Fading Replacement Behavior Reinforcement

You’ve heard my rants about replacement behaviors. You’ve taken them to heart. You taught your student an easy to use and consistently reinforced replacement behavior. They are going to the appropriate response instead of that nasty problem behavior. Appropriate behavior numbers are up and problem behavior numbers are down. You are winning the behavior management game. But you are freaked exhausted. Your kiddo is coming up to you exactly every 2.3 minutes with that shiny green “give me attention now” communication visual thirsty for your positive attention juice. Not only can you not maintain providing attention on such an intense interval, it’s not natural and won’t maintain in the natural environment. You need to start fading for both your sanity and the skill generalization of your child. But make sure to do so purposefully and gradually.

Only begin to fade your reinforcement of the replacement behavior after you see a decrease in the problem behavior. Don’t jump the gun. The point of provide seemingly excessive reinforcement at the beginning of this process is to get student buy in. You need to prove that this appropriate replacement response is ridiculously effective. So effective that there is literally no need to every engage in that ineffective problem response. Once you have that buy in (and only then!) – you can begin to limit that reinforcement towards are more naturalistic and maintainable amount.

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Fading is a scary process. I get it. Some of the problem behaviors we deal are pretty intense. Once you have successfully eliminated or decreased a dangerous behavior like head banging or biting it seems ludicrous to do anything other than maintain exactly the status quo. If the problem behavior pops up again or increases that only means you have faded to quickly and you can build back up the reinforcement. Now that you know what is successful – you will be able to achieve that decrease again.

Use your data. Once you see success – begin to fade your delivery of reinforcement very gradually. If you take the time to do this process slowly – you will be more successful!


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

The Autism Helper - Summer Series



  1. Sasha I love your ideas. I have enjoyed your posts. I am particularly interested in your classroom set up. I feel a little overwhelmed by all your great products and ideas, I don’t know where to start to prepare for the upcoming school year. What do you suggest I do to get started?
    Thank you!


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