I want you to put all of your preconceived, old-school perceptions of time out to the side for a few minutes. When I say time out – I don’t mean toddler style, minute for their age, sitting in the corner with a dunce cap on. I mean a “time out” from reinforcement aka attention. Time out can be extremely effective for attention behaviors. The behaviors occur so your little kiddo can be the center of attention with all eyes on him but providing a time out for an inappropriate response provides the exact opposite consequence. He is removed from all sources of attention and the limelight. Suddenly it makes that inappropriate not only unsuccessful but downright aversive and counterproductive. He is no longer attention and now he is even being removed from attention. Double whammy. When combined with an effective teaching of an appropriate behavior to get attention (as you should in combo with ALL interventions), this double trouble combination will have problem behaviors out the door in record time.
Some notes and considerations:
- Time Length: It can be brief. If attention is a powerful reinforcer, this intervention can work quickly. For extreme behaviors, some school use a time out room (mine does not).
- Time In: When you use time out – make sure that the reinforcing aspect of attention are actually removed! The ‘time-in’ environment should be pretty awesome and it should be a not fun experience to have to miss out on it. Maybe you want to pour salt on a wound and make time in even a more amazing while the kiddo is in time out. Maybe everyone gets to play a game or have an unscheduled, surprise pretzel snack. If you can increase the reinforcing nature of time in – it will make time out more aversive and hence more effective!
- Criteria for Leaving Time out: Figure out if you will have criteria for leaving time out – ie. once the student calms down, stops crying etc. Time out should not be ended while the inappropriate behavior is still occurring. Will you start time out immediately or will you start once disruptive behaviors has ended? I have used contingent exercise as a criteria for leaving time out for certain students. The student will have to do 5 jumping jacks before exiting time out. This can add to the aversive nature of the time out and add a little compliance training to it all.
- You can use a visual timer to show how long the time out will occur for:
- How Many Behaviors = Timeout: When you start this intervention maybe every behavior results in a time out. However if that is crazy time consuming or way to hard to implement; you can use time outs on a schedule. Every 3 responses results in a time out. I LOVE this visual time out strike system. Every 3 behaviors (strikes) results in a time out and students have a visual way to see this.
Don’t be afraid of time out! When you used appropriately – this can be immensely effective!
This post is part of Summer Series: Reducing Problem Behavior. Click here to see more in this series!
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