Escape Behaviors {Access to Breaks}

Did you ever take a really hard work out class? Sweat is dripping out of parts of your body that you weren’t even aware can sweat. You are one hot pink dumbbell away from just sprinting out of the work out room straight to your comfy couch and maybe a cheeseburger. And then the instructor says those magical few words, “Just two more reps until a break.” A break. That glimmer of hope. And you know it’s right around the corner. No need for the bank robber style sprint out of class. Just a few more minutes. You got this. Sometimes this is what are kids need. Our students that constantly engage in problem behaviors to get out of work NEED to know when their breaks are coming. Regular access to breaks will help prevent problem behaviors from occurring. When they know a break is around the corner, no need to barrel in with the heavy hitting problem behaviors.

The key to this intervention is you need to ensure that the way you are showing this regular access to breaks is understood by your student. Let’s not forget – individuals with autism struggle with language. I know, I know. Preaching to the choir. But sometimes we forget this. We find ourselves telling our students, “Two more until break time” when that student has such low receptive language all they are hearing is “HnjkhHM.”


Show how much work there is to do using mini schedules:


You can provide breaks: 

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The other key to this intervention is knowing how often to provide access to breaks. Please oh please don’t just pick a number out of hat. You took all of that beautiful baseline data. Do something with it. Use the baseline data to identify how often the problem behavior is occurring. Every 5 minutes, every 10 trials, every other command. You want to be providing access to breaks at an interval just less than that. If the problem behavior occurs every 5 minutes, give a break every 4 minutes. Eliminate the urge to engage in the behavior. Yes it might seem like overkill at first and you are getting barely any work done. But that’s okay. You can slowly fade up the work load and work time.

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

The Autism Helper - Summer Series


1 Comment

  1. Your examples in each post about what we do that is similar to what we see in our students is so helpful, especially when trying to help others understand! i.e. the workout class example. Thanks!


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