Difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next can be a problem for some children with Autism (Waters, Lerman, & Hovanet, 2009). That is why visual prompts (typically in the form of visual schedules) are usually recommended to treat difficulties with transitions for children with Autism.
Do you have a student specific visual schedule set up at home or in your classroom? Maybe you’ve had one set up for a while because you have been informed that visual schedules can be good for helping children with Autism. Maybe your supervisor or a behavior specialist told you to begin a visual schedule in your classroom as a possible antecedent intervention. Many teachers discover that when they ask students with ASD to “check your schedule” they still display problem behaviors.
Difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next can be a problem for some children with Autism (Waters, Lerman, & Hovanet, 2009). That is why visual prompts (typically in the form of visual schedules) are usually recommended to treat difficulties with transitions for children with Autism. However, we have to consider the importance of the function of the problem behaviors during a transition. In other words, what is the child gaining by engaging in problem behaviors during transitions? For some children, problems begin when they are asked to leave a preferred activity. Others have issues with engaging in non-preferred activities and, in some cases, it could be both these functions (i.e., gaining access or escaping).
Application of DRO and Extinction During Transition
Visual schedules by themselves are not as effective as they could be. To make visual schedules more effective we need to address all functions of problem behavior (Waters, et al., 2009). To do that, there are two elements to add to a visual schedule, Extinction and Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior (DRO). Extinction occurs when we no longer provide reinforcement for a behavior. Extinction is a necessary component of treatment. Using a DRO would further enhance the visual schedule by reinforcing (transitions) that occur without problem behavior during an interval of time. This can be done by simply delivering praise and a preferred food or item if the child completes a transition without engaging in problem behavior. By using both of these elements in combination with a visual schedule, it will increase the efficiency of treating transition issues.
The videos in the resource section (below) will assist teachers with learning more about these evidenced based practices. The briefs from the National Professional Development Center will guide teachers through the step- by-step implementation of each evidenced based practice.
- Challenging Behavior Toolkit from Autism Speaks
- National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders Briefs on Evidenced Based Practices
- Video on Extinction Procedures with Challenging Behavior
- ADVANCED Training Solutions Video on Differential Reinforcement
Waters, M., Lerman, D., & Hovanetz, A. (2009). Separate and combined effects of visual schedules and extinction plus differential reinforcement on problem behavior occasioned by transitions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(2), 309-313.