What are Extinction Bursts In ABA Therapy?
Extinction bursts are a common occurrence in ABA therapy.
They happen when a behavior that has been reinforced in the past is no longer reinforced.
In other words, when a behavior is no longer followed by a reward, the individual may exhibit an increase in the frequency, duration, or intensity of that behavior. This increase in behavior is known as an extinction burst.
For example, if a child is used to getting a candy bar every time they ask for one, and suddenly the candy bar is no longer given, the child may throw a tantrum or ask for the candy bar repeatedly. This is an extinction burst.
Why Do Extinction Bursts Happen?
Extinction bursts happen because the individual has learned that a particular behavior leads to a reward. When the reward is no longer given, the individual becomes frustrated and may try harder to get the reward. This is a natural response to the removal of a reinforcer.
How to Handle Extinction Bursts
Dealing with extinction bursts can be challenging, but it is an essential part of ABA therapy. Here are some strategies that can be used to handle extinction bursts:
1. Stay Calm
It is essential to remain calm when dealing with an extinction burst. The individual may become agitated, but it is crucial to remain calm and not react emotionally. Reacting emotionally may reinforce the behavior and make it more challenging to extinguish.
2. Be Consistent
Consistency is key when dealing with extinction bursts. It is essential to be consistent in not reinforcing the behavior. If the behavior is sometimes reinforced and sometimes not, the individual may become confused and continue to exhibit the behavior.
3. Provide Alternative Behaviors
Providing alternative behaviors can be helpful in reducing extinction bursts. For example, if a child is used to getting a candy bar every time they ask for one, an alternative behavior may be to ask for a healthy snack instead.
4. Reinforce Positive Behaviors
Reinforcing positive behaviors can also be helpful in reducing extinction bursts. When the individual exhibits a positive behavior, it is essential to reinforce it immediately. This will help to increase the frequency of positive behaviors and decrease the frequency of challenging behaviors.
Examples of Extinction Bursts in ABA Therapy
Extinction bursts can manifest in various ways depending on the individual and the behavior being targeted. Here are some common examples of extinction bursts that may occur during ABA therapy:
Tantrums are a common extinction burst in young children undergoing ABA therapy. If a child is used to getting their way by throwing a tantrum, removing the reward may lead to an increase in tantrums.
Aggressive behaviors such as hitting, biting or kicking may also be exhibited during an extinction burst. If an individual has learned that aggression leads to getting what they want, removing the reinforcement may result in an increase in aggressive behaviors.
3. Attention-Seeking Behaviors
Attention-seeking behaviors such as interrupting, calling out or talking over others may also be exhibited during an extinction burst. If an individual has learned that these behaviors lead to attention from others, removing the reinforcement could result in an increase in these behaviors.
It's important to remember that each individual is unique and may exhibit different types of behaviors during an extinction burst. It's crucial for therapists and caregivers to work together to identify potential extinction bursts and develop strategies for handling them effectively.
How to Control Extinction Bursts
While extinction bursts can be challenging to handle, they can be controlled with appropriate interventions. Here are some strategies that can be used to control extinction bursts:
1. Conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)
Conducting an FBA is crucial in understanding the function of the behavior and identifying potential triggers for an extinction burst. By understanding why the behavior occurs, therapists and caregivers can develop targeted intervention strategies.
2. Implement Reinforcement Schedules
Implementing reinforcement schedules can help reduce the frequency and intensity of extinction bursts. For example, gradually reducing the frequency or magnitude of reinforcement over time may help individuals adapt to changes in their environment.
3. Use Differential Reinforcement
Differential reinforcement involves reinforcing alternative behaviors that are more socially acceptable while withholding reinforcement for challenging behaviors. This method can help individuals learn new, more appropriate behaviors while reducing the occurrence of challenging behaviors.
4. Provide Visual Supports
Visual supports such as social stories or visual schedules can also be helpful in reducing extinction bursts. These supports provide individuals with clear expectations and help them understand what will happen next, reducing anxiety and confusion.
5. Involve Parents and Caregivers
Involving parents and caregivers in developing intervention strategies is critical for success in controlling extinction bursts outside of therapy sessions. By working together, therapists, parents, and caregivers can implement consistent strategies across all environments, leading to more positive outcomes for individuals undergoing ABA therapy.
By implementing these strategies consistently and effectively, therapists and caregivers can control extinction bursts and support positive behavior change in individuals undergoing ABA therapy.
How long is an extinction burst?
The duration of an extinction burst can vary depending on the individual and the behavior being targeted. Some extinction bursts may be short-lived, lasting only a few minutes or hours, while others may persist for days or even weeks.
It is crucial to remain patient and consistent when dealing with extinction bursts, as they are a natural part of the behavior change process.
By implementing effective strategies and remaining committed to positive behavior change, therapists and caregivers can help individuals successfully navigate through extinction bursts and achieve their goals in ABA therapy.
Extinction bursts are a common occurrence in ABA therapy. They happen when a behavior that has been reinforced in the past is no longer reinforced.
Dealing with extinction bursts can be challenging, but it is an essential part of ABA therapy. It is essential to remain calm, be consistent, provide alternative behaviors, and reinforce positive behaviors.
With these strategies, extinction bursts can be effectively managed, and the individual can continue to make progress in their therapy.