I am currently running a socialization group for
children who have difficulty socializing. There are four children
in the group, all of which have varying needs. One of the children
in the group is a 5 year old girl named Chloe*. Chloe is diagnosed
as having Apraxia and is currently using an Augmentative Communication
Device (ACD) in order to communicate. Chloe is very intelligent
and is able to follow multi-step directions as well as attend to
tasks for an extended amount of time. Chloe is generally very compliant
and has a great receptive vocabulary. However, since she is not
yet able to use her ACD fluently yet, and is unable to communicate
verbally, she tends to engage in inappropriate behaviors at times.
After observing these behaviors, I have determined that many times
they are serving the function of attention seeking. My goal was
to use the technique of planned ignoring while the inappropriate
behavior is occurring as well as teach her more appropriate ways
of getting the attention she wants.
Many times when Chloe is seeking attention, whether
it be that she has been waiting too long for a turn, not sure of
the expectations or just simply wants attention, she rips things
off of the walls, crumples them and throws them on the ground. When
attention, even negative attention, is given to her, the behavior
escalates and she will begin to laugh and tear more things off of
the wall. This behavior not only is distracting to the other children,
but at times upsets the children when it is there art work that
is being torn and thrown on the ground.
Since it has been determined that Chloe is using
this inappropriate behavior as a way to get attention, my goal is
to teach her that the behavior of tearing things off the wall is
no longer going to serve the function for her by using planned ignoring.
It will also be important to teach her new, appropriate ways to
get a person’s attention that will resort in positive attention.
I immediately put the planned ignoring technique
into use the following week when the group met. During circle time,
which is a time that the children practice social greetings, calendar,
weather and waiting for their turn, Chloe had enough waiting for
her turn. She went over to the calendar and took off two of the
numbers and threw them on the ground. I didn’t say anything and
continued to praise the other children for waiting so nicely for
their turns while Jeffrey was taking his turn. At this time, Chloe
was trying her hardest to get my attention, even trying to turn
my head so I would acknowledge what she had just done. I continued
to ignore her. As I expected, she then pulled more numbers off of
the calendar and threw them on the floor. At this point, she began
protesting by making a lot of loud vocalizations in the attempt
to get my attention. I continued to ignore her and directly praise
the other children for all of the right behaviors. It was time for
our next activity so I transitioned the children to the play area.
As soon as we all left circle time, I looked over and realized Chloe
was picking up all of the numbers off the floor and putting them
back on the calendar. She then decided to join the group for the
cooperative play activity. I praised her for doing the right thing
and thanked her for joining the group.
success and to practice how to appropriately get
the attention she so wants. She has learned to raise her hand and
gesture “my turn” as a way to ask me when it will be her turn. I
always praise her for that behavior and she has no problem waiting
when I tell her she will be next. She has also learned to lightly
tap people in order to get their attention. For example, before
beginning this behavior change technique, she would use the inappropriate
behavior of tearing things off the wall in order to get attention
quickly because it worked for her.
Overall, the technique of planned ignoring worked
wonders for Chloe. After speaking to her mother about the inappropriate
behavior I was seeing, I was informed that she also does the same
thing at home. I explained to her mother the technique of planned
ignoring and how to practice more appropriate ways for Chloe to
get a person’s attention. The following week, her mother reported
to me that she couldn’t believe how effective planned ignoring was
in putting the behavior on extinction and how wonderful it was that
Chloe had learned how to tap her mom on the arm to get her attention.
I was ecstatic the following weeks when Chloe
not only refrained from tearing things off of the walls but was
really using the new, appropriate behaviors effectively. She does
still need reminders sometimes, such as, “Oh, I see you want to
show me something. How should you get my attention?” Chloe will
then tap my arm and I just praise her excessively for the great
effort. I praise her even more so when I see her appropriately and
independently getting the attention of others.
Chloe has learned that tearing things off of the
wall no longer serves the function she wanted and has learned new
and more appropriate ways to do so that work. I realized how effective
planned ignoring can be at ridding inappropriate behaviors. More
so, I realized that it is even more important to teach the child
a more appropriate way of serving the function they are setting
out to fill.
I feel that this technique of planned ignoring
was very successful, even more so because her family did a great
job of carrying it over at home. The consistency, I believe, was
a huge factor in not only the success, but in how quickly Chloe’s
In the future it will be important to continue
to practicing nonverbal strategies for Christine to use in order
to successfully and appropriately get the attention of teachers,
family members, and her peers consistently and independently.
by Stefanie Ford, a graduate student in the Department
of Special Education at Hunter College.
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