Escape Behaviors {Response Blocking & Other Tips}

Let’s wrap up escape behaviors with the most basic of interventions but not always the easiest to implement. Response block removes access to the reinforcer and the reinforcer here being escape. It prohibits the student from escaping the task or activity. Just like planned ignoring removes access to the reinforcer for attention behaviors, response blocking is effective because it makes the problem behavior ineffective. When the problem behavior doesn’t work, the student won’t engage in it any more.

Yes seems simple, but try using response blocking with a 14 year old who is aggressive to get out of work. Unless you have a set of hockey padding – that’s not going to work. Response block is really only a viable option with younger students.

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But with little guys – hand over hand prompting is an effective strategy. Basically any way of ensuring that the student completes the task at hand. Either use hand over hand prompts or block any attempts to escape the work time. If a child is trying to get out of doing a puzzle, – you can sit right behind them, move their hands to put puzzle pieces in the board, physical guide the student back to their seat if they run away, block attempts to get out of chair, etc. This prompting procedure may be punishing for some students and could encourage them to do the work on their own next time.

Even if you can’t fully utilize response blocking, it is ESSENTIAL to make sure that the inappropriate behaviors your student is doing does NOT result in getting out of work. Or they will keep doing it!


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Don’t use time out, breaks right after a bad behavior, long lectures, etc. – make sure that the student is only getting a break when using an appropriate way of asking. No time out. No time out. No time out. Get my point? Time out is giving them exactly what they want. They get out of work. Do not use time out with escape behaviors because they will keep using the problem behaviors to get exactly what they want.

Visuals can help clarify that these behaviors will not work!Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 1.28.28 PM


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 have a question for you. I don’t have hockey padding so this wouldn’t work for the student I have in mind 🙂 so I’m going off what you said about asking for break appropriately. If the student, say, throws his work and then starts to run around the classroom or goes to the ball or rocker (preferred activities), at this point he is not going to do his work. Do I then prompt asking for the break, give him the break, and then once that is over go back to the work? Or is that rewarding the behavior? This part has always confused me! With previous students I could remind first/then and they would go back to the work…not this one.

    Thanks! I’ve really been enjoying this series so far!

  2. I have this same question?!

  3. Me too!

  4. I have the same issue as Brie. What are your thoughts?

  5. Yes – good question! I am going to give the standard “special ed” response of it depends on the student. Yes, technically in the above scenario you would be reinforcing the behavior of leaving the task, but it sounds like this student may still be in the “learning the replacement behavior phase.” When teaching a replacement behavior – our first goal is to get that student buy in. We want to show them – that this response works. If you say break – you will get a break. So I think it can be okay to offer the break at this point and give it when student uses the replacement behavior. In future scenarios, work on preventing leaving and having them ask for the break before running off. For students that you have worked on building this response, you may want to redirect back to work and then prompt for the break. Hope this makes sense!


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