Autism Helper - Summer Series



  1. I’ve never heard of MotivAider! Great idea! It was $50 on Amazon, but there’s an iPhone app for only $2.99!

  2. Thanks for the info about the app! Everyone loves apps!!

  3. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. I find this article to be extremely helpful. Attention seeking behaviors are something that I experience often! Thanks for sharing.
    I just started a blog and would like to share the link with you:

  5. They are the worst sometimes!


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