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6 Simple Steps for Ignoring Attention Seeking Behaviors...

If you've spent enough time with Autistic children, you've probably experienced all sorts of behaviors. In my five years teaching children on the spectrum, I feel like I've seen it ALL! Crying, spitting, kicking, yelling, cursing, singing, hitting, laughing and even self injurous behavior. Yes I've seen it ALL!!...But the one thing I've never seen, is a behavior that could not be addressed with some simple consistent strategies. My goal in this series will be to provide you with some strategies that are practical and that will work!! So let's start with something that many of us struggle to do...ignore attention seeking behaviors.


This is probably not the first time you've heard about ignoring behaviors. When behavior is attention seeking, you should never reward it with attention! The problem that many parents and service providors face however, is "How do I ignore that?!" Here's how you can make Ignoring a minimally stressful process for both you and the child.

Step 1: Decide if ignoring is an appropriate reaction to the behavior being displayed. Consider the following....Attention seeking behavior refers to situations where people use excessive or inappropriate behaviors in order to gain attention. It will also usually be the case that such individuals will regularly engage in such undesirable behavior. Tactical ignoring is an appropriate response to reduce the occurence of interfering behavior in order to receive attention. Here are some common signs that behavior is attention seeking;..... 'the child looks to gauge your reaction when the behavior occurs', 'the child escalates the behavior until attention is gained', 'the behavior most likely occurs in group or public settings'.

Step 2:

Divert your attention away from the child when they display interfering or problem behaviors. If possible turn your back. Or you can just look away. Pretend to be looking at your nails or fixing your whatever you need to do to not give attention until the behavior has extinguished.

Step 3:

Make your behavioral expectations clear while giving the least amount of attention possible. Visual reminders such as the ones pictured are an effective way to prompt the appropriate behavior without engaging the student vocally.

Step 4:

Redirect the student to an appropriate activity....Here's where your judgment becomes important. Redirecting can sometimes be a tricky game to play. Successful redirection introduces an alternative behavior that is both reinforcing to the child and appropriate to the context. For example, if a student seeks attention from adults through inappropiate touch, redirect the student to raise his hand and or call your name. ie "Say, Hello Ms. Williams!"

Step 5:

Give immediate reinforcement once the child has been redirected. For example, if your child yells as a part of tantrumming, as soon as they are quiet you can say, "Thank you for having a quiet mouth...give me a high five!!" During the early phases of addressing the behavior, you can use whatever the child loves and reinforce immediately. If your kid's a sbongebob fanatic, you might reward positive behavior with his favorite sbongebob toy. However, if he looses control and goes back to tantrumming, remove the reinforcer immediately and go back to ignoring. If you continue in the practice, the child will learn to associate reward and attention with positive behavior rather than negative.

Step 6:

Take preventative measures with more positive reinforcement. Let's face it...children sometimes resort to bad behavior as a means to get our attention. However, what woud happen if adults made greater effort to give children the attention they need just for doing the right thing? Take a look at the chart above...this is a simple and effective way to ensure that your child/student is receiving positive praise throughout the day. Don't be the classroom teachers who only talks to a kid to tell him he's doing something wrong... Instead, make sure that you are constantly rewarding students for doing the right thing! "I love how you are sitting in your seat and listening! I think you should get some extra time on the computer!" Random positive interaction is a great way to prevent problem behaviors from ever occuring!

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