Fact sheet: information on behavioral communication issues with a child with Autism, a common Autism Spectrum Disorder


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.


The Problem:

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.


The goal:

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.


The Outcome/Result:

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 behavior changed.


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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Consequential management is a positive response to challenging behavior which can be a useful strategy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders